We’re often asked whether we encounter a lot of family problems when we’re dealing with seniors in transition. We’ve moved a lot of clients, so naturally we have dealt with quite a few families. The pattern that we’ve observed is that in most cases the personality of the family is consistent with the personality of the client.
A few years ago, we had a client who had some odd quirks. For example, she had several different aliases and used different ones for different purposes. She had stacked two dressers in front of her bedroom door and went in and out through a bathroom. The details aren’t important, but her decisions made her project more challenging at every turn. Then, her son and daughter came to town to help their mom. They were together less than 10 minutes before they began a very nasty fight with each other. Their presence further complicated an already challenging project.
But that case is the exception. By far, most of our clients’ families really want the best for each other. They are willing to make compromises and try very hard to understand each other’s perspectives. We recently worked with a client whose nearest living relative was a cousin, and that cousin spent weeks helping our client deal with a long series of complicated issues, including a move to a new home. This is not unusual, and it is very gratifying to witness.
A difficult situation that we run into relatively frequently is when an adult child has been caring for an aging parent at home and has reached a breaking point. A similar situation is when the parent lives alone and is convinced that all is well, although the adult child knows that the situation is unhealthy, dangerous, or both. These situations often occur with the parent has some form of dementia.
Another difficult situation is created by hoarding behavior. The adult children of seniors with this disorder very often distance themselves from their parents. This happens, not because they don’t love the parent, but because they just find the behavior so very difficult. In those cases, downsizing sometimes contributes to healing the relationship.
For the most part, even though these are challenging situations, the family ties are strong. We’ve seen people make all sorts of sacrifices to provide their elderly family members with the best outcome that they can provide. Our job is to support those efforts and to make them as uncomplicated as possible.
One aspect of what we do is to make the transition from one home to the other as smooth as possible. We had a client recently whose apartment walls were covered with art. Her daughter told us that she was particular about that art, so we took pictures and measured the exact placement of the art, distances between them, and so on, all down to the nearest quarter of an inch. We replicated that exact placement in her new home so that the new environment would be as familiar as possible to her.
Our clients are almost always completely delighted with what we’ve done and how comfortable we’ve made the new space for them. We are always very grateful when the client has a terrific family providing support. Those families make the entire experience just that much sweeter.