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Helping a loved one downsize into aged care or assisted living

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Emily is a Sydney-based real estate writer.

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Already considered one of the most stressful experiences in life, moving can be even more harrowing for someone who’s lived in the same place for a long time and especially if it involves downsizing.

Downsizing can be hard for anyone. When it's forced on someone because of age or illness, it becomes even tougher. Even if the person is moving to a great place, you may be asking them to get rid of many memories as they discard some of their possessions collected over a lifetime.

Here are some tips that might help take some of the stress out of the move:


They say change is hard and as we get older, it gets harder. Your loved one is likely to be apprehensive about moving and afraid of the unknown. Added to this is having to give up the home he or she has probably lived in for some years, as well the familiarity of its surroundings and many valued belongings.

The first step to a successful transition is to consider the change from your loved one’s point of view. Give your loved one time to grieve the change. A big cause of the distress may be a perceived loss of control, so it’s advisable to give your loved one as much choice as possible in planning and implementing the move.


Once you have a better idea of how your loved one may be feeling, it’s vital to talk about why the move is necessary and to highlight its various positive aspects – for example, how it could make one’s life easier and how one could may make new friends and participate in new activities.

Visiting the aged care facility together and spending a bit of time talking to some of the people who live there and staff may help. If the facility has good brochures detailing its offering, keep these handy as a reminder that this is not the end of the journey, but a transition to another way of living. Listen to what your loved one says and acknowledge his or her feelings. Try to work through their concerns and alleviate them.

See: how Lisa used OpenAgent to sell her parent's home quickly so they could transition into aged care

Get help

Enlist help from family and friends. Having supportive and encouraging people around could ease the distress of the process.


Before you start the downsizing process, have a good idea of what space the new living quarters allow and what furniture is required. How much storage space is there? Take measurements if you can. Discuss which furniture and objects your loved one would most like to have around and whether this is feasible. Tough choices may have to be made.

Perhaps draw up a rough floor plan and then draw in where each piece of furniture will go. This may help everyone to be more realistic about how much room there will be and what furniture will work.

older woman using ipad


Work out a schedule of what needs to be done and when. Remember older people may tire more easily than you and things often take longer to do than expected. If you have the luxury of time, consider breaking down the tasks into smaller chunks, accompanied with pleasant activities such cups of teas and chats, to lighten up the process.


The first step is to work out what items will definitely be required at your loved one’s new home. After that, perhaps discuss what could be sold to bring in some cash. Next, ask your loved one what he or she would like to give away – for example, to a young family member starting a new home or a favourite charity.

Knowing that a special item is going to a good cause may ease the pain of parting with it. Unfortunately, the following step may be rather difficult – deciding what to get rid of. Do not become a packing robot without feelings. Invest time in discussing the memories that items may evoke.

Also, remember that it’s vital to make your loved one’s new abode feel like home, so it’s important to keep some familiar and valued objects even if there are space restrictions. Perhaps have a “maybe” box where you place for uncertain items to avoid getting into heated debates. You can tackle this box at the end. By then, you can gently remind your loved ones about what other items they are already taking and how their space will be limited.

The loose ends

Ensure important papers such as deeds, wills, powers of attorney, medical records, birth certificates and passports will be kept together in a safe place and that other key family members know where they are. Work out how you will transfer prescription medicines. Work with your loved one to cancel utilities and other services in a timely manner and alert Australia Post and others of the change of address.

Settling in

Once your loved one has moved, spare a few days to help him or her feel at home. Help unpack everything quickly and in a way that’s similar to what they had in their previous home. Introduce them to other residents or neighbours. Explore the neighbourhood together to discover places like the local library, post office, pharmacy, doctors’ practice and coffee shop. Find out what about local seniors’ clubs and any activities held at the facility.

Find out more about how to prepare for sale and how to find the right real state agent to sell your property.