Question: Mom currently lives in an assisted living community in Phoenix Arizona, but because of a change in my job (I am her only living relative), it is necessary for her to move to California. How do we go about getting mom moved from an assisted living facility in Arizona to an assisted living facility in California? Please provide me with a “road map” so to speak. Thank you.
Answer: Helping a parent move can be stressful, especially if that move is long distance. The job can be made less overwhelming by good planning. The big decision to move will be made easier by turning the process into a series of smaller decisions and tasks. Teaming up with senior service providers will make the physical and emotional tasks easier.
PLANNING should be your first step. Develop a timeline. Decide which parts of the move you will do, and which parts you need help with. Decide where she will move to. If you need help, a geriatric social worker or a Senior Placement Counselor can help you locate an assisted living facility that is appropriate for her needs and resources. Talk to the Move-In Coordinator to find out the rules and schedules for moving in. You may also want to obtain a floor plan of her new apartment to help you decide which furniture to move and where it will be placed within her room.
Another aspect of planning is to decide how you will move your mom’s furniture and possessions. You can rent a van and drive it yourself. You can use a U-pak service like PODS who will transport your items after you pack them into a container (which they provide and deliver.) If you are moving a small amount you may choose to send it via a freight company or UPS. Finally, you can schedule a move with an interstate mover. How you choose to move her things will be determined by what she is moving, your time availability, physical ability, and financial resources. Schedule your mover as soon as you are sure about the date and location. Sometimes it takes awhile to get on a schedule.
PACKING You didn’t say the degree to which you are able to be involved in the your mother’s relocation. Are you planning to go there and help her organize, downsize, and pack? If so, allow enough time that you and she are not rushed. It is always a good idea to use new boxes and packing paper, not salvaged boxes. Boxes need to be of a uniform size, taped closed, and strong enough to stack. If you are not able to do the packing yourself, you may want to hire a professional move manager, who specializes in working with older adults. A move manager understands the needs and limitations of elders. They will also know the local moving resources. Typically a move manager will provide boxes. Some will be able to help you load a van or pod if you choose that route. A move manager knows how to downsize with sensitivity; in all probability they have a working relationship with the facility where your mom is now living. Another benefit of using a move manager is that she will know how to contact other move managers who service the residence where your mom is moving into.
It is a good idea to take with her valuables like jewelry, keys, eyeglasses, medicine, personal phone book, and anything she will need as soon as she arrives. In some cases there will be a difference in time between her arrival and the delivery of her things. Most assisted living communities have furnished rooms for short term occupancy.
Don’t forget to file a change of address with the Post Office, arrange to change her bank accounts and any automatic deposits. Notify her doctors, dentist, caregivers, and other service providers.
RELOCATING YOUR MOTHER Your mother may be able to travel alone, if not you will need to drive her or fly with her. Consult her doctor for advice and any needed medications. If you are unable to travel with her, you can hire a travel companion. Some move managers provide that service. Caregivers services can drive her to the airport and, if you want, fly with her. Airlines offer limited companion services similar to those provided to unaccompanied minors.
UNPACKING will take the same amount of time as packing. Your mom will adjust to her new residence faster if her things are put away where she is used to finding them. A move manager in your area can help you unpack, set-up her new apartment and remove the boxes.
ATTITUDE is as important as logistics to a successful move. Listen to your mom and let her express her preferences about where she will live, what to take or leave, and how her new residence will be set up. Treat her with respect and tact. Recognize the difficulty of moving away from familiar surroundings and routines. Avoid becoming critical or impatient. Be realistic about the time needed to accomplish a move. Remember the most important thing is to accomplish her move with minimal disruption to your lives and your relationship.
Jamie Wasson, CRTS, Managing Partner
Pleasant Hill, California
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, California chapter
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