Senior Move Services

(913) 302-5214

Senior Move Services takes the dread out of downsizing for seniors in Kansas City by simplifying the moving process and acting as each client's single point of contact.

Nebraska's Commentary on Families and Aging

The movie Nebraska (directed by Alexander Payne) tells the story of an elderly man in Montana named Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) and his quest to claim a one-million-dollar marketing prize he believes he won from a marketing company in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Nebraska provides insightful commentary on aging in America. Some of its most pertinent themes include an examination of the following issues:

  • Adult children arguing over dad’s care
  • Memory loss
  • Seniors being preyed upon by opportunists
  • The loss of dignity and control

This blog post will examine each of these issues and provide advice for seniors and their families encountering some of these problems.

Adult Children Arguing Over a Parent's Care

Woody believes in this prize's legitimacy, but his wife (Kate) and two sons (David and Ross) cannot convince him that this is a scam. The police have repeatedly caught Woody attempting to hitchhike a ride to Lincoln and returned him to his home. SNL-alum Will Forte plays Woody’s son, David. David feels a great deal of empathy for his elderly father and believes this prize has given him something to live for. Kate (June Squibb) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk) disagree with David’s decision to take his father to Nebraska.

Tips on Building Consensus Among Family Members:

  • Kids often disagree over how to care for their parents. The cause of this often has nothing to do with the parents. One kid may resent a sibling because they feel that they disproportionately helped mom and dad. This increased involvement in their parents' lives makes them feel that they should have more influence.
  • Two things must be done to ensure cooperation from the entire family. One, hold a family meeting before a crisis occurs. Two, establish roles to prevent feelings of resentment. Make sure that no one is doing too much or too little.
  • I recommend reading an article from AARP entitled When Siblings Disagree About What's Best for Mom and Dad.

Memory Loss

During their trip to Nebraska, Woody loses his dentures when he falls near the train tracks in the Black Hills. Woody goes to the hospital to receive medical treatment. While in the hospital, he informs David that his teeth fell out of his mouth. They scavenge the train tracks in an attempt to find the lost dentures. David eventually finds a pair of dentures, and the two argue over whether or not this set of lost teeth belong to Woody. The argument concludes when Woody says, "Of course they're my teeth. Don't be a moron."

Tips on Dealing With Memory Loss:

  • Know your family's history of Alzheimer's and dementia.
  • Remain active in the lives of your parents. Ask them about their social life. Seniors with an active social life have better mental health. (HSPH, 2008) Retirement communities provide the ideal place for older adults to meet friends and build lasting relationships.
  • Seniors already experiencing memory loss have different needs. A community where older adults live independently will not provide adequate treatment. Talk with a doctor, and research facilities that specialize in helping people with memory loss.

Opportunists Preying Upon Seniors

Woody's steadfast belief that he has become a millionaire makes him the target of estranged friends and family members. Woody and David are traveling to Lincoln to claim their prize. Before stopping in Lincoln, they stop in Woody's hometown of Hawthorne for an impromptu family reunion. Kate and Ross each travel from Montana for the occasion. However, David's attempt to persuade family members that Woody has not become a millionaire falls on deaf ears. A former business associate and family members each want a piece of the fortune Woody believes he has won. Each of them tell a story where they provided some form of financial assistance to Woody and were never repaid for their generosity.

Tip for Fraud Prevention:

  • I recommend reading the FBI's page on how to deal with common fraud schemes that specifically target seniors. (FBI)

The Loss of Control and Dignity

Woody's only mode of transportation is a broken truck that collects dust in his garage. He has not driven in ten years. Despite this fact, he intends to purchase a new truck once he receives his prize of one million dollars. The truck symbolizes his ability to work, make money, and control his life. 

