One of life’s most challenging aspects is watching our parents age. Then comes the day when you, and they, realize they’ve lost their ability to be physically independent.
Whether they are downsizing into a smaller, less maintenance-intensive home or are moving in with you or to a care home, giving up a long-loved home can be heart-wrenching.
Thankfully, they have you. And you have us… with tips to help your parents and you through this tough time.
Get legal advice
You may be required to use the proceeds of the home sale to pay for your parents’ care if they will be moving to an assisted living facility or long-term care facility. Legal advice is especially important if they require Medicaid assistance to pay for their care.
Speak with your attorney early in the process to learn about the complex aspects of selling an elderly parent’s home.
Line up some labor
Cleaning out a family home is a huge job so don’t try to tackle this alone. If you have siblings, enlist their help. In fact, insist on it.
Not only will you need their muscle but having family around may help ease your parents’ transition as well.
If family isn’t available, hire some help. Visit the neighbors to let them know what’s happening and ask for a referral to local manual laborers. Or seek help via a Nextdoor website if one is available. Another source: check with your parents’ place of worship – you may find some willing volunteers there.
Hire a real estate agent
It may seem that it’s too early in the process to hire a real estate listing agent, but we disagree and here’s why.
Your agent should see the home before you start moving things out of it. He or she may be able to provide some valuable advice on what to leave for staging purposes.
And be sure to ask for tips on whether to paint, replace carpet and other updates and repairs that will make the home more attractive to potential buyers.
Your agent will also be able to refer you to an estate sale company, cleaners, painters, lawn care people, and more.
Hiring an agent early in the process also allows Mom and Dad to get to know the agent and feel more comfortable about the person and the sale process.
And last but not least hire a real estate agent who has gone the extra mile to obtain an SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) designation. The SRES designation requires additional education with working with Seniors selling a home.
Move first, then sell
Because it’s so important for the homeowner not to be present during buyer showings, most experienced real estate agents will counsel you to move your parents before putting the home on the market.
If they need the equity from the current home to move, however, come up with another solution. Perhaps they can stay with you or a sibling until the home sells.
It’s time to purge
Purging a lifetime of belongings (and memories) will be the most challenging aspect of downsizing for your parents. What to keep and what to get rid of will be decisions not easily made.
“ … the problem isn’t denial, but rather, the extraordinary difficulty associated with giving up items that are so closely linked to their identities, their past and their memories,” says Sarah Stevenson at APlaceforMom.com.
It’s not really the items, it’s the memories attached to them.
One way to ease your parents’ reluctance is to promise them that you will photograph everything they decide to get rid of and place the photos in a lovely scrapbook (and on a computer) that they can take with them to their new home.
Or, if they prefer, you can video their cherished-but-leaving items. This way, they’ll still be able to refresh those memories.
Know this: unless the parent is suffering from dementia, it’s important to allow him or her to take the lead in the purge. Yes, it will be slow-going, but it’s important that, in the future, they don’t look back and feel they were railroaded into getting rid of certain items.
Gather family members together to go through your parents’ purge pile. As one elderly woman in an online forum stated, “It is SO much better to know cherished family things will continue on within the family.”
And have conversations with Mom and Dad about these items and the stories behind them. This will help ease their anxiety and lets them know that the memories associated with the items will live on.