Moving to a new country and culture can be a bit more stressful for older individuals. Leaving behind a familiar environment and establishing “roots” some place new can be particularly daunting later in life. As you prepare to move with an elderly parent or relative, try to keep in mind that they likely have the same concerns that you do. They may wish to make friends and maintain an active lifestyle in the new location, but perhaps they have the added anxiety of not being as independent, mobile or agile as they would like to be.
Be sure to include your elderly relatives in the moving process as much as possible so they feel they also have some control over the situation. And use these tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Encourage them to learn about the new country before you move.
Find activities and organisations for seniors and start introducing your parent/s to the culture. Reach out to these organisations to make new connections. Teaching them (and your other family members) some of the local language before you go is not only fun, but also a great way to feel more comfortable about the move.
List out their concerns and solutions.
Help them create a list of concerns – anything that causes them fear or worry when they think about the move. Together, develop solutions to overcome those fears. If the concerns come up once you are in the new country, you can refer back to the list to remind them of ways to overcome them. Thoughtful planning such as this can reduce anxiety for everyone in your family.
Work together when packing or donating their belongings.
If you need to get rid of any of their belongings, make sure your relative is the one making the choices on what to keep and what to get rid of. This can be an emotional experience, so start the process early so they have time to decide. If difficult decisions need to be made, such as what to do with family heirlooms, enlist the help of your relative’s friends or other family members. Perhaps items that they are very attached to can be given to someone else they trust to temporarily hold on to until you return.
Help them feel settled as soon as possible.
After the move, things may be hectic. Try right away to get your parent settled and surrounded by familiar belongings. And most of all, stay patient. Remember that change is harder the older we get. While it may take more time in the beginning, the sooner you can get your parent into a comfortable routine in your new community, the happier you both will be.
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