Woody's body language in the hospital bed also provided an incredibly accurate portrayal of his loss of control and feelings of despair. Late in the movie, David informs his father that they will not go to Lincoln. Woody winds up in the hospital. While on the hospital bed, David continues to persuade his father that they need to go home. Woody turns his head away from his son because he doesn't like what he's hearing. This brief scene resonated with me because my father did the exact same thing when I attempted to tell him something he did not want to hear.

Tips on Preserving Mom and Dad's Sense of Control:

  • Be careful with the language you use when discussing issues that make your parents uncomfortable.
  • Discussing the possibility of moving to a retirement home often engenders a cantankerous response from a parent. Many seniors feel downsizing is an admission that they can no longer control every aspect of their lives. Be patient with your parents and attempt to understand their perspective. Begin this process by planting the idea of moving into a retirement community, but do not rush them into this decision if possible.

Having the “Dreaded” Conversation

Before you begin the conversation, arm yourself with knowledge, sensitivity, compassion and empathy.  Compassion requires understanding the negative connotations associated with particular words. Eliminate the words elderly and facility (sounds institutional, like a prison) from your vocabulary. Use older adults and communities instead.

Become familiar with the resources that can help your parents. Examples include:  

  • Aging in place
  • Assessments
  • Elder law attorneys
  • Geriatric care managers
  • Home modifications
  • Levels of care (independent living, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living, skilled nursing)
  • Medicare
  • Memory care
  • Move managers
  • Power of attorney

Start with your county’s area agency on aging (www.agingcare.com). Johnson County, KS residents should call 913-715-8800. Jackson County, MO residents should call 816-474-4240. Communicate with your siblings. As you frame what you want to say to mom and dad and in what tone of voice, anticipate that a lot of unaddressed feelings will bubble up: the desire to maintain independence, fear of outliving their money and unresolved issues between family members.  This is not a conversation to have over the phone. It’s also better if one child acts as the spokesperson for all of the siblings (there always seems to be one child who takes charge anyway). Expect resistance. You might hear, “No. We’re not moving.” Most parents and children never have this conversation. Have it long before the crisis comes so that when it does, you understand their wishes. 

Tailor your approach to what resonates with your parents. Share your concerns. Never begin a sentence with the word you because mom and dad will immediately become defensive. “My brothers and I want to make sure that your needs are being met now and if a crisis occurs. There are many choices available to you. Let’s talk about some options and see which ones appeal to you.” Give them a list of questions and then set up a time later to discuss their answers with you.

  1. Have you thought about where you’d like to live as you get older?
  2. Would you consider living with one of us (the children)?
  3. Would you want someone to live here to take care of you if you can’t live alone?
  4. Would you want to modify your home for aging in place?
  5. Do you have your will? Trust? Where can I locate it?
  6. Do you have life insurance?
  7. Do you have medical and financial powers of attorney?
  8. Would you like to talk to a financial planner?
  9. What does your long-term care insurance cover?
  10. Do you keep an updated list of your medications?
  11. Do you have supplemental health insurance?
  12. Where do you bank? Safe deposit box?
  13. Is there enough money to cover caregivers or assisted living?
  14. Have you made arrangements for your funeral (cremation, burial)

Many older parents do not want to become a burden to their children. Once they understand that taking control of their future allows them to make choices that enable them to remain in control, they realize they have given a gift to their children and indeed, they have. Remain patient but persistent as you encounter resistance. Remain involved. Have the dreaded conversation long before the crisis comes and chances are, you and your parents will have a much better outcome.

A New Generation of Clients Needs Moving Concierge Services

In the years I've worked as a move manager, I've seen some changes. The heavy Victorian furniture with the marble tops has been replaced with either mid-century modern or Ethan Allen. Initially, my clients were in their mid-eighties, frail and moving to a retirement community. Some of them waited so long that they moved directly to assisted living or skilled nursing. They were a frugal group of folks from having grown up in the depression. One lady gave me a dollar and a dime every day to buy her lunch at McDonald's but wanted to make sure I didn't charge her for the time it took me to drive there, pick up her meal and return! 

