Helping Senior Loved Ones With Downsizing

There are many great things about being a senior – such as enjoying your “golden years” and having the time to do all you’ve always wanted to do. But one thing most don’t touch upon is the topic of senior downsizing. It’s something that 99.9% of senior couples and singles are going to have to do, no matter what the circumstances are. So let’s talk about some of the practical tips and emotional support your senior loved one will need during this time.

How To Help Seniors Downsize

Every object has a memory wrapped around it. This is something to keep in mind as you begin this process with your senior loved one. Now some of these memories will be small and the memories are trivial, it is easy to donate them to charity or toss them away if they are old and faded with time. But other objects are more challenging – what about a wedding dress that her mother wore? It’s unlikely that another family member will want to wear it in a celebration and sometimes no one else wants to keep it as well. Each time you help a senior go through objects and items, it will bring up memories – both positive and negative. Sometimes even happy memories will bring tears as they realize those times are gone and now they have to let go of the object they have left from then. So do your best to be patient, kind and gentle during this process with your senior loved one.

Find a charity your senior loved one supports that can take some of the items. Today many charities will come to pick up clothing, furniture, household appliances and more. Some include Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Humane Society to name a few. But do your best to find one that has some meaning to your senior loved one, so this way you are not simply “getting rid of” items but they are going to do something important that they will believe in. This will give them some comfort as they go through the downsizing process.

Understand that there will be a few items that they will simply not want to get rid of. Even if it is impractical to do so, your senior loved one will want to keep them. One senior woman was determined to keep her husband’s huge recliner chair long after he was gone, it brought back many happy memories for her to just see it every day. You as a family member or friend may be tempted to argue or fuss with them, but realize that downsizing is not just about practicality, we are all human beings with hearts, souls and feelings. Most of us cannot get rid of every object in our lives without thinking about them. I doubt you could rid your home of a few special things right now if YOU were a senior – even if someone told you they would be hard to keep! So it is your duty as a friend or loved one to try to help make this possible, whenever it is possible. The good news is that quite often it is – and it will make your senior loved one smile in a way that many other things will not right now.

Take advantage of putting things in to storage whenever possible. Some things your senior loved one will want to be passed down to loved ones but they may not be ready to receive them. They may have a grandchild in college who would love furniture once they graduate or a daughter or a son who would like items once they move to a larger apartment. Or perhaps your senior loved one would like to keep holiday decorations and other items they would like to put up but they don’t have the room for them where they are. Storage is likely the best answer.

Make plans to create a beautiful home or living environment once downsizing is complete. If it has become time to clear out the attic and the children’s rooms (now adults, long grown with children of their own!), this process will bring up emotions. But do something nice for your senior. They may be planning to move to a care facility soon or putting their home on the market. Take that extra step to make this process not simply about getting rid of clutter, but about being comfortable with the next stage they are welcoming into their lives.

Storage Facilities around Knoxville, TN suitable for Senior Downsizing

Hayfield Mini Storage
201 Hayfield Road
Knoxville, Tennessee 37922

Aaron Super Storage
6626 Asheville Hwy
Knoxville, TN 37924

Parkway Storage
1540 Lovell Rd
Knoxville, TN 37932

Ultimate Assisted Living Checklist

If you’ve just gone through the decision-making process regarding relocating your parents to an assisted living facility, you may think the hard part is over, but your journey has just begun. Once everybody’s on the same page and has agreed that the transition is in everybody’s best interest, you still have to devote tremendous research into making sure you find the place that’s the best fit. The search for the ideal assisted living facility should take into consideration your parents’ personal needs and preferences as well as strike a balance between quality and cost. Begin by talking to others who’ve been in your shoes. Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues whether they have recommendations, and turn to trusted medical professionals as well. The internet is an increasingly valuable resource where you can read reviews long before picking up the phone or taking a trip to a facility for a tour.

Once you’ve narrowed your search to several options, you should plan on doing more in-depth investigation. Break your search into three separate sections: a telephone interview, a visit, and a follow-up conversation after the visit. Below you’ll find our ultimate assisted living checklist that provides you with important questions that you should ask in each of these investigative phases. If you make sure to get answers to all of these, you’ll find yourself with a much more complete sense of which facility is best suited to your parents’ needs.

