Stress Caused by Relocating an Older Adult

Today, we're going to talk about relocation stress syndrome (yes, it's a thing), who is affected and how to prevent it. Not many people have heard of relocation stress syndrome, but it's a real condition which can affect seniors.

Relocation stress syndrome, or RSS, is a condition which hits the older adults often when they're moved from a home where they've lived for years.  

The symptoms of RSS parallel the symptoms of dementia so consistently that sometimes it's hard not to think the beloved senior has dementia. They can be angry, struggle with focus, don't think clearly, and are indecisive. Dementia, right? Not always.


This is not to say a senior doesn't have dementia; it's just not as likely for a senior to suddenly suffer from dementia at the same time a move is planned to enacted.

So, how can a family help, especially if the move was a necessary one? Some things which will lessen RSS:


Anyone who moves has a bucketful full of feelings about it. But for a senior, it can be even worse because they may be transferring from what they thought was their forever home. Almost 90% of seniors say they want to 'age in place.' Moving them out of their family home and into a tiny room at a care facility is a cold reality in opposition to that thinking. Even though they may be sure it's the right move, their old life is scrapped, and they're still going to have a lot of feelings about it. Let them feel without minimizing it.

Recreate home

Many of the things seniors own are the result of a life's accumulation. Some of the things they own were chosen with great care and loved long and hard. Especially if moving the senior involves the loss of their spouse, it's essential to preserve and move the things which bring them joy. They can't bring everything, and this fact alone can bring sorrow and loss. However, we know one senior whose family devolved his living arrangement into something that suited him. He wasn't happy and escaped the facility regularly because he felt 'kept.' 

If the senior has too many favorite items to fit in the smaller space, consider boxing some up and periodically revolving a display of their treasures so they can enjoy all of them without having to have them all out at once.


Continue to allow the person to make as many of their own decisions as possible. One of the hardest things to do is to permit a person to make their own mistakes. But, if you start making decisions for a senior who is mostly of sound mind, you're taking that right away. Bad judgment is a human characteristic, and just because you don't like something doesn't mean it's wrong for the senior.

The gift of time and help

Time will lessen the symptoms of RSS. Within six months, most of the worst symptoms, including physical manifestations, should ease.  

A therapist, advocate, social worker, or even a friend to talk to will help smooth the transition. It's essential to remember that seniors have been around for a long time and have seen things we can never imagine. So, balancing that respect with the willingness to help them can ease their stress and help create a successful relocation. If you need help moving a senior, or are a senior in need of moving, let us help!

Marc’s Moving Services offers residential or commercial moving help in the Tampa area. Our professional, uniformed staff can pack and load valuables safely. Call us today at 813-296-2434.

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