Today's client is much more likely to offer us a meal (we generally decline) or order a tray from Subway. And our clients are getting younger. The oldest baby boomers are now 68 and ready for less space that requires less maintenance but they are not ready for a retirement community. Instead, they choose apartments or maintenance-free villas. As members of a generation of conspicuous consumers, they have acquired a lot of stuff! 

The new generation of older adults need the following:

  • A personal moving concierge who will anticipate and thwart all the things that can go wrong with a move. 
  • A moving professional who knows all the details of moving from making sure that the 8-foot tall armoire will clear the ceiling to expertly packing things so they don't break. 
  • Someone who has developed relationships and trustworthy business partners in the following areas:
    • Auctions
    • Consignment shops
    • Charities
    • Estate sales
    • Junk removal and shredding services
    • Movers (local and long-distance)
    • Real estate

Senior Move Services will help coordinate and simplify this process for clients in the Kansas City metropolitan area. 

12 Ways to Liquidate Personal Property

A later-life move requires making a lot of decisions. How do we deal with the stuff that's left behind? The "stuff" and what to do with it seems to be the number one reason people stay in their homes instead of relocating to smaller, safer and more manageable environments. After our clients have chosen what to move forward with them, they often want to give things to children and grandchildren. We have packed boxes for the kids and arranged to have furniture shipped, all over the country. I often recommend that clients ask their children what they would like to have before we go to the trouble and expense of packing and shipping things they don't want. Some clients have done their homework and arranged for an estate sale. Most have merely wondered about estate sales, auctions and donations. Many people think their stuff will bring a lot of money but times change and the dining room buffet, table and china cabinet that cost several thousand dollars (and that you've used for 40 years) may end up selling for a few hundred dollars. We've been in business long enough now to recognize who to recommend for the sale based on the kind and amount of items to be sold.

Often, an estate sale is not the best way to dispose of personal property. The location of the home and the time available to prepare for a sale may make it impossible but great alternatives exist. Consider an auction. Our contacts will bring the truck, tubs and people needed to take things they believe their clients will buy. They keep a percentage and you get a check. If you want to donate some of your items we list them and give you the fair market value of each item for your taxes. It helps to know the rules and regulations for the local charities. Some will not come into the home, some will not take mattresses. Some need a lot more information than others. Sometimes we find an item so unusual and perhaps valuable that we refer it to an appraiser. One of our clients received a check for over $5,000 for a stuffed toy bear (that nearly went to charity) when I suggested that a doll and toy appraiser evaluate it. Often, we order a dumpster for the amount of stuff that has absolutely no value. Many choices for dispersing the property from the family home exist.

My best advice: Start making choices early so that you feel less overwhelmed when you actually do move.

Here are 12 ways to liquidate the stuff you no longer need:

  1. Give some things to your children and grandchildren (ask them for a list)
  2. Donate to charity
  3. Have an estate sale
  4. Call appraisers for specific items (old toys, silver, art)
  5. Send items to auction and see what they bring
  6. Consign furniture and knickknacks with a reseller who has a physical store with lots of foot traffic
  7. Mid-century furniture call Retro Inferno in Kansas City, MO
  8. Hire an e-bay reseller
  9. Sell on Craigslist (be careful)
  10. For those with Vintage clothes, call Re-Runs in Kansas City, MO
  11. Call a liquidator (you may have to write a check rather than receive one)
  12. Call Gerre at Senior Move Services for your free consultation at 913-302-5214

Adding Value to Your Move

Would your mover or moving concierge respond to your client’s request for adding lace panels to a china cabinet? Our client sees more value in our creation of pleated lace panels attached with Velcro to her china cabinet than she does to our sorting and packing services. We consistently go the extra mile to please our clients.  People need help with different parts of the moving process and when we listen and respond appropriately to their concerns we bring value to them that they won’t find anywhere else.

