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Many events can prompt the need for an elderly parent’s move or downsizing to a smaller, more appropriate-sized living space. Some of these events, unfortunately, are fraught with stress: the death of a spouse, decreased income, illness, or increasing frailty are just a few examples. Combine this stress with the logistical and emotional struggle involved in sorting through a lifetime of treasured possessions, and you have the makings of a truly unpleasant experience.

When faced with helping an aging parent move or downsize, it’s a great idea to bring in a professional to help deal with all these potential problems. This is especially important if distance or work obligations make it difficult for you to personally handle everything related to your parent’s move, including planning, donating or selling unneeded items, packing, overseeing moving day, unpacking, and getting settled in the new home.

Moving, whether to an apartment, smaller house, or senior living community, usually involves getting rid of many personal belongings that may not have a place in your parent’s new surroundings. Deciding what to keep and what to sell or donate can be both physically overwhelming and emotionally traumatic for many people.* A professional organizer – someone who can help make clear, objective decisions about what to keep and what to part with, as well as find the right resources for donating or selling the things no longer needed – can take a huge burden off your shoulders.

Another area that some professional organizers specialize in is paper management. In getting ready for a move, you may come across years of accumulated files that are out of date and no longer needed. A professional organizer can provide guidance on which papers to keep, which ones to scan, and which can go straight to the shredder or recycle bin. The last thing you need to be doing is packing and moving boxes of useless paper as your parent transitions to a new home.

Professional organizers can also help plan the logistical aspects of a move and provide both physical and moral support. They can even help supervise the moving day itself, then make sure everything gets unpacked and organized in the right spot so your parent’s new surroundings feel like home right away. Starting out with “a place for everything and everything in its place” can make moving to a new apartment or home that much easier.

Finally, consider a mental health professional as an essential part of the equation, especially if your parent’s move is due to a major life change. Many counselors and mental health professionals specialize in helping people work through the mental and emotional turmoil that accompanies life-changing events, such as the illness or death of a loved one, and begin to feel settled and at home in their new life.

There are lots of experienced professionals who can help you (and your parent) navigate these choppy waters — don’t go it alone!

*For more tips on downsizing, including recommendations for places to donate or dispose of beloved possessions, check out this post: The Art of Downsizing: Dealing with the Emotions and Handling Your Belongings.