When Karen Buchanan faced the task of helping her mom, Wanda, move for the second time in 18 months, she decided she couldn’t do it alone. Wanda Buchanan, 74, has Alzheimer’s Disease and needed to move from her Cary apartment to Waltonwood Cary Parkway Senior Living, a new facility providing independent living, assisted living and dementia care living.
“It is a very difficult decision to move an elderly parent into a new situation, especially a parent with diminished mental capacity,” says Buchanan. “I made the decision this time that the emotional ordeal was enough for me to manage while taking care of the business of my own life—work, children and home demands.”
Being a daughter, not a move manager
Buchanan hired Susan Stanhope, owner of Move Elders with Ease. A certified senior move manager, Stanhope started her business about two years ago after doing some research and realizing senior move managers were in demand all over the country.
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“My goal is to make things very easy and smooth for the elders but also to provide peace of mind to the adult child,” says Stanhope, who’s currently helping her own mother downsize. “Which pieces of furniture do they love? I measure those and figure out how we can get all of that safely into the new place so they still have room to move around because we don’t want any falls.
“I do all the packing and then I get a moving company lined up, which they pay for and contract separately, and we set aside a day,” continues Stanhope. “When the movers show up, I’m there that morning and I oversee and manage that move for them. The adult child typically takes the parent somewhere. They don’t have to be there on move day.”
For Buchanan, that was the best part. “It allowed me to be the daughter rather than the manager of my Mom’s move. I did not want my mother to be a part of the move due to the confusion it would create for her.”
Once the physical move is completed, Stanhope unpacks and sets up the new home. To help Wanda Buchanan adjust, Stanhope took pictures of her previous apartment, including table tops, picture arrangements and knick-knacks and did her best to replicate it at her new home at Waltonwood Cary Parkway.
“When my Mom arrived at her new home, it was perfect,” says Buchanan. “No boxes, no paper, no mess.”
That’s exactly the point, says Stanhope. “The goal is to have it really feel like home that day so when that older person walks in they know that they have a secure place that feels comfortable to them even though they’re now in totally new surroundings,” she says. “It really makes the transition a lot easier for them emotionally.”
Paying attention to the little things
A smooth move can often help get a senior off on the right foot in their new home, according to Staci Stewart Woy, leasing manager at Waltonwood Cary Parkway Senior Living. The facility opened in May of this year and currently has 72 residents.
“It’s a hard transition for a senior to make the move into a retirement community,” Woy says. “They face issues such as making new friends, losing some of their independence, and adapting their lifestyle to a smaller and new environment.”
A move manager can help because her job is to listen specifically to the resident, says Woy. “A move manager thinks of ways to bring all of their personal items; they sort and organize their belongings and can design their new home without the resident being overwhelmed. They create a stress-free environment which allows the transition to go more smoothly.”
‘It’s hard enough’
Wanda Buchanan has been at Waltonwood for a few weeks now. “Mom has adjusted well to Waltonwood,” says Karen Buchanan. “It was disorienting at first for her to be entering a different building and seeing all of her belongings in a new space. She is now getting the support she needs to get to the meals and has plenty of opportunities for social interaction.”
Buchanan admits the experience was emotional — especially the second time around. “The hardest thing for me is recognizing that my mom has lost so much of her ability to make sound decisions about her own life.”
Buchanan has advice for other adult children facing a similar situation: “It’s so easy to believe that you can do it all but when it comes down to it, that also means you bring stress into the situation that is unnecessary. It’s hard enough. When you take care of yourself and allow this service to reduce the strain of the move, you are more available to your parent for what they truly need — your attention and love.”