Making the Move of Your Elderly Parent to Senior Living Easier

Making the Move of Your Elderly Parent to Senior Living Easier

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. For most of us, the feeling is less about how large or fancy a residence is than about it being a place where we feel safe and where we have created countless memories of those closest to us. In addition, we fill our homes with things we enjoy and belongings that remind us of loved ones and good times.

Now, put yourself in your parent’s shoes. They’ve likely lived in the same home for several years, but they’re getting older and their needs are changing. Mom or Dad is having trouble getting around, need more help with activities of daily living (ADLs) and their social life probably has significantly declined. You know that a move to senior living would be wise, but you’re also well-aware of the many obstacles that lie ahead on that path. Before jumping right in, you may benefit from some soul-searching and think carefully about how you plan to maintain compassion, boundaries, and self-awareness throughout this transition process.

Broaching the Subject of Senior Living

How do you approach this difficult decision? Leaving the house behind will be difficult on your parent, but you also care about their health and safety. Talk it over with your spouse and siblings and check with friends or coworkers who may have already gone through this with their own parents. Consult a caregiver support group, staff at the senior living community you have in mind and any other resources that may be able to offer some good advice.

It’s usually best to bring up the subject with your parent when things aren’t going so smoothly at home. Aim for a day when there is perhaps something like a plumbing or other home maintenance problem or when the bill is due for lawn maintenance. It’ll give you an opportunity to casually move into the conversation rather than bringing it up out of the blue. Express your understanding of their desire to remain where they are but point out the importance of planning for the future and the benefits that come with moving. Don’t seek a major commitment right away, as it may appear you have already made the decision for them. Help your mom or dad feel that this matter is entirely in their control, and you’re just there for support.

Encouraging Tours of Senior Living

If possible, it’s highly recommended to accompany your parent on tours of a number of senior living communities. When looking at various apartments, you can discuss where to put items your parent wants to keep in order to make the transition more seamless. While not an easy task, try to focus on the future more than the past.

In conversation, try to emphasize the creation of a comfortable new living space that will accommodate your parents’ needs. It’s highly likely that your parent will want to pay homage to the past, so sharing ideas of how to incorporate as many of his/her favorite pieces of furniture and décor as possible in the new apartment will be beneficial. You know your loved one best, so follow their cues. If your parent embraces change, talk about purchasing a cozy new sofa or recliner for their new home in senior living. If they’re more rooted in their routine and prefer to stay within their comfort zone, emphasize how you can mimic the layout of their current living room or bedroom in their new apartment. It’s all about balancing interest in the future with respect for the past.

The Act of Downsizing and Moving

A senior’s biggest dread (after moving out of their house) is usually the actual process of moving from point A to point B. Moving is daunting to people of all ages. The idea of sorting through, packing up, moving, and unpacking everything we’ve collected over the years is overwhelming. For many seniors, downsizing is synonymous with purging. Collectors, those who hang on to sentimental items, depression-era savers and even hoarders are often immediately turned off by the possibility of having to rid themselves of everything but a few possessions.

Figuring out what to do with mementos and symbols that represent a life well-lived is a burdensome task for all involved. What to keep? What to get rid of? And how do we carry out the process with tact? Sometimes adult children are too close to the situation and can be too frank or even impatient with their parents when it comes to processing furniture, clothing, and other personal belongings. This can cause the whole process to grind to a halt.

Be respectful of your parent’s possessions even if you don’t understand why they value the things they do. The purging process is highly symbolic and very poignant for many seniors. They are essentially choosing what aspects of their past they are able to bring with them and which ones they must let go. Fortunately, there are professional senior movers who specialize in helping seniors declutter, downsize, and relocate. They can help take some of the pressure and emotional pain out of this aspect of the move for both you and your mom or dad.

Handling a Parent’s Indecision

Moving out of a home one has lived in for decades is often akin to experiencing and mourning a loss. The spectrum of emotions that is involved in agonizing over all the details, providing loving reassurance and then accepting a massive change in carefully laid plans is vast and unpleasant. It can be unbearably frustrating to go through this process only to backtrack and wait for an epiphany or a change in health to spur things along again. Meanwhile, worry about mom or dad’s wellbeing at home sets in again.