Over The Phone

The goal of a call to an assisted living facility is to get as complete a sense as possible of the services provided and the benefits offered by the particular location. The assisted living checklist questions that you should be going through in this phase of your search are the most basic, and are aimed at ruling a facility in or out of consideration. They include:

  • What type of care do you offer?
  • Do you provide dressing, bathing or grooming?
  • What services are provided for those with memory loss or who have mobility issues?
  • Do you permit outside services such as physical therapy or hospice to be brought into you premises, or do you require us to use your services/
  • What amenities do you provide?
  • What kind of oversight is there within your community? Though this question may make you uncomfortable to ask, it is important to ensure that the assisted living communities that you are considering are all being regularly inspected and visited by a state regulatory agency.

Facility administrators should be more than happy to provide you with this information as well as with a copy of their most recent survey report, safety inspections and other reviews. A facility that is defensive or hesitant about providing this information should be carefully scrutinized.

During The Visit

Visiting an assisted living facility can feel like touring a college campus or a resort hotel. You will usually be taken on your tour by a marketing representative whose job is to make sure that everything you see and hear is positive. Our assisted living checklist questions are designed to help you look beyond the glossy brochures and decorated community rooms to ask the questions that will reveal what’s most important.

  • Does the facility prepare a written plan of care for each resident? How often is it reviewed and updated? What is the process for assessing a resident’s needs? Is the family included in the process? The resident’s personal physician?
  • Is there a form available that spells out all available personal care and support services and their fees?
  • What are the policies for refunds and transfers?
  • What kind of help is available for moving in and moving out?
  • How is billing handled if the resident’s needs change?
  • Is renter’s insurance required?
  • What is the process for registering complaints or requests? What about repair requests?
  • Are residents allowed to self-administer their own medication?
  • Is there a staff person tasked with coordinating outside care?
  • What is the procedure in case of medical emergencies?
  • Is there a nurse or physician on staff and onsite at all times?
  • Is 24-hour assistance available for daily living needs?
  • What is the training procedure for the staff?
  • Are barber and beauty services available onsite?
  • What kinds of transportation services are available?
  • Do you provide a 24-hour emergency response system from each apartment?
  • Do you allow pets, and if so do you provide assistance with walking or grooming?
  • Does the community conduct criminal background checks on all employees?
  • What kind of training is provided regarding elder abuse? What is the policy for reporting suspected abuse?
  • Are residents with cognitive impairments on the premises? Do they live in a separate wing or area?
  • Can hospice be provided within the facility?
  • Can grandchildren or other loved ones spend the night?

After the Visit

After you’ve toured all of the facilities, the questions you must ask are really about your personal preferences. Think about the feeling that you got in each location, and the things that you noticed.

  • Did you like the appearance of the community?
  • Were you greeted by staff throughout your visit?
  • Did the residents appear happy and engaged with each other as well as with staff?
  • Did the residents appear to be people you’d like to spend time with?
  • Is the floor plan easy to follow and accommodating?
  • Was the community clean and appropriately heated or cooled?
  • Did you like the apartments and the options that were available?
  • Were there plenty of activities offered that your parents would be interested in participating in?
  • Did the dining room provide nutritious meals that seemed appealing?
  • Can you eat in your apartment?
  • Do you think you will be happy there?

Using our ultimate assisted living checklist will provide you with an excellent aid for helping you to narrow down your choices when considering assisted living facilities. With so many options available, you should be able to find the place that provides the best possible fit for your loved ones.

How Transformations in Design Are Improving Senior Living

Mention assisted living or nursing homes and the first image that pops into the listener’s head is of the traditional institutional setting. Linoleum tiled halls that stretch on endlessly. Nurses stations under fluorescent lighting, the smell of cafeteria food served on Formica-surfaced tables, and residents housed behind faux wood grain doors that hide two beds, one next to a window and the other closer to the Spartan bathroom.

Recognizing the Need for Change

That forbidding and unpalatable design is a big part of why so many people resist the idea of assisted living for themselves or for their parents. But a tour of today’s modern assisted living facilities reveals that the approach to senior living projects has changed dramatically over the past several years and there have been clear changes in design and in priority. As the population continues to age, the demand for comfortable, inviting environments that still provide for the needs of the elderly have grown along with it. Senior living design is now all about feeling more like a home than like a hospital.

Design is Driven by Research

The architectural design of assisted living facilities, as well as for nursing homes and specialized care units that care for adults with memory loss, was once driven simply by what was most efficient and provided the most ease of movement for the staff. Today’s design is informed by research that clearly identifies the impact of lighting, color and comfort on emotion and well-being. Designs no longer include corridors that appear to be endless. Instead facilities are being built to be more homelike and are built on a smaller scale. Corridors are shorter and there are lots of windows and skylights to provide daylight and a sense of openness. Small gathering spaces have been created to invite a sense of community. Even large assisted living communities are designed to feel like a group of distinct neighborhoods, with their own kitchen and dining area available.

