What is Relocation Stress Syndrome?
Relocation Stress Syndrome or RSS, an official nursing diagnosis, is brought on by a move from one home to another. Symptoms, which can last for a year or more, are dependency, confusion, anxiety, depression and withdrawal. Moving changes circumstances and brings a new environment. It can take a long time for us to adjust. Researchers found that older individuals can take longer to adjust than younger people and are more likely to suffer symptoms of RSS.
RSS Is Worsened By Sudden Moves and Considerable Loss
Relocation Stress Syndrome becomes worse when a move comes suddenly and losses are considerable. Both circumstances are often the case for seniors. Seniors’ moves are often made necessary by a sudden illness, loss of mobility or loss of a partner. These losses are stressful in themselves without adding a move. A move may also change usual routines and lifestyle. Sometimes moves include loss of proximity to family, friends and giving up pets.
Downsizing to a smaller space usually requires giving up many of the possessions collected over a lifetime. Often these are reminders of precious memories. Losing some ‘defining’ possessions may even feel like a loss of identity. This identity loss may not seem rational to some, but it is real and increases relocation stress.
Physical Demands of Moving May Cause Health Problems
Going through everything in the home to get ready for a move is physically demanding too. Reaching, climbing, lifting, bending as well as extra walking and standing are required. There may be exposure to allergens like dust and other health hazards. Without adequate help, these conditions could cause a catastrophe for a Senior and add to the emotional challenges they are facing.
Risks for Seniors in Preparing Home for Sale
For Seniors, preparing the current home for sale is another challenge. Circumstances before the move may have lead to deferred maintenance and repairs. Usually decor has not been updated to suit tastes of current home buyers. Besides the emotional loss of selling their home, Seniors risk financial loss from reduced offers if they are unable to make the necessary repairs and updates. A poorly prepared home will attract lower offers and will take longer to sell. However, if they are still living in the home, the change and disruption necessary to put it in sale condition can make RSS more likely.
Lessen Severity of Relocation Stress Syndrome
Move First, Sell After
To avoid compounding the severity of relocation stress brought on by the changes associated with a move, it is the ideal situation to make the move first. Then the repairs and redecoration necessary to get the most equity out of the home can take place with less impact on the Senior.
Maintain a Sense of Control
The severity of Relocation Stress Syndrome can be lessened by regaining a sense of control. The person being moved should participate in the decision making according to their capability. Minimizing the amount of change helps. If surroundings and routine remain familiar, the transition will be easier.
Break Down the Job and Get Help
Careful preparation and adequate, appropriate support before, during and after a move helps lessen RSS. Downsizing requires many tough decisions and is often overwhelming for seniors. It is best broken into small chunks and done with help.
Don’t Rely Entirely on Family and Friends
Even if there are family and friends who want to help, the time commitment may be too great. Since they probaby don’t handle this sort of undertaking every day, they may lack some expertise and resources. For Seniors, having to rely on family and friends is another blow to their sense of independence and control. It may seem too big a favour to ask. They might be dreading the family squabbles this sort of project often causes.
Hire a Specialist to Coordinate the Move
A team approach is best. Each situation is different, but assistance may be required from a variety of medical, social services, financial and legal experts, movers, contractors, cleaners, executors, powers of attorney, family members and friends. A professional who can pull together a good team and co-ordinate their efforts throughout the move process will be invaluable. This is the role of a Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist (CRTS).
Certified Relocation and Transitions Specialists find the necessary resources to fill in the gaps in their client’s support team. They use their expertise to co-ordinate the move plan and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. They are trained to help Senior clients retain a sense of control and choice, along with their personal identity, independence and dignity. They want to help their senior clients capture their legacy to share with future generations. CRTS have the ultimate goal of helping their clients avoid Relocation Stress Syndrome and all its symptoms.