It’s much easier said than done but try to exercise patience as your parent vacillates between their living options. Offer a realistic picture of how much simpler it will be to navigate this transition earlier rather than later. However, understand that if they are of sound mind, they alone are responsible for deciding how and where to live. You may have to step back and bite your tongue until something changes.

Shouldn’t My Aging Parents Move In With Me?

The pressure to help a parent make the best possible senior living decision is complicated further by the nagging feeling many adult children have that our own homes should be an option. This is a highly individual decision that must factor in the needs of all affected parties (you, your parent, your spouse/partner, your children, your pets, etc.) Regardless of whether multigenerational living is a viable option, guilt abounds over even suggesting that a loved one move into assisted living or a nursing home.

Society insinuates that senior living is where elders go when they do not have any family or their relatives have “abandoned” them. The truth is that living with an aging parent is downright impossible for some families. Of those who try it, few find it to be a pleasant and successful long-term solution. Living together may delay the move to senior living, but it seldom prevents it entirely.

When a parent is no longer safe or engaged in their own home, caregivers are faced with difficult decisions and there’s no way around them. Increasing needs are an open declaration that a parent is aging. They must accept it and so must the adult child. The move itself is physical proof, and it is often a serious blow to the entire family. All we can do is respect one another and strive to give our parents a safe and caring home, regardless of where it is located.

In Time, We All Adjust

Aging is not easy on seniors or the people who care about them, but what must be done eventually gets done. We bring up the possibility of a move. We address the amount of help we will be able to provide. We stress that we are still there for support but that changes must be made. We do research, take tours, assist with packing, and do our best to be strong and help our loved ones acclimate. We adjust and eventually our parents adjust too. Many seniors are happier after they have settled into senior living, but that doesn’t make the process any less difficult.

There’s just no way to avoid this transition when it becomes necessary. Moving from a person’s own home to a care facility of any kind is emotional. Acknowledge your parent’s pain as well as your own. If you or your elder are struggling too much, consider seeking third party assistance. Often a close friend, a religious leader or a paid counselor can offer support and fresh ideas to assist you both in looking to the future rather than solely dwelling on the past.

Do Your Parents Have a Plan for Long-Term Care?

Do Your Parents Have a Plan for Long-Term Care?

It’s not easy to bring up the fact that the parents who have cared for you all your life may someday not be able to care for themselves. But it’s a reality nonetheless. Americans are living longer every year, and many will age beyond their ability to live independently.

Sadly, many older adults have trouble facing the changes and losses in ability that come with aging. While some seniors know their memories aren’t as good as they once were or that they’re no longer able to keep up with important responsibilities, others may lack awareness that things are slipping through the cracks.

Still, it’s not an easy topic to bring up—and many people aren’t doing so. According to a recent survey, only 45 percent of adult children have discussed with their aging parents what they plan to do when they can no longer care for themselves. And only 30 percent have discussed how their parents will pay for care as they age.

Then there’s the related issue of where your parents will live. For many seniors, their first choice is to remain in their home and age in place, but for many this isn’t a realistic option. The home may have safety issues, be too far away from needed services, or be too expensive and difficult to maintain. Yet, many families simply fail to talk about if and when aging parents should move out of their homes.

Other studies show that one in three adults over the age of 75 has enough cognitive impairment to mishandle or fail to take care of important financial issues. One misstep in an area like this can cost your parents dearly; failing to make mortgage payments or pay property taxes could result in the loss of their home, for example, while failing to take medications could lead to a heart attack or other serious health problem.

Falls are perhaps the biggest risk of all for older adults living on their own. Many common medications can cause dizziness as a side effect, increasing the likelihood of falling, and the weakness common to aging also leads to falls. If your parent lives alone she may take inappropriate risks, like climbing on a chair to change a light bulb—or she might simply forget to turn on a light at night. And once an older adult takes a fall, it can trigger a cascade of health consequences from which she may not fully recover.

Once you introduce the subject of a long-term care plan, don’t forget to discuss the cost of care as well. Bringing the subject up earlier rather than later increases the chance that long-term care insurance will be within reach. And care planning will greatly influence how your parents save and spend the resources—including real estate—they have available.

Think of it this way: The longer you wait to discuss your parents’ long-term care plan, the greater the chance that they’ll wind up living with you. Of course, for some people this is an excellent solution, and one that everyone’s happy with. But it’s not a decision you want to make because you have no other option.