Top Trends in Senior Living Design

Though adult children’s top priority in choosing assisted living for their parents may be the availability of supervision and care, as well as the elimination of the responsibility for household maintenance, there is much to be said about the importance of the built environment. There has been a significant change in design strategies, and a number of interesting trends, including:

  • An emphasis on providing residents with privacy and dignity
  • A focus on creating homelike settings
  • Borrowing from hospitality settings
  • Providing more options
  • Increased use of technology
  • Improving sustainability

Perhaps the most important of these is the emphasis on privacy, as one of the main objections that residents have voiced in the past has been with regard to semi-private rooms, or living too close to one another. Smaller, more homelike environments are now being provided, and many assisted living facilities are set up as though they are large houses with common living rooms and dining rooms. A great deal of effort is going into preventing assisted living facilities from looking institutional, and to that end the design concepts that are being used by high-end hotel chains are being imitated. Carpet is being used instead of vinyl tile, walls are made of painted gypsum instead of covered in washable materials. All administrative functions are being moved out of sight so that the facility does not feel like a business. The goal is to provide a feeling that is much more like a condominium than like the care environments of old.


Another trend has been the use of technology in a way that diminishes the sense of being monitored. Instead of having a nurse or aide check in on a resident, motion detectors and wireless devices can be installed in apartments that make the environment feel less restrictive but still provide the protections that are needed. Communities are also being equipped with wireless internet throughout, which not only benefits residents but makes family visits more inviting.

The Greening of Assisted Living

Finally, sustainability is a growing trend in senior living. This not only means that there is an increased focus on issues such as water and energy conservation, but also that communities have the opportunity for exposure to nature and gardens and that existing buildings are being converted into assisted living facilities.

These are just a few of the ways companies and individuals are committed to improving senior living.

How To Minimize the Costs of Assisted Living

In addition to all of the emotional aspects involved in considering assisted living for your parents, there are also economic considerations that come into play. Assisted living can be very costly. The national average is hovering around $3,500 per month, and that does not account for differences in geography or in the many amenities that these communities include in their color brochures.

Whether you are in a situation where the costs will be paid out of pocket from savings, the sale of a home or another source or you will be receiving federal assistance, minimizing the costs is of concern to all. Here are several tips to help you to provide your parents with the best possible option while still controlling costs.

Be an educated consumer

The more that you plan ahead and investigate what your options are, the more you will understand about the costs involved. Compare facilities so that you can understand what the price impacts are of luxuriously decorated facilities and impressive gym facilities, among other amenities. You may also be surprised to learn that smaller facilities that have lower bed counts may be less expensive, despite offering the same level of service.

Be realistic about your needs

Though the marketing director may show you the largest apartment, you need to be practical about your priorities. Think of it in the same way that you would if you were being shown a model home in a new development. You are being shown every option to encourage you to spend more money. If a community has extensive community areas, you may not need as much private space — in fact, you may be perfectly comfortable sharing a two-bedroom with another resident.

Be mindful of the difference that geography can make

If you live in an urban area where real estate values are high, a residential community is going to automatically have higher costs. Moving your search to the suburbs can make a very big difference.

Use leverage where you have it

Assisted living communities have marketing directors because they are a business and they need customers. They are most profitable when they are fully occupied, so it may be worth their while to offer you a move-in credit, lower your monthly rent or waive community fees. You may also find yourself being offered discounts for being among the first to sign on for a community that is new.

Know what level of care is needed

When a new resident moves in they are offered service contracts defining what services will be provided. Because most people don’t know what their needs are they tend to say yes to everything, but that can be needlessly expensive. Seek the help of a care manager to assess your needs. Contracting for services on an as-needed basis or a la carte may be your more economical option.

Don’t assume that prices are set in stone

In some cases a resident may find that they are no longer able to afford the fees that they have been paying. In other cases those who are comparing facilities may be very interested in a site but feel that they are being offered a more attractive price at another. The marketing person that you are working with may have some negotiating room in their monthly pricing or other fees. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Think ahead and plan ahead

Though it may feel like like an unnecessary expense, long-term care insurance can end up making the difference in what you can afford and what is out of reach. Calculate the benefits before you need them so that you don’t leave yourself without protection you later wish that you had.