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Moving out of your lifelong house is an emotional experience — especially for seniors. If you’re helping a loved one move, you need to get rid of all the clutter without getting rid of anything with sentimental value.

There are certain items that will make your loved ones feel at home, and can help ease their dementia. But most of the items end up sitting in a storage unit not doing any good.

In this episode, CarolAnne Crosson, an interior designer and founder of A Changing Season, joins me to reveal the most important household items for your loved ones and how to easily transition them into a new home. CarolAnne also explains how to make the most bang for your buck during estate sales and why you should avoid online auctions. Listen now!

Here Are The Show Highlights:

  • The most important aspect of downsizing a home that eliminates hazards (2:19)
  • The trick for selling all of your unwanted household items during an estate sale (8:02)
  • Why online auctions aren’t nearly as successful as a physical estate sale (15:00)
  • How to avoid being overwhelmed by all the packing when your loved one moves (17:04)

If you’d like to see how CarolAnne can help transition your loved one into a new home, visit her website at http://achangingseason.com/ or give her a call at 469-628-7447.

For daily 5-minute mind exercises, head over and like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hcafortworth/

You can also find additional support and resources by calling Home Care Assistance at 817-349-7599 or visit our websites https://www.homecareassistancefortworth.com/ and https://itsmyturntocare.com/.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “It’s My Turn To Care.” We know the challenges you face caring for someone with dementia. That's why each week we bring you tips, strategies, and most of all, support as you navigate your role as caregiver. Let's get started. [00:15.6]

Dave: Hello and welcome to It’s My Turn To Care: Secrets for the Dementia Caregiver. My name is Dave Parks. I'm a certified senior advisor and the owner of Home Care Assistance, and we're located in the northern part of Tarrant County in the great state of Texas. And it's our goal for each show to bring you tips, strategies, secrets, and support you need as you care for someone suffering from dementia. It's really an honor for me to have some experts in the field of senior care and dementia to tell you about what they do and how they can help you, whether it's in their services or other advice that they have as you care for your loved ones, suffering from dementia. [01:05.6]

Today, we have CarolAnne Crossan with A Changing Season, and what they do is they are senior move managers and they're dedicated to helping families with the physical and probably as or, if not more important, the emotional demands of moving, and they have been doing this for 14 years.
So, CarolAnne, welcome to the program.

CarolAnne: Thank you very much.

Dave: Great to have you. So, tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do.

CarolAnne: I started as an interior designer and we moved to Texas about 21 years ago, and I worked with a few people. We were going to do staging actually for realtors and one of the people from one of the chambers said, “Why don't you do this for seniors? They really need your help.” [02:00.4]

And so, we started and we love it, and I have a wonderful team and they're very conscientious. We help the families make those hard decisions and we're very honest. They don't like what we're telling them, I can tell you that, but we need to tell them the truth. So, that's how we work.

Dave: Give me an example.

CarolAnne: Our major concern is safety, so we do a lot with the floor plan. I'm very conscious about where to put things and a lot of times they want to take way too much, and so, we argue with them about taking a rug, which is a fall hazard. We argue about them not having enough room going around, because whether you have dementia or whether you are just moving to independent or assisted living, when you stand up, you take a certain amount of room, but if you're going to be walking with a walker or, heaven forbid, if you end up in a wheelchair, you need that amount of space.

And so, if we're making these hard decisions and helping you to move, we want to make sure there's enough room to start with, so that don't have to shortly after turnaround and move some more stuff out. It's too traumatic. Let's get the hard stuff done first, and then you're safe for as long as you need to be there. [03:09.8]

Dave: Sure. So, someone has decided to move, and how do they get started with you?

CarolAnne: What we'll do is we go in and talk to them about what their favorite pieces are, what they want to take, and then we physically pack everything for them. We arrange for the mover. We work with the mover to make sure everything is going smoothly and help with those last minute pictures and things that need to be moved. Then, once we get to the new place, we actually unpack and put everything away. So, we set up the new apartment. We make their bed. We hang their pictures. We make it look as much like home as we can. That's really important. [03:50.1]

Dave: Sure, of course. I used to work at a bank, and so the executives in the bank always had the movers set up their office exactly the way the executive wanted it, while the rest of us were moving boxes and doing it all ourselves, so that kind of reminds me of that.
Tell us a little bit more about what you do. What are the actual services that you do?

