Is it Time to Move?

FOR THE FAMILY: Convincing a Parent It’s Time to Move

Notice that this article is titled “Convincing…” not “Telling…”  This is a situation requiring the precision of a diamond cutter, the bravery of a lion and the fancy footwork of Fred Astaire, not to mention the hide of a rhino!

You’ve seen it coming for years; Mom can’t keep up the yard but doesn’t want to pay a service to come in and take care of it.  She worries every time she needs to pull the car out to go to church or the grocery store, she’s just not sure of herself.  Here’s the woman who could put on a Thanksgiving feast for 20 and have it all come out of the oven at the same time, who now isn’t eating well, and may be losing weight, because cooking for one is just too much of a hassle.

All of these are valid reasons to discuss a move to a retirement or assisted living community.  Actually, any one of these will do.  All together they pretty much shout it out.  But no one wants to bring it up.  It’s a tough and sensitive issue!  Try to imagine how you’d feel being told you aren’t able to take care of your own life anymore and that you have to move.

The first thing to realize is that this is not just your parent, this is an independent adult.  This is a person who has lived through some pretty amazing things.  And had a career.  And raised kids.  And took care of Dad at the end.  Keep all this in mind.  You don’t have the right to “tell” this person what to do. You can make suggestions, listen and put in your two cents.  And listen some more.  At the end of the day, as long as your parent has his or her mental capacity, he or she calls the shots.

Here are some tips on how to keep the conversation going beyond the inevitable, “I’m never moving!”

  • A parent’s resistance could come from trust issues.  They’ve been working hard at keeping everything going, compensating for their waning health and now they’re being asked to turn that over to someone else.  That’s huge.  Trusting someone else to come into their home and clean or cook or do yard work?  You may as well have asked them to wave the white flag.  Tread lightly.  Point out the benefits to them AND you.  This takes a burden off of you too!
  • Self-reliance is a large part of their makeup.  Remember that when asking them to accept help.
  • Show them the benefits for them and you.  Do some research about how they accomplish the household chores.  Who cooks?  Who cleans?  Who drives?  How do they remember to take medications?  Show them how easily these things are accomplished in assisted living, with help at hand.
  • Make a list of things you do for them.  If your parent has aged in place, chances are really good that you’ve taken over certain duties along the way.  If you made a list of all the “help” they’re getting from all the family members, they may realize how much they’ve come to rely on that help and how much independence they’ve already relinquished.
  • The actual move itself.  So many seniors think that they’ll have to manage the move themselves, just like when they bought the house 50 years ago.  Showing them the type of help available, the people who can manage the move, showing them all the aspects of the move and how little (or how much) they’ll need to be involved can go a long way to helping them change their mind about a move.
  • Ask a family friend to talk to them.  Having this discussion with someone their own age who has been through this process can have an enormous impact on their decision making.  Be sure to ask someone who had a successful experience and will pass along the right message.

If a crisis comes up, health or financial or household related, that’s a tough time to have to make these decisions.  Talking about it before something forces a decision is the best way to be sure that your parents are getting what they want, not just what they can have.  It gives them the opportunity to be part of the decision.

If your parents feels good about their decision, and feel that it’s THEIR decision, this is a perfect basis for a successful move.  Start the conversation. The earlier the better.