Downsizing Your Parents Home Made Easy

Tom String and his sister Beth have joined a growing number of baby boomers who increasingly find themselves juggling busy schedules while simultaneously making time for and caring for their aging parents.

Tom and Beth, now in their mid 50s, grew up in Willingboro but eventually left their childhood home to live their own lives –- Tom and his wife moved to Virginia before eventually returning to North Jersey, while Beth and her family moved to the Bridgeton area.

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“A couple of years after my dad passed away in 2001, I persuaded Mom to move from our family home to Bridgeton to be closer to my sister, which she did,” recalls Tom String.

Years later, with advanced macular degeneration, mobility and related health issues becoming more acute, their mother, Janet String realized she could no longer live on her own.

Now, at age 79, she downsized to smaller, more comfortable quarters at Brandywine Senior Living at Voorhees in January and appreciates getting both the physical and emotional support she needs.

“Needing to leave a home because of impaired vision, the fact that there are too many steps to climb or that a bathtub is too deep to safely step into and out of is much more difficult than making a decision to leave your home because you want to,” observes Brandywine at Voorhees Executive Director Melissa Repkoe.

“Typically when families come to us, something has happened, or they feel something may happen. In either case, everyone’s emotions are heightened,” Repkoe continues.

It was an admittedly tough decision for Janet String but one neither she nor her family regrets, especially since String has photo albums and other personal belongings to bring back fond memories.

“Best of all,” she says, “I have Fitz, my 8-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to keep me company, in between visits from my children.”

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With the assurance that Mom is in good hands, Tom and Beth have taken to carefully sifting through possessions amassed over the years at the Bridgeton home before putting it up for sale.

“All of a sudden, it struck me that this is the end of an era for Mom, and I’m literally going to be in the same situation in just a couple of more decades,” exclaims Beth.

It’s always good to have the support of siblings, but when you’re an only child, as is the case with Cinnaminson resident Lynne Cureton, all responsibilities fall mostly on one person’s shoulders.

Cureton, who lives with her husband, Rick, and their 18-year-old daughter, Brienne, a graduating senior from Cinnaminson High School, has had an especially tough time the past few years.

She’s been dealing with her mother’s rapidly failing health and subsequent move to Brightview Senior Living in Mount Laurel, in addition to her own family and schedule.

“Forcing Mom to give up a lifetime of independence created anxiety for both of us. But on top of that, I also felt guilt wondering if I could have done more during her healthier days,” reflects Cureton.

Answering the call to help aging parents is hard enough when they’re close by, but when a far distance  separates family members, providing assistance can be a major ordeal.

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