Many retirement communities now offer transition management services

My grandmother is in her upper 90s and has been living in a retirement community for the past 12 years. The majority of her possessions from her previous home are in my father’s spare bedroom and garage. The boxes and furniture take up so much space that for more than a decade guests have been sleeping on the couch in my dad’s basement and he has been parking his car in his driveway.

I have asked repeatedly why he’s holding on to all of her things since she no longer needs her blender, coffee cups, or toilet scrub brush. I’ve never received an answer, and I’m not certain that he could give me one if I pressed him on it.

The process of moving a loved one into a retirement community or nursing home is an emotional undertaking for all involved. It wasn’t easy for my grandmother, an independent, spitfire of a woman, to give up her home of more than 50 years and move into a retirement community. And, it has been difficult on my dad and his siblings to accept the fact that she needed to move.

Many families are faced with similar situations as aging parents move into retirement communities and nursing homes. The transition is tough for all involved in the process.

Over the past decade, retirement communities and nursing homes across the U.S. have taken notice of the difficulties families face transitioning loved ones into their facilities and are doing what they can to make the process smoother. Many retirement communities now offer transition management services to their residents.

I spoke with a local nursing home administrator about what these services entail. In his facility, there are two, full-time transition managers who work with every new resident. They go into the residents’ family homes and help them clear clutter, sell/donate/give to family items that won’t move with them to their new home, and help the residents choose what they want to bring with them. The process takes weeks and is an emotional but usually positive experience.

If you’re faced with a situation of helping someone move into a retirement community or nursing home, be sure to inquire if the facility offers transition management services. If they do, talk with residents and children of residents to learn about the quality and value of these programs. If the facility doesn’t offer this service, I highly recommend contacting the National Association of Senior Move Managers. NASMM has a referral system to help you find move managers in your community. You also may want to review this resource list for books relating to this delicate subject.

10 Comments for “Many retirement communities now offer transition management services”

  1. posted by Dream Mom DBA on

    I love the idea of a transition manager to assist people. Some people have no idea of where to start, similar to someone trying to get organized, and to add to that, the emotional turmoil of moving can be tough.

    I have learned over the years, that it’s always easier to get rid of things when the new place you are moving to is a step up-say moving to a nicer home, moving to a larger home, etc. but much more difficult for people when they are moving down-whether it’s to a lesser place, a less desirable place or a nursing/retirement facility where they are losing their independence or losing their skills.

    I can’t speak for your father but I do know that for my severely disabled son, that I keep things sometimes even though they are no longer needed. I remember a few years back and my son was being fitted for a new wheelchair, one with more supports (he has a progressive neurological disease). We met at his school with the therapists and the wheelchair vendor. They kept his gait trainer at school (it’s like a walker). At the end of the session, the therapists asked me if they could keep the walker at school for the other kids, since my son wouldn’t “need” it anymore. I was crushed. I said no and took the walker home with me since I wasn’t ready to deal with that. It has been in my garage for years now and I am finally ready to give it away this year to another boy and give him the opportunity to walk. This is the story about that.

    As for your father, twelve years is certainly a long time. I might think that a conversation with him about what those items mean to him might be enlightening. Maybe telling you about the the coffee cups. Perhaps as a child, he saw his mother drinking out of that cup every day. By holding onto the cup, he holds on to the memory of when she was an independent woman instead of the frail woman she has become. When you understand what the item means, it can be healing and you can come up with a solution-maybe taking the coffee cup and using it in his own home as a way to honor his mother.

    Good luck. Nice post.

  2. posted by [email protected] on

    This is a great idea, and more places should offer it.

    My husband’s grandmother just moved from elderly housing to a nursing home. My mother-in-law tried to convince her sister (they are both Grandma’s daughters) to sell most of Grandma’s stuff as she’ll obviously never need it again, but the sister has a tough time dealing with change and parting with “stuff”.

    The sister ended up getting a “temporary” storage unit for Grandma’s stuff, but we all know it’s going to be in there for a long time. *sigh*

  3. posted by Louise on

    I am so glad that my widowed mother is taking care of all this herself now, while she is fairly young. Just this month, she sold her 3 bedroom house and is moving into a studio apartment. This is transitional housing for her while she waits for a 1 or 2 bedroom condo in a retirement community.

    She is deciding for herself exactly what to keep and what to get rid of, now when there is no pressure of illness or infirmity. I am grateful that she has the time, inclination and energy to make these decision and follow through. Even better, she’s excited about the changes!

    My father and stepmother may not be so proactive, though, so it is great to know about these transition professionals.

  4. posted by infmom on

    My mother died in March at age 78. Ten years ago when she moved from California to Georgia she left a bunch of stuff with us. Although I went through it all about four years ago and tossed out the obvious junk and donated a box of books to the library, I still have the rest.

    I think what I’m going to do is go through the boxes again and make a list of what’s there, keep a few things myself, ask my brothers if they want any of it, and then either sell or donate what’s left.

