Preparation is the Key to Minimizing Stress and Regrets

November 20, 2009
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As life changes, you or a loved one may need to downsize and relocate to a smaller home or retirement community. While these transitions are often emotionally and financially stressful, being prepared can help minimize the stress and regrets.
“People often need time to consider all of their options and preferences to avoid disappointment and ensure confidence in their decisions,” said Nicholas Sell, President of Caring Transitions. “Many of our clients indicate they wish they would have given prior consideration to what personal belongings to keep, share, sell or donate.”
People often put off making these tough decisions until it is absolutely necessary, resulting in even more pressure. Whether downsizing or relocating, the stress associated with making the physical move quickly often leads to forced decisions, increasing the likelihood of regrets. Being proactive, not reactive, can help to ensure you or a loved one are satisfied and content with the outcome.
As we approach the holiday season, consider which personal belongings you would like to share with family or friends.
“When items of sentimental value are transitioned to the next generation of the family, people often want to share the story and significance behind them. In addition to being personally fulfilling, this gives the heirlooms meaning and value in the eyes of the recipient,” Mr. Sell said.
The holidays are also the opportune time to take a sentimental journey with your children and grandchildren by sharing family stories, looking through old photo albums, and explaining the significance of your antiques and artwork.
Caring Transitions offers the following suggestions when deciding how to distribute your belongings:

  • Identify specific items you would like someone special to have.
  • Decide when you would like others to receive their something special – now (so they have longer to enjoy the item), when you downsize, or upon your death.
  • Express your wishes to your family or pull family members aside one at a time.
  • Share the story and significance behind the items. Consider writing a letter or videotaping your conversation so future generations can understand and better appreciate the items or heirlooms.

In addition to being a time of giving and receiving, the holidays are meant to be spent enjoying the presence of family and friends while there is time.
Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morrie chronicles the weekly meetings between a student and his elderly professor who is nearing death.  In one such meeting, Morrie, the professor, talks about how unfortunate it is that once someone dies, friends start sharing wonderful stories and memories about the person. Morrie questions why people wait to say nice things about a person until after they have died. He also says how unfortunate it is that the person isn’t there to hear the nice things being said about this person.
“I find Morrie’s comments to be incredibly insightful and true,” Mr. Sell said. “This holiday season, take the time to tell your family and friends you love them. Take this opportunity to share what’s in your heart.”
Nicholas Sell is the owner of Caring Transitions.  Caring Transitions works with people who find it necessary to leave a familiar home and part with personal belongings.

Ask Allie

O&H:  Allie, the holidays are fast approaching.  We hear you have some holiday tips for our readers and their pets.  Please share them with us.
Allie:   Sure!  Betty Bates, a volunteer at Hampton’s Cat Corner, recently shared some tips with the Daily Press.  She reminds families that the holidays can be stressful for pets, especially cats.  “Cats love routine, and during the holidays it’s best to keep things as normal as possible for your pet,” she says.  She does encourage families to get a few new toys, and she says that “interactive toys help reinforce the bond between the owner and the cat.”  She also provided some holiday safety tips.  Mistletoe and poinsettias can be toxic to your cat if eaten, so please keep them out of reach.  Alcohol can cause coma and even death if ingested by pets, so please be sure that your guests do not leave glasses where the pets can help themselves.  Onions, garlic and chives contain sulfur compounds that are especially dangerous to cats, so avoid leaving these items unattended on the counter when you cook for the holidays.   Hydrogen peroxide is handy for cuts, but 3% hydrogen peroxide is also the safest way to induce vomiting in your pet.  Seconds count when your cat has ingested a toxic substance, but always consult a veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center first.  The Poison Control Center can be reached at 888-426-4435. (There is a $55 charge.)  Hmmm….time to take a nap and rest up for the holidays.  I hope all of our readers and their pets have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


The Alzheimer’s Association will be offering a Family Caregiver Education Series.  These programs will be 2 hours long and will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at the Bayside Library, 936 Independence Blvd., Virginia Beach.  Brown bag lunches are welcome; drinks provided.  These programs are free to family caregivers.  The first program is entitled “Safety in the Home and Away” and it will be held on January 13th.  Please register at least two business days before each program by calling 757-459-2405 or emailing carol.gurioli@alz.org.

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