Moving Aging Parents to Another State

Helping aging parents move from one state to another takes hard work, patience and lots of prayer. You never know exactly when this transition will happen in your parents’ lives or your own, but it usually happens. We get so comfortable with our parents caring for us, that when the tables are turned it can leave your head spinning. When we knew the time had come for my parents to move, I felt so lost and went to the library and came home with a stack of nine books on caring for aging parents because. I also talked to several good friends who had gone through this experience for ideas. 

There are plenty of emotional ups and downs, but I am grateful for family support which has made all the difference. My sister Vickie helped pack up Dad’s house over the past few months. Her organizational skills and steady attention to my parents needs over the years was extremely helpful to all of us. I will dub her Pro Parent-Packer, but she has declared her packing days are over. Now that Dad is here, it’s my turn to get him settled into his new life, so I’m the Pro Parent-Settler.

Knowing I wasn’t alone in this upheaval has really helped, and we’ve had several family meetings, emails, phone calls and texts between all of us to work through various challenges helping Mom and Dad.

Since my father was moving from a house to an apartment, it was necessary to divide his earthly possessions so he could downsize. Because of my mother’s dementia, he looked to his three daughters for guidance. Earlier this year my two sisters and I began working on the “clean out.” But it was more than a downsize, because he also gave away the family heirlooms. Dad would comment that it was strange to be alive watching that part happen, but because he was alive he had the choice as to who belongings were given to. Nothing went into a storage unit which saved his kids from that fun job after he or Mom passes.

He loved knowing things went to his kids, grand-kids or friends. Dad had a story about each item and what city or country it came from which meant several late nights. My sister Vivian is also a story teller and gets to organize family pictures, so I dub her Family Historian-In-Waiting because Dad is the Pro Family-Historian.

My sister Vickie came up with an idea of how to divide the “pretties” or treasures he no longer needed. She took pictures of each item, and then set up a family Facebook auction where siblings and grand-kids could “like” items they wanted. Then she boxed them up because she is the Pro Parent-Packer. It was fun to watch what others were interested in on Facebook and read their humorous comments.

Last week, the Pod was loaded up, and Vickie and her husband drove Dad to Utah. During the week he stayed with me, we went shopping for items he needed for his new apartment. We made several trips to the bank to handle financial transactions, purchased a cell phone, groceries and other necessities. He’s a smart man, and I’m an organized daughter, but I’ve learned much from my father as he is always the teacher.

The weight of owning a home has been lifted from his shoulders, and I can already see a difference as he comments on the money he is saving not paying for a gardener, house cleaner, home repairers and the horrendous Oregon property tax. Renting in your later years has its advantages.

It’s hard to envision your parents living in a small apartment after a big home, but the more I visit Dad’s apartment complex and talk with the residents in the community dining room, the more I can see him fitting in. He is a friendly person and can talk to just about anyone after serving several international LDS missions. His ability to strike up a conversation with anyone amazes me, and he is a good example to me of reaching out to others. Of course he can do it in English or Spanish.

After the Pod arrived, with the help of family in the area who came early on a Saturday, we moved him into his apartment. Dad gave directions on unloading the Pod in the parking lot, and I gave directions where to place items in the apartment. Thank goodness for that list!

My niece Missy helped arrange items in the kitchen and hung his clothes in the closet, so I dub her Pro Apartment-Stager. My grandson and youngest daughter rode on the empty dollies and carts as they went down the elevator for a new load, so I dub them the Pro Dolly-Riders. The other family helpers, or the Pro Furniture-Movers, loaded carts and dollies with boxes and furniture, and brought them up to the apartment. The miracle of the day occurred when they got the 8 foot couch sideways in the elevator, and it now sits in Dad’s apartment ready for him to sit and tell stories about family history and his world-wide travels.

This journey has had its emotional ups and downs, but all is well – our family motto. Before we left Dad alone in the apartment for the first time, we had a family prayer and I thought what a blessing it is to have family. How difficult this transition would be if you were alone.

Dad and Mom now live at the Crossroads of the West where family can visit them as they travel through Utah. There are weeks and years ahead of us, but we are there for each other in the good times and tough times. Family – it’s all about love.

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