Caring Transitions' December 2016 Newsletter
A New Home for the Holidays
Meet our client Albert. “Al”, as he prefers to be called, has just moved south, downsizing from a 4-bedroom split-level house to a two-bedroom ranch. He is beginning to acclimate to his new surroundings and hoped to spend the 2016 holiday season celebrating with family and a few brand new friends.
Al’s journey from old house to new house started several months ago and Caring Transitions has been there every step of the way. He is 87-year-old and a veteran of the Korean War. He does not have children and lost his wife a couple years ago, so he lives alone. Al is very hard of hearing but refuses to wear his hearing aids. He also suffers severe complications from his type 2 diabetes, so his dexterity and mobility are impaired. Throughout it all, Al remains fiercely independent, upbeat, and very social.
When we first met Al, he greeted us at the door (after several rings of the doorbell) with open arms, a big smile and several small jokes. He invited us inside and suggested we talk at his table in the lower level. As we made our way down a short flight of stairs, Al followed behind. He navigated the stairs by placing a single leg of his silver walker on the first step and then leaned forward. Bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. Al shifted his body weight this way and that as the walker skittered from step to step. Al and his walker came to abrupt halt at the bottom of the stairs. Seeing the shocked look on our faces he smiled and exclaimed, “My sister really hates when I do that. She says one day I’m going to fall, but I do it all the time and haven’t fallen yet!”
What Al Needed
Navigating steps isn’t the only reason Al was considering a move. The many medications he takes make him lethargic and he often sleeps through meals or neglects his insulin. He is beginning to show signs of short term memory loss and struggles with his daily activities. Bills and late payment notices were stacked on tables and chairs.
By the time we met Al, he had already decided to move to a single-level, fully-furnished, two-bedroom home near his sister. Since he is a veteran, the VA arranged for home care visits, so the 85-year old sister would not have to take on the full burden of Al’s care.
The sister had contacted Caring Transitions to help Al move. On the phone, we were told there were two main tasks Al needed help with; packing and clearing out the house so it could be sold.
Caring Transitions uses a professional intake process to help determine the best course of action for our clients, so when we met, we talked with Al at length about his history, his plans and his concerns. This is what we found:
1. Al was struggling, stressed and confused. He was supposed to arrive in Florida in just three weeks and had not started to prepare in any meaningful way. He complained of moving too slowly and said he was very tired and sleeping much of the time. He was sad and frustrated that he could not seem to get anything accomplished.
2. We knew Al had not started packing, and through more questions, we found he also had not made changes to utilities, had not hired a mover, made arrangements to transport his car, or contracted a realtor to list the existing house.
3. The new home was fully furnished, but Al wanted to take several pieces of his own furniture. He could not decide what would fit in the new place.
4. The remaining contents of Al’s 4-bedroom house would need to be sorted, sold, donated or discarded.
5. Al had a shed, storage space, and a garage that contained a great many art and pottery supplies. He had spent much of his life teaching art and pottery classes, but with the progression of his disease, he was no longer able to use his hands. Nonetheless, Al did not want to part with the cartons full of supplies and wanted to move all of them to his new home. He also had several large, fragile pieces of pottery he wished to move.
We assured Al that we would work with him over the next few weeks and would take care of every single thing on the list and that his move would be a success. We talked with him some more about life in his new home and by the time we left Al’s house, he was smiling and joking again. As we said goodbye, he simply said “Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
What We Accomplished
And over the next few weeks we fulfilled our promise to Al. This is what we did:
1. We reviewed the amount of storage, closet, and cupboard space Al would have in the new home. With his permission, we spoke at length with his sister and exchanged photos via email so we all knew what was in the new home and what Al could or should bring.
2. To be most productive, we helped Al focus first on items that would be moved. We would discuss the disposition of everything else later.
3. We spent time with Al reviewing the contents of closets, dressers, and cupboards to see what items he really needed and which items he really loved.
4. We allowed Al ample time to rest. We often left items for him to consider overnight so he had time to make choices or decisions by the next day.
5. In the end, we decided to move his bed, nightstand, dresser, his favorite easy chair, and a coffee table.
6. We packed a few family pictures, one box of books, one box of paperwork, his favorite candy jar, three special pieces of handmade pottery, five large paintings, two lamps, seasonally appropriate clothing, bedding, some assistive devices, and toiletries.
For several weeks, Al’s only tasks were to pack his many medications into a carry-on suitcase and to sort some of his bills. He liked to feel included, so he also gave us an extra hand whenever he saw us sealing a box. He would hold the box flaps in place with the end of his cane so we could easily apply the packing tape!
7. With Al’s permission, we alerted his sister to some of his late payment notices.
8. We asked Al if he knew of any pottery classes offered in the area. He knew of several and we asked if we could contact those organizations to see if they’d be interested in some of his supplies. Al took our suggestion one step further and donated all of his supplies to the VA. They teach classes to injured veterans and appreciated the supplies.
9. Because he was hard of hearing, we also assisted Al with his calls to the bank and utility companies so he could transfer or cancel accounts.
10. We contacted three of our trusted auto transport companies for quotes and Al chose a company to drive his car out of state. The company could not pick up the car until the day after Al left town, so we arranged for a staff member to meet the driver and hand over the keys. As we packed the trunk with several non-breakable items, we saw that Al had placed a number of last minute items in the back of the car, including more art supplies and a random assortment of items from his garage. We rearranged the items for safety, but left them in the car.
11. We contacted two of our trusted moving partners for quotes and Al hired the one he preferred. We managed all communications with the mover and we provided oversight on moving day.
12. As moving day came to a close, Al left for the airport. As he hugged us goodbye he repeated “I don’t know what I’d do without you!”
We then turned our attention to the remaining contents of his house.
Join us next month to see how we prepare Al’s house for market!
What We Know
The confusion, stress and symptoms Al demonstrated are very common in a late life transition. Even when older family members choose to move, it can be difficult to get started and even more difficult to make all the necessary decisions. When someone is feeling that kind of stress, the best kind of help they can receive is patience and understanding from those around them, and a sense of control over the situation. It is also important to protect vulnerable adults like Al by hiring only the most trusted, secure, and reliable resources, especially where personal property, identity, bank records and such are at risk. The process of moving in late life isn’t easy, but once reduced to small, manageable steps, even the most difficult move can become a pleasant and successful journey forward. Just ask Al!By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions®
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