One client needed help choosing furniture for her new apartment. I brought her floor plan and tape measure to the store and over the course of a few hours, we chose the furniture she liked and made arrangements for the delivery so that it coordinated with moving day. I remember the client who needed to refinish a cane-back chair. I delivered the chair to the refinisher, retrieved it days later and returned it to the very pleased client. You’ll notice that most of these tasks could have been accomplished by the clients had they been younger and more mobile. As we age, many tasks that were once simple become overwhelming. At Senior Move Services we strive to coordinate the complexities of the move so that the client can use her energy to become accustomed to her new home, new friends and new life.

The Story of Minnie Mills

Minnie was a dog without a permanent home. When I first encountered her, Minnie’s nails had grown into her toe pads. Her coat was matted and reeked of smoke. She had a bacterial infection from eating garbage. She’d never had her shots or even a chance to go outside. Most of her interactions with people had forced to hide and tremble in fear. After finding that animal shelters throughout the city were full, I decided that Minnie would become the second dog in my household.

Minnie is now up to date on her shots, regularly receives preventative heartworm medicine, and gets groomed when necessary. She's my twelve-pound tyrant.

I positively transformed Minnie's life and hope to do the same for each of my clients.

Moving a Hoarder in Kansas City

An overpowering stench of rotten food, body odor and urine permeated the dingy hallway. The closer I walked to Larry’s apartment, the stronger the odor. I saw the eviction notice when Larry opened his door. Long, flowing white hair and grizzly beard, blue jeans and suspenders, he walked with the aid of a cane. He looked like a much older version of the hippies I remembered from the 1960′s. He lived in a hoarder’s paradise, full of books, garbage, clothes strewn throughout the apartment, dirty dishes in the sink and elsewhere, a cat, and enough cockroaches to infest an entire apartment building.

“How can we help you?” I asked.

Larry pulled a dirty handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his watery eyes and tried to silence a hacking cough.

 “I’m sorry. I’ve been ill and the medications sometimes make me cry.”         

Though I felt like running away from the smell, the horrific conditions and him, I knew we could make his life more manageable and cleaner (for the time we worked with him).

“Well, we’re here to help, not judge.”

Larry had a week to move out of his apartment and into his new community in Kansas City, KS. As a hoarder with no family members to keep an eye on him, he had accumulated thousands of things that had little value except to him. And he wanted to take them all. We developed a plan of action and I encouraged him to take only the things he needed, loved or couldn’t replace.

When I returned with my team, we coated the inside of our noses with Vicks (a crime scene trick). Larry had no bed. He slept on a pile of clothes and blankets.  One of my team members volunteered to wash all of his clothes in a laundromat. With mask and gloves on, she triple bagged the clothes. At the laundromat (much less money than the cleaners) she sorted, tossed, washed, dried and folded his clothes. At the apartment, we packed Larry’s beloved books and prepared his bookcases for the move. We cleared his desk. He chose the kitchen items he wanted. We refused to take the badly infested furniture into the new community and he seemed to understand why we had to leave so much behind. We talked with Larry throughout the process, reassuring him that his new home would meet his needs better than his current one.

I hired a moving company experienced with moving hoarders. We visited the new community and designed a floor plan. Luckily, we had recently cleared an apartment in a very nice community and for a small amount of Larry’s money I purchased a bed, headboard, nightstand, dresser, sheets and towels, a microwave, and a few lamps. The community provided him with a sofa and chair and I donated an old coffee table and end table. We moved things from two different locations quickly so his new apartment would be move-in ready by late afternoon on moving day. We unpacked everything and put it away, arranging the books exactly the way he wanted. We hung his pictures and made his bed (it had been years since he slept in a bed). By the end of the day, he realized the scope of the work we did on his behalf and thanked us.

No two clients are alike but the skills required to meet their needs remain the same. How can we help you meet the needs of your clients?

*The client's actual name was not used in this blog post.

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