When Christine Starr found herself packing up and moving the homes of her grandmother and great aunt, she saw firsthand how unsettling and disorienting the whole process can be. So she left her corporate office job to help older people – and their families – navigate the big move so they don’t have to do it alone.
It’salways the little touches that make a place home. A crystal dish on the bedside table, which cradles precious jewellery by night. A painting on the wall, to the left of the television. Or perhaps a cuckoo clock that can be heard from every room when it chimes on the hour, every hour.
That’s why we always pay attention to the finer details when we’re moving our clients.
So every book gets placed back in the bookcase in the exact same order. Every glass cabinet showcases the same display of crystal vases, photo frames and ornaments. And the sheets and towels are kept separate – or perhaps the client prefers them together.
Whether they are moving into an aged care facility, a retirement village, a nursing home or are simply downsizing, we try to recreate their home environment as much as possible to ensure the smoothest transition possible.
I’ve had a lot of community managers at the facilities say to me, “Christine, the clients you move in have no settling in period, it’s like they’ve just come home. We don’t have this unsettled, anxious, grumpy, unhappy period that a lot of them have because of how unsettling it all is. There are no issues with their care needs or anything like that – they’re just so happy about the whole process and how it happened.”
And the clients themselves often walk in say, “Wow, I can’t believe you did this”. To see how happy and grateful they are – it’s priceless.
Because if you think about when someone’s coming out of a house they’ve lived in for a very long time – perhaps they’ve raised all their children and their entire family there – there are a lot of memories. It’s a lifetime of belongings. A lifetime of special moments. And a lifetime of doing things a certain way.
For most of them, the thought of leaving is totally overwhelming. The decisions that need to be made and the logistical complications can be very disorienting.
For most of them, the thought of leaving is totally overwhelming.
Most of the time, I find people either have family who are heavily involved in the process, or else they are very alone in this journey and have no one at all. It is very stressful and most of the time I find that the clients I’m moving don’t really want to move – it might be the family that wants them to move or they may have been told by their health care professional that they need to move because they can no longer look after themselves at home.
Where families are involved, those relationships can become very strained and often a clear direction is hard to navigate without help.
Because it’s all too easy for family members to lose sight of the fact that they need to be a daughter or a son and a carer and a support to mum. It’s not possible to be the removalist, the relocation agent, the real estate agent, the aged care facility manager, and everything else on top of that.
Too often, from what I’ve seen, people wind up losing their relationship with their parent in the process. Because of the stress of it all – not to mention the financial implications.
So it’s very nice to be able to step in and say to those families: “You can leave us to deal with this, so that you can be with mum, and actually be there to help her with the things that are worrying her while we take care of the rest of this task.”
And if mum or dad doesn’t want to move, that’s a big point of stress and anxiety that needs to be acknowledged and attended to delicately and with love while the move is happening. That’s where the attention should be. With us there, they can do that.
If mum or dad doesn’t want to move, that’s a big point of stress and anxiety that needs to be acknowledged and attended to delicately and with love while the move is happening.
Most of the anxiety tends to be around what’s going to happen to all their possessions that won’t fit in the new place. That’s the biggest reason why they can’t get their head around why and how they need to move, and what stops them seeing that it will be a positive outcome on the other side.
So once we get involved, we sit down with the client and their family to explain the options and how we go about clearing out the house, how we approach the move day with our same day move service and if there are any health conditions that need to be considered in the process so it’s as unsettling as possible.
Most don’t fully realise until the first meeting that we are literally going to pick up their whole house in the morning, and by one or two o’clock in the afternoon we’re going to have unpacked it into their new home. And, besides the fact it’s going to be in a different house, it’s going to look, as much as we can make it, exactly the same.
In doing the actual move we also provide tangible solutions like helping to sell furniture if that’s what they want. We also work with various charities, if they like the idea of supporting homeless people and domestic violence victims who’ve recently found a house, but have nothing to fill it with. People often love this idea – to know their pre-loved items will be helping someone else.
My biggest advice for people is to do your homework long before you get to the point of needing us. Ring early on in the piece so we can give you some of the things to tick off your list – even before you get to the point of knowing where exactly you’ll be moving to.
If where to go to is posing too many unanswerable questions too, we can suggest consultants who specialise in finding the right home to fit your care needs and be financially affordable at the same time.
We can also connect people to services such as a vendor’s advocate to give you a thorough, fair and realistic valuation on your home and assistance with all of the aspects of selling – because for most people, that’s a huge piece of the puzzle, to know what you can afford to spend in deciding where to go.
I’ve heard some terrible stories about real estate agents over-quoting in a bid to get business – not realising the impact this could have on people as they navigate these huge decisions about their future.
At the end of the day, I just want people to realise that they’re not alone in this process. There are companies out there that can help, and it’s not necessarily astronomically expensive. It is possible to relieve some of that burden – you just have to ask for help.
I know how much it took for me when I had a demanding career, trying to pack up my grandmother and my great-aunt’s houses and dealing with the move and the nursing home. All the calls and the worrying. Wanting to make sure everything was set up the way they would have wanted it and that they’d be safe.
I would have, in a heartbeat, at that point in my life happily paid for someone else to search the cupboards for the string of pearls we couldn’t find that took me weekends. All up it took months, going back and forth to deal with every little detail.
That’s really where the idea for Blue Lighthouse Relocations came from.
Christine will be speaking at the inaugural Grey Matters’ Live event – alongside Normie Rowe, Noel Whittaker and more. This free event is being held in Brisbane on Thursday 13 June, 2019. Register here for tickets.