Downsizing a Home, Making Deep Connections

Downsizing a Home, Making Deep Connections

May 10, 2017

Jennifer “Jenn” Velasquez has a diverse role in her full-time work with Glenmeadow at Home.

One day, she might provide comprehensive care to a resident of the life plan community; on another, she may find herself in a hallway in a home in Greater Springfield, sorting through hundreds of shelved books.

That’s because Glenmeadow at Home itself is a diverse program, designed to provide services across Western Massachusetts to those who live in their own homes or in an assisted living community or right on the Glenmeadow campus.

Jenn’s assists for seniors can include driving them to doctor’s appointments, accompanying them on personal outings to family gatherings or restaurants, cooking, cleaning, shopping and taking on larger projects, such as downsizing personal possessions. This latter task is one Jenn has taken on over the past few months for Robert and Pat McTaggert of Longmeadow.

“I’ve pretty much done everything,” says Jenn, whose official title is certified nursing assistant, or CNA.

Jenn met the McTaggerts around the holidays and has been working with them to downsize their belongings in their centuries-old home.

“I go there a few times a week, and I have conversations with them,” Jenn says. “I’m working a lot with Pat on organizing and cleaning, helping her to get rid of things by recycling them or donating them to charities like Goodwill and Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

Jenn says she tends to go above and beyond in her organizational work. Instead of just moving items from one place to another, she makes sure to find just the right home for everything.

“Robert was an avid gardener with a huge collection of tools and books, and I’ve been finding information on where he can donate those things,” Jenn says. “I also had an auctioneer come to look at their artwork, and another person to check out their unique collection of books. It’s a lot of outreach.”

Through helping Robert and Pat downsize their belongings, Jenn also builds special connections. “I learn about their life because I’m looking through their photos with them,” Jenn says. “It’s very fulfilling.”

Additionally, Jenn regularly checks in personally on Robert, ensuring that he takes his medication and giving his family members peace of mind.

If you want to tackle your own downsizing project, here are some recommendations from us:

  • If you are downsizing with a goal of moving to a life plan community, start the process six months to a year before your move so you can take it slow and keep the project from exhausting you. Plan to work or organize for no more than two hours a day.
  • Rent or purchase a shredder to discard personal items such as cancelled checks, bills, and statements that contain confidential information, such as your social security number.
  • If you’re storing furniture or memorabilia for your children, give them a deadline for getting it out, and stick to it.
  • Spread out the difficult decisions around sentimental belongings. Ask children or grandchildren if they would like items that are precious to you, and if they are unable to take them, try to find a home that feels right—a local library, perhaps, for a cherished book collection; a museum for an antique item; or a church or synagogue for religious artifacts.
  • Call organizations such as thrift shops connected to area hospice organizations or nonprofits to donate items you can’t bear to throw away, or items that still have life left in them.
  • Put such things as deeds, wills, powers of attorney, medical records, military records, diplomas, and degrees all in one safe storage bin or cabinet.

If you find the job is more than you are able to take on, call Torrie Dearborn at 413-567-5547 to see how we can help.

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