    Sometimes getting rid of the “stuff” feels like abandoning the person who owned it.

  5. posted by Beverly on

    @infmom, you hit the nail on the head. Going through the stuff is what you do *after* the person dies, not before. It’s like giving up on her. As long as the stuff is there, there is still the possibility, however remote, that she could use it again. It’s not just stuff, it’s part of her identity. So cut your dad some slack, Erin, and know that one day it will be your turn.

  6. posted by Susan on

    If you know there is a bunch of stuff at your Dad’s house that your Grandma will never use again, ask her – NOT your Dad – if you could have some of these things. She will probably be overjoyed that you would want any of her things. You don’t have to take it all, but taking some of it will help your Dad out. Store what you can’t use in YOUR extra bedroom or garage. Be a mensch. Give your Dad a break.

  7. posted by Ellie on

    My mother had a massive stroke at age 63 and went from a full time working independent woman in our own home to a severely disabled nursing home resident with the thought processes of a five year old, without warning.

    My brother and I left her house as it was for two years because luckily one of our cousins could move in, had no furniture of her own, and was happy to live there rent free and look after it and Mum’s cats.

    When my cousin decided to move overseas my brother, husband and I spent a number of weekends going through it, throwing out a HEAP of stuff, holding a garage sale, sorting out what we wanted to keep ourselves, what we should store for Mum (not that there’s any reason, she won’t be using it again) and what we should sell/donate.

    As my husband and I live about 300km from the house and my brother even further this was a very tiring and stressful time. My mother, while not exactly a hoarder, certainly didn’t like to get rid of much. There were clothes going back to the 1960s, a suitcase of cheque book stubbs back to the 60s, clothes that I remembered putting in a donation bag years before that she must have rescued, etc etc.

    We decided there was no point keeping large items such as furniture unless we wanted them ourselves but Mum was too upset at the thought of us disposing of them (I think she had some hope of living in her own house again one day) that we ended up lying to her and saying we had put them in storage. In actual fact apart from the things we wanted ourselves and the things she has in the nursing home, 63 years of life and a houseful of possessions have come down to about ten moving boxes in my garage. How sad is that? And those boxes contain things that she will never use but we couldn’t part with for her sake – a scrapbook of baby cards from when I was born, her wedding dress and going away outfit, good china, glassware and ornaments.

    That was in 2006 and while I’ve intended to go through the boxes, put things in lidded plastic boxes and put them in my roof storage I just can’t seem to get around to it. They don’t take up any real room but I know they are there.

    In case you’re interested, what did I get from her house? A white leather lounge suite she bought only months before the stroke, her fairly new fridge which I use as our second fridge, and her double bed which is now in my guest room. Plus some nice glassware and crockery.

    My brother on the other hand is the sentimental type and despite living in a small two bedroom apartment he took many, many items of furniture. He recently married and his wife moved in with all HER furniture – I dread to think what that place looks like now!

  8. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Beverly — My grandmother can’t make decisions about her stuff. I can spend five hours with her, and she’ll only know who I am for about 15 minutes during that time. I truly treasure those 15 minutes, and the last thing I’m going to do with them is ask her what she wants me to do with her toaster.

    @Susan — I don’t want any of my grandmother’s things that she hasn’t already given to me. More importantly, she isn’t cognizant enough to even remember that she owned things or where her things are now. Her toilet brush and her rusty kitchen knives aren’t valuable to anyone and if she were younger and healthy, she wouldn’t even keep them. I understand why my father is having difficulty letting go of these objects, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t help him to see that they’re just things. His mother loves him dearly, and he loves her, and the memories they have together are far more important than chipped dishes and old throw rugs.

  9. posted by Kellie on

    These services are a great idea and I’m sure most of them are well-run. However, it is worth checking them out. When my grandfather moved into an assisted living center last year the transition service offered to help–they would pay him upfront for everything so he wouldn’t have to wait for things to sell. He’s very trusting and was so happy to have someone take care of it, he didn’t pay much attention or ask many questions. A very independent man, he only told family after the fact, still unaware that the service had taken advantage of his situation and severely underpaid him for what they bought (including antique porcelain dolls which would have done well at auction). It would have been better if he could have been paid fairly for things, but in the end, it was all stuff he didn’t need and he was so happy someone was there to deal with it.

  10. posted by Kaitrin Stubbs on

    CKD Interiors is a design firm that also provides transition management services in the Dallas, Texas area. We called them and they were very professional and experienced. My father was moving from a four bedroom home transitioning to a 2 bedroom senior living facility. CKD consulted on space and inventory to determine which furniture pieces would best fit the new environment. After the siblings chose what they wanted to keep, CKD Interiors arranged to remove any remaining furniture, most of which went to Goodwill. They transformed my father’s new apartment. He feels he is living in a showroom! If I had to do this again, I would highly recommend using a transition manager.

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