When aging parents reach the point where they can no longer function on their own, you, as a family member, may be faced with a difficult decision. Is it possible to help them stay where they are, or is it time to transition them to a smaller home, an independent senior living community, a “granny suite in your home, or an assisted living facility? If you feel that transitioning is the best solution, it can create a lot of stress for both you and your parent if not planned and carried out carefully and with compassion.
When the decision to make a change comes from the parent, the transition may be easy. Often, however, the need to move a parent to a safer environment may be clear to family members but not to the parents themselves. Including the person in the decision process is vital — they need to feel included and involved in the process. Moving a parent – especially out of the family home, where the children grew up, is never easy. Here are some points to consider that will make the move easier for everyone involved.
Planning the Transition Ahead
Grief is an expected part of any major life change. Planning ahead can help make the transition as smooth as possible and reduce the likelihood of emotional trauma.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! – It’s an important step that your parents understand the need for the change. Point out safety hazards in the home, lovingly express your concerns, and explain how important their health, well- being and safety is to you. Make sure they understand how moving will improve the quality of their life, both physically and emotionally.
- Involve Them in the Transition Process – Having no say in what is going to be done with one’s belongings can be incredibly hurtful. Some possessions may carry precious memories that even immediate family members cannot fully appreciate. When possible, allow your parent to decide what to keep and what to discard. Consider options like auctions, second-hand boutiques, or thrift stores for repurposing some items.
- Consider Hiring a Downsizing Specialist The stress of a major move can be eased by involving an expert in senior downsizing. Stress-Free Solutions is a great example of this type of service. More than a moving company, they help with organizing possessions, arranging the new space with familiar treasured pieces, as well as donating, selling, or hauling away items that are no longer needed.
- Consider Working with a Counselor – If emotions are running high, you may want to involve a counselor who specializes in senior transitions, such as Counterpoint Health Services. A skilled counselor helps navigate the emotions around a move and helps everyone involved understand one another’s perspectives. Often it helps for the parent to share deep feelings with a neutral party, rather than family members who may have their own emotional biases.
- Consider Involving a Social Worker – Life Care Managers, also known as Geriatric Care Managers, are senior advocates who specialize in meeting the needs of elderly clients. They can ensure the transition goes well and that all the senior’s needs are met. These social workers can fill the gap when family members live at a distance or are not able to handle the details of a parent’s care. Consider a reputable company like Debra Levy Associates if you need this type of service.
- Consider Consulting a Senior Placement Service – This service is free to seniors considering a move to an assisted living facility, continuous care retirement community, or long-term care home. Experts in the various options in a particular area, they will learn a client’s specific needs and wishes, suggest options, and act as a go-between, setting up tours and assisting with the details of the transition. Examples of this type of service include Oasis Senior Advisors and CarePatrol.
- Consider Moving Your Parent’s Caregiver with Them – If your parent already has an in-home caregiver, continuing their services – even if at a reduced schedule – it will help them with the moving process and make them feel more safe and secure in their new environment. A familiar caregiver may be able to help with arranging drawers and closets and engaging in the social life of the new environment.
- Stay in Touch – Be sure you have something in place so that your loved one doesn’t feel abandoned after the move. COVID-19 restrictions may limit family visits, but there are creative ways you can keep in touch. Check-in often, especially in the early days after the move, to ensure they are fitting in well and to reduce the sense of isolation or loneliness.
Moving is a major stress at any age, and it can be particularly unsettling for older people leaving their home of many years. By communicating honestly, respecting one another’s wishes and concerns, and planning ahead, you can greatly reduce the stress involved, so you and your parents will enjoy the new surroundings for many years to come.