Dealing with the Stress of Moving

Moving is stressful for everyone. From the packing to the closing of one chapter and opening of another, this change is monumental every time it happens in life. For seniors, however, a relocation can be particularly difficult. It’s important to recognize the challenges associated with a senior move so you can understand how to best help this loved one make the most of the new experiences he or she is about to have.

Why is Moving Hard for Seniors?

The trauma associated with moving has a name – it’s been referred to as “relocation stress syndrome” (RSS) over the past two decades, according to Everyone can experience this “transfer trauma,” which is characterized by symptoms like exhaustion, trouble sleeping, anxiety, grief, depression and disorientation.

These difficulties are magnified for seniors, who may also be suffering from conditions like dementia that make changes in environment even more confusing. Other seniors may be dealing with poor physical health or mild cognitive impairment. Symptoms like depression and lack of sleep can be even more detrimental to their overall well-being than they are to younger, healthier adults.

Should My Loved One Just Stay in One Place?

With these challenges involved in a move, some families may feel that they should keep a senior loved one at home. This is not necessarily the best option either, since assisted living or independent living communities may be a hugely positive change for the senior, offering companionship, mental stimulation, great nutrition and physical activities. It is important to discuss the pros and cons of a senior living facility or retirement community with a senior so you both understand that a move truly is the best choice. Consider bringing other family members, a clergy member or a doctor into the conversation to demonstrate to the senior how beneficial the move could be to his or her health once it’s over.

However, some seniors who do not need the many benefits of senior living – who have a strong social network outside their homes, for instance – may be better off hiring in-home care from a professional caregiver or skilled nursing professional.

How Can I Help with Relocation Stress ?

You can take steps to minimize RSS from the very beginning of the moving process up until the end. The first thing to do is involve the senior in as many steps of the decision-making and planning process as possible. Perhaps you could compile a bunch of brochures from senior living communities and allow the senior to choose which ones he or she would like to visit. The more control a senior has in the whole process, the less likely he or she is to feel good about it.

It’s important that caregivers and family members check in with the senior frequently during a transition to offer them a chance to air grievances or discuss their concerns. This can minimize the anxiety that builds up and leads to major stress later on. Despite well-intentioned moves from family members, some seniors can feel left out of the process, and feel as though they are being treated like children, which could make them more upset and lead to worse stress later on.

Once you have made the move, make sure you and other family members or friends help the senior set up, including him or her in the process by asking where things should go. You can also ask administrators at the senior living community if you can paint the walls, hang up artwork or bring in furniture from the old house in order to make the room or suite look as similar to home as possible.