CarolAnne: Let me just tell you a little bit about if we're moving dementia patients, we're very careful to arrange things the way they were in their homes. If they had a china cabinet and these small items were very important to them, we'll take pictures. We make sure we put it back as best we can the way it was. I know that's not always possible, but if they had a wall of pictures, family things, we try and arrange that, again, by taking pictures of it and putting it as closely as we can, because that's so important. [04:51.0]

Dave: Sure, sure. There’s probably some strategy at the beginning, right? As far as, here's kind of where you are—and I'll make this scenario up—in your 3,000-square-foot home, but you're moving into a 750-, 800-square-feet apartment in a community. Kind of what are the strategies that you use to help people think through those decisions?

CarolAnne: Again, we talked to them about what their favorite pieces are. I had one lady that really wanted to take this great big desk and the only way she could do it, I mean, she caused a lot of problems for her family. So, I finally said, “Okay, we can take the desk, but you can't take a sofa, do you know?” and so she started laughing and she was fine. We took the sofa.

Dave: Sure. Sure.

CarolAnne: So, you have to make some tough decisions and we work with that. If you've got three chairs and I tell you that only one is going to fit, then you get to choose which chair you want, but, again, it's a safety issue. So, we kind of lead them to the direction that we want them to go, not because I'm getting anything out of it, but because it's safety for them. [05:58.8]

Dave: Right, and you probably are familiar with some of these senior living communities, and so you kind of know, even without seeing the room, if someone says, Well, I'm getting a single or a studio at so-and-so senior living community, then you know what…

CarolAnne: We work, again, with the floor plan. I can get the floor plan short in that community, and so we can see the closet space or in the bathroom. We try and suggest maybe a small piece of furniture, and we've gone out and bought it for our clients before, something that they need, just to make things more comfortable, or if they need somewhere to put their shoes or…

We just decide what the configuration of the room is and what's going to work best for them, and then we talk to the family about it and how they feel, and if they would like to purchase it, these are our recommendations, or if they want us to purchase it. [06:53.1]

I’ll go through home goods, and as I'm walking through, I will try to open drawers with one hand on a small piece of furniture. If I see something that I think might work in a bathroom, but if they're sitting on the toilet and they can't get the drawer open, that piece of furniture is not going to work, do you know? So, again, we have recommendations on what's going to work and make it easier for our clients.

Dave: Right. So, once you kind of work through what is going to go with them and once the family decides, Okay, these are things that we know we can't take, what are the options then to do with kind of all that stuff?

CarolAnne: We do estate sales. We will help them get rid of their things. We can do an estate sale. We've done online auctions before. If it's something that's of a lot of value, we can take it to an auction house. We recommend that the family takes what they want first.

Dave: Sure.

CarolAnne: We would love to have some of their things go to their children. I know today children just don't want that kind of stuff. [07:59.3]

We give them options because if we do an estate sale, we actually will hang a picture of an idea of what you could also do with that piece of furniture. We like to try and think out of the box. So, maybe you could use this china cabinet, having it painted and maybe use it as a bookcase, do you know? A lot of times what we've done is we've had pictures of those TV cabinets, and we've gone online and we’ve found people who have made those TV cabinets into kitchens for their children.

Dave: Okay.

CarolAnne: If you look on Pinterest, they have some amazing things, do you know? So, again, we try and think out of the box. We can't do that because we don't have the time, but it's not that hard, so we make recommendations for those things.

Dave: I know in my in-law’s past, so we did the typical, bought a storage unit and put all this furniture and stuff in the storage unit, and it was air conditioner controlled. [09:01.5]

After about a year of paying the bill, I said to my wife, “Well, what are we going to do with this, all this stuff?” and she said, “Well, I think our kids are going to want it.” I said, “I just don't see that happening.” And she goes, “It's hard for me to let it go,” because it was memories of her parents, but it was in a storage room, right?

