Is Your Senior Parent Downsizing? Tips To Help Them Through This Emotional Process!


Helping our aging parents when selling their home is another part of the many Sandwich Generation issues

By Kaye Swain

Is your senior parent preparing to sell their home and downsize? Perhaps they are moving to a smaller home, apartment, or retirement center? That's often such a tough time for them emotionally and physically. Here are a few tips to help make things a bit easier:

  1. Go through their home with them and look carefully to see if there is anything in it that a buyer might THINK goes with the home but that your parent does NOT want to be sold. Maybe some special hand-made curtains. Or a hand-crafted bookshelf that fits perfectly into a special slot in a wall but that is also easily removable. If you find any item(s) like these, remove them from the house now. Store them at your house or in a storage unit for the few months the house is on the market and in escrow. It will save you and your parent time, energy and emotional stress to NOT have to decide this in the spur of the moment. Let alone, lose a sale because of it.
  2. For that matter, go through the house again with an even closer eye. Remove any and all items that reflect your senior parent's personality. The best gift you can usually give them is to help them prepare the house so well that it sells quickly. By removing personal items - photos, souvenirs, grandkid crafts, etc. - you open up space that the future buyer can look at and see themselves in - rather than seeing your senior parent.
  3. One more time, go through the house and remove any and all non-essentials, leaving the house more open and spacious. Again, buyers will be more drawn to a home with lots of space and less furniture.
  4. Make firm arrangements with the real estate agent to call you as well as your senior parent whenever the house is to be shown so that you can pop over and take your parent out on errands. Leaving the house while there are prospective buyers looking at the house is such a vital part of marketing a home. When a buyer wants to open doors and closets to see if all their items will fit, they aren't as comfortable doing so if the owner is there and they may leave without really checking the house out fully. Be aware, though, that not all agents who come to the house will remember to do this. So you might want to talk to a neighbor as well and make arrangements for your parent to visit the neighbor if an agent shows up unexpectedly.
  5. Personally, I prefer to move out of a house once it's ready to show - leaving some furniture there to give it a warm inviting feel. If that's not possible for your senior parent, regularly monitor whether they feel uncomfortable in the house - either because so much of its "personality" has been packed away or because of the people coming at random times to view the house.  It might be a wise idea for them to move in with you temporarily, if possible, or visit a friend for a few weeks. If that's also not an option, look for ways to lift their spirits, ease their stress, and encourage them with plenty of visits with you and with the long-term goal of less work once they are finally settled in their new home.

Moving is never easy and that's especially true for our elderly senior parents. But as with all other facets of caregiving, when we are able to be actively involved in encouraging them and helping them alone this pathway, it will make it more comfortable for them in the long run.