One Thing NOT To Do When Moving an Elderly Relative To a Retirement Community

As I quietly observe a dear friend as she gets ready to move to a retirement community next week, there is one thing I have noticed that is happening that seems to silently pain her.

It is jarring enough that I feel that someone needs to put this cautionary thought out there for others to consider:

Do NOT clean out the “junk” in the house while the elderly person still lives there.

It can wait.

It has sat there for years, and it’s not going anywhere.

There is no rush.


Many elderly men and women have lived through a time when saving non-perishable food and little bits of scrap used to fix things was critical for their survival. Respect this.

When younger generations throw away “junk”, they are essentially throwing out their elderly relative’s security blanket.

What conversations can even be generated from an in-your-face mass purge?

Not very productive ones.

“Why do you have all this STUFF?”

“Look at all this expired food!”

“These parts are too old to be used to fix anything. They belong in the trash!”

Take it to heart that a person’s possessions are part of them. They are the items that their owner has hand selected and stored for whatever reason. Thoughts and feelings went into their acquisition. There is an emotional attachment. Cleaning out a person’s house of these items is a privilege — not an episode of Hoarders.

As the elderly person stands in their yard, helplessly watching as boxes of items they can no longer lift are being thrown to the curb, it has the potential to send a very terrible message to them. They may already be burying feelings of worthlessness, and it’s very easy for them to project that their relatives feel the same way about them.

You’re expired.

You are too old to be useful.

You belong in the trash.

Furthermore, elderly people hate to feel like a burden. While younger generations are used to networking to get jobs done, elderly men and women — especially the strong ones who live alone and who are very reluctantly being moved — feel very frustrated when others have to labor at their expense. “It’s my fault my family has to be working so hard to clean up my mess on this hot day!”


Help them say goodbye to their house, as if they are saying goodbye to an old friend — because they are are.

Ignore the dusty canned goods and boxes of rusted nuts and bolts and instead focus good memories that have occurred in their house.

Praise them for all of the years they have cared for the house. Help them to select important items to bring along to their new home, and offer to take items — no matter how silly they may seem to you — to people whom they want to “bless”.

Leave with them with the lasting impression and hope-giving thought of, “I have done well in my former home, and I will do well in my new home. I am valuable. I am loved.”

Later, when they are settled, go ahead and rent that dumpster. Throw things away with a clear conscience. When they ask about their house when you visit them at their new place, just lovingly smile and say what they would humbly say to you, “Don’t worry about it. It was nothing.”

Shunt Surgery Update

My sister Grace, who is at the hospital, said,

“Levi is doing pretty well. He just had his shunt surgery and the doc said it was good. Still be praying for this boy, we want things to stay good! Thanks for all the support :) ”

I love this photo because Levi’s eyes are open.


Sister’s Baby : Out of Surgery & Doing Well!

Photos taken a few moments before Levi had to leave to be prepped for surgery. My sister’s sweet smile put tears in my eyes!

Levi is out of surgery!

I just chatted with Bethany! :) (Yay! How comforting it was to have a conversation with her!)

Mike is with Levi, now.

The operating room is apparently in a different building connected by about a half-mile of underground tunnels. As soon as he was done, the surgeon ran all they way over to give her an in-person update. How thoughtful?!

The surgeon said that Levi’s anatomy was not difficult to work with and that he was very hopeful about the outcome of the surgery.

Next, they will wait to see if the swelling around the brain goes down (even as I write this, Bethany just IM’d me and said Mike called from the NICU and said swelling looks like it is already going down!) and determine if a surgery to insert a drainage shunt is needed.

Bethany asked the surgeon when she may hold Levi and he said perhaps as early as tomorrow!

It’s definitely not the easiest way to come into the world, and Levi’s not even a day old yet, but so far, things are going in the best possible way for this situation.

We’re smiling through tears over here.

Thank you for your prayers!

If you wanted read more about Levi’s story and to send a note of encouragement to Bethany and Mike, please visit their page at CaringBridge :

Update : My Sister’s Baby

This morning, my sister Bethany gave birth to her first baby, a son, named Levi.

During a routine ultrasound a few months ago, it was discovered that Levi had spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

He had been scheduled to be born Thursday by Cesarean section, but due to contractions (labor trauma would have been dangerous for him) and Bethany’s slightly elevated blood pressure, it was decided to deliver today instead of risk waiting until Thursday.

We are very excited about Levi’s birth – my first nephew!

He is welcomed by parents who have a very strong faith in the Lord and are trusting in God every step of the way.