So, this is what I suggested. It’s that why don't we take one thing from each room and keep it in our home and then we sell the rest? So, you keep the memories. I said, “By the time my children, of course, her children, too, by the time our children are old enough to have their own place, we could buy them all new furniture and modern furniture,” and so that was our strategy. [09:55.1]

CarolAnne: To me, a storage unit is a delayed decision and what I say to the families is take your kids on a vacation. They're going to appreciate that vacation a lot more than they're going to appreciate trying to clean that storage unit out, do you know, and if the kids really are not going to want it.

Somebody just asked me about that. “How do you preserve the memories? It's so hard to get rid of something.” But you do have your own memories of something. I used to make wine with my grandfather and I got his winepress, but I lived in Pennsylvania. I could never get it down here. So, I have pictures of it. I have my own memories, and I ended up giving it to my nephew and I know he's enjoying it in his living room or wherever he put it. So, you just sometimes have to bite the bullet and, like my clients will say, I'm very bossy, but I'm only telling them the truth.

Dave: Yeah. It's a tough situation. They're making difficult decisions, right? So, tell me a little bit about the process. How long does it take to kind of go through the process? [10:54.7]

CarolAnne: Actually, for us, it's a two-day process. We give you homework, and a lot of times for dementia, things happen very quickly. We had a call one time where they called us in. The people were gone. We had to physically pack the clothing. I selected everything the lady was going to take because they had her out. So, if we can work with the family and make some decisions ahead of time, we do. If not, we'll just make those decisions if we have to, but it's better if the client is not there.
A lot of times they'll take the client and have them stay at their home overnight. We'll come in and do all the packing, so they're not living with those boxes. It's pretty traumatic for them to see all this confusion. And so, the movers show up the next day and in that they pack everything up. We take it to the community. They take it out of the truck. We unpack it and set everything up for them on the second day, so usually by dinner time, we're done, and so, we have the pictures hung and everything around and we leave, and a lot of times the client never even sees us. [12:01.0]

The daughter or son will bring them into their new community, into their new home, which is nice because it's all these things that are familiar to them, and that’s what’s so important to them. So, if they see the wall of pictures or, and we recommend packing your family albums because it's so important for us to have some of those around, so that when you're visiting your family member, you can sit and talk about these things.

Dave: Sure, okay. Let's talk a little bit about estate sales, and I know in general, we all have kind of unrealistic expectations -

CarolAnne: That's a very nice way to put it.

Dave: - on what our own possessions are worth. After being in this business for several years, I now kind of have a more realistic expectation. So, talk a little bit about that and kind of how you help your client kind of set their expectations on what they should expect. [13:01.2]

CarolAnne: Again, it's just being honest. I talked to a lady yesterday who had a lot of antiques and what we'll do with our clients is if you want us to, you can tell us, I don't want to go below a certain price, and we'll honor that. But, again, you have to realize if we don't sell it for below what you want to pay for it, you're stuck with that piece still and what are you going to do with it?

And I had a lady who had another desk—it's always a desk—but she thought it was really worth a lot of money and she hated to get rid of it, but she didn't have any place to put it. When push came to shove, I said, “The guy is coming to pick things up we are going to get rid of. You've got to give it to him. There's no way you're going to take this and end up putting it where you're going to trip and fall over it and put it in your garage.” She was moving into a place that had a garage. So, they're very hard decisions, but we actually look everything up. [13:53.8]

So, when you have a pen knife or you have a set of china, we don't just guess at these prices. We will look it up to see what it's selling for, and just for instance, I had several sets of Legos that a gentleman had and they were all from the Jedi, Star Wars, and they were the original Star Wars. We looked them up for several weeks and their prices changed every single day, and I sold three sets of Legos for $1,000.

Dave: Wow.

CarolAnne: I can't sell a king-size bedroom set for $1,000.

Dave: Right.

CarolAnne: So, it just depends on what you have. And the other thing that's very interesting is that what I can sell in Hurst I can't sell maybe in Lewisville, or what I sell in Lewisville doesn't always sell in Dallas or in Fort Worth. It's amazing to me what people are interested in, what they buy.

Dave: Are people still doing actual physical estate sales? [14:56.1]

CarolAnne: Our first estate sale is coming up, June 19th and 20th. We've held an online auction, but with an online auction, everything starts at $3. My daughter got a piano for $11.

Dave: Oh my goodness.

CarolAnne: I mean, it's really hard. So, we don't like to do online auctions if we don't have to. But, honestly, we price things fairly to start with. It's really important. I'm not going to play that game where we're pricing it high. We want to sell it for full price the first day. Now, we'll negotiate a little bit if you're really interested in certain things, but most times, our clients, we have a following and they know, I mean, we're really very good at pricing stuff. They can leave a bid and the bid is always above 50 percent, so for the last half of the second day, everything goes 50 percent. [15:52.9]

Dave: Is it kind of like when you're buying a car and there's kind of a blue book value of things? Is there any sort of reference at all? I know everything like an antique, a 50-year-old maybe made out of the same material, but it's still going to be different than maybe what's been sold before.

CarolAnne: Just what's selling now, do you know, and our clients will come in and say, That's way too high, and then we'll look it up and say, This is what it just sold for. And we price it…

Dave: Okay, so there are trends at least that you just…

CarolAnne: We price it below what it's selling for always, so that that way we're getting the best we think we can.

Dave: Right. I can see where your services would be really helpful, particularly if a family member, whether they have dementia or not, are trying to coach someone through some really difficult decisions for people. How does your fee structure work?

CarolAnne: We charge by the hour. I think it's more fair to our clients. We will do a consultation that's free, but if they're able and they can go through their own things, then they're not paying me to do it. [17:03.2]

So, I think the most important thing is that they're also overwhelmed that we explain to them, Don't think about you having a whole house to get through. Take it room by room. Take it drawer by drawer, and you say to yourself, I'm only going to do two drawers today.

And then, I like to make lists, so I might make a list for a week, this is what I'm going to get done and I'd like to check it off. So, you put some really not important things on the list, so you feel like you're getting something accomplished, but you'll find that if you don't think about it as a whole and you think about, I'm just going to get through this one thing today, it goes very quickly, and then you go onto the next and the next. Before you know it, you've done a whole wall of drawers because you're not thinking about I've got the whole kitchen or the whole whatever it might be.

Dave: It's like how do you eat an elephant, right? Just bite by bite, right?

CarolAnne: That’s exactly right, and that's what we do in their garages and… [18:00.5]

Dave: Right. Frankly, that's one reason why my wife and I have not downsized, because we raised three kids in our house and we don't really need all this space. It's just the process of moving that we're concerned about, but I'm glad there's folks like yourself that can help those of us who struggle with that and, particularly, seniors, because it's kind of an emotional impact with them on a lot of levels, the fact that they're moving into maybe it's a smaller home, maybe it's a senior living community. Any move is tough for any age, but for seniors, it's doubly challenging. But if someone is going through that thought process, how would they get in touch with you?

CarolAnne: I have a card and a phone number. The name of my company is A Changing Season and I can give you the number.

Dave: Sure, please do.

CarolAnne: It’s (469) 628-7447, and that's my cell phone and I answer it the best I can. [18:59.2]

Dave: Right, sure. And do you have a website?

CarolAnne: We do, AChangingSeason.com, and I also have my brochure on there, so if somebody is interested in wanting to download it, they could.

Dave: Perfect.

CarolAnne: Sometimes I think it's easier to work with somebody that's not related because, again, I've found that where the moms or the parents are arguing with their children and all it is is frustration for everybody. And years ago they were concerned because they felt like they were losing everything, the kids wanted everything. It's not the case today. But I still think sometimes it's easier taking some instruction from somebody that's not related that I don't have a vested interest in it that they can understand it a little better.

And I have to tell you, honestly, I have gray hair and I never thought it would be a plus, but I tend to put my clients at ease because they understand that I'm not 20 years old -

Dave: That’s important, yeah.

CarolAnne: - that I have been through a lot of this. I've lost both of my parents. We've moved family members before. And, again, because we've been in business for 14 years, this is not our first rodeo. [20:06.2]

Dave: I think having that empathy is so important when you're dealing with people in general, but particularly those that are moving and getting care in the home, and things of that nature. So CarolAnne, thanks so much for coming in.

CarolAnne: You're welcome. Thank you. We give them a hug and tell them something they don't like.

Dave: Okay. Thank you. This is Dave parks with Home Care Assistance and you've been listening to It's My Turn To Care: Secrets For The Dementia Caregiver. And until next week, have a great week and we'll talk to you then. Thanks so much.

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