My parents and my sister Grace were able to go to the hospital in Indianapolis to support Bethany and Mike as much as possible. Mom said he has a beautiful face and seems to be strong, despite his many obstacles. She said that Mike is doing a great job being supportive of Bethany and handling decisions for Levi’s care very well.

Although it’s a tough situation, it does not seem that there were any surprises. Through ultrasound and other prenatal tests, doctors had a course of action in place long before Levi’s birth and did an excellent job preparing Bethany and Mike for what to expect.

Positive signs

  • Birth weight over 7lbs (healthy weight)
  • Has good color
  • Does have a breathing tube but is breathing “air” as opposed to oxygen
  • Right leg is moving
  • Items of concern

  • Hydrocephalus (I’m not sure extent of severity, but it was hoped that it would have resolved itself before birth. Because of the anomaly of the spine, fluid buildup in the brain is a common complication of spina bifida.)
  • The hole in his back is about 1″ diameter.
  • His left leg does not appear to be moving and is turned inward.
  • Bethany

  • Resting after c-section
  • Incision was larger/deeper than normal c-section so as to give more room to carefully birth Levi
  • On morphine drip
  • Beth did get to touch Levi’s fingers for a few moments, but was not able to hold him.

    My mom was able to get some photos through the incubator glass.

    Doctors are waiting until Levi is “stabilized”, and then he will be admitted for surgery to repair the hole in his back this afternoon. This was anticipated. It is possible that the spine repair will help to reduce the fluid buildup in the brain and that a shunt would not be needed. It is also possible that the surgery may help with the use of his left leg.

    UPDATE – 5:15pm

    Bethany just posted on Facebook that Levi went in for surgery around 4:30pm. She writes,

    “Well folks, the countdown got cut short! Levi Morris Bracht has arrived this morning!! I have been away from him all day so far so I don’t know toooo much ;( but he is 7lbs was born at 8:45am(ish). I am doing super, and he just went in to his first surgery! please keep praying, sorry this is short but momma doesn’t know everything just yet!! pictures will be here soon! Thanks everyone!”

    Thanks for your prayers!

    If you wanted read more about Levi’s story and to send a note of encouragement to Bethany and Mike, please visit their page at CaringBridge :

    Photo credit: Elijah Phenicie (my brother) /

    How to Find Balance (When You Don’t Know Which End is Up)

    You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

    Feeling like your life is a bit of a mess at the moment?

    Been there…. more than once.

    Curious what mistakes people frequently make in the midst of hardship and how to prevent them?

    What are some tips for staying organized when so much is coming at you at once… without obsessing?

    On whom should you depend when you need advice?

    Recently, I wrote down five important tips that have helped me to navigate through tough times.

    You can find my post, Five Tips to Keep Your Balance When You Don’t Know Which End is Up, at RealZest : Women Who Think .

    Photo: Close-up Freefall

    Takin’ Five and Thinking About Living in a Shipping Container House

    I have a lot on my mind at the moment and not enough time to write down my thoughts!

    Here are some random tidbits :

    As of the last day of May, 2010, I am no longer in my 20s.

    This week, I decided to color my hair not just for the sake of something new and wild (like pink highlights) but to color gray! I used an awesome organic haircolor called Organic Color Systems which I found through my friend Robyn at Shear Miracles.

    One of my conversations with fellow blogger Megan Dunham at HalfPintHouse was quoted at World Magazine online!

    Our time in Japan is just about up! I will miss the karate dojo where my children and I have been practicing Shotokan karate, the lush green plant life, our close proximity to the sea, and the peaceful lifestyle of not having to lock our doors. Details forthcoming as they solidify.

    Currently, I am…

    -Working on my full accreditation through the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth… over 100 essay questions!

    -Eagerly awaiting the arrival of our Veritas Press homeschooling curriculum for the 2010-2011 school year! Micah is officially starting school this year, although we’ve been working on his reading and math skills these past two years ;)

    -Preparing for our upcoming month-long home leave to the US, just a few weeks away!

    -Researching housing made out of storage containers (We are considering building our own house when we move back to the US!)

    Check out these links on storage container housing:

    The Cordell House – Numen Development (Model we like best so far!)

    Shipping Container Housing Guide

    Qwik House

    Intermodal Steel Building Units and Container Homes


    What do you think? Could you live in a house built of shipping containers? Why does or doesn’t it appeal to you? What features would you want included in your home?

    … and now, I will fall into my bed and hopefully sleep through the night without anyone tearfully sleep-walking into my room or mistaking my stack of cloth grocery bags in the foyer for a potty!