Moving, for anyone of any age, is considered one of life’s most stressful events. As people get older, stressors such as chronic health conditions, general decline, and loss of independence only compound the stress and strain of moving.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Talk to Aging Parents About Moving to a Smaller Home
- How to Talk to Aging Parents About Moving to Long-Term Care
- How to Talk to Aging Parents About Moving in With You or Moving in With Them
Aging parents may need to move due to increasing care needs that can’t be easily met at home, financial reasons, or a home that isn’t accessible. Some older homes have multiple levels with stairs or step-in bathtubs. In time, these homes become safety hazards to people with mobility or cognitive issues.
Your parents may be moving to a smaller home, to long-term care, or into a family member’s house. They may resent moving or feel pressured to move when they don’t want to. Regardless of the type of move, you can take steps to make the journey less stressful and more positive. Any decisions regarding your parent’s move should be made together, and talking about the process is the best way to reach an agreement.
How to Talk to Aging Parents About Moving to a Smaller Home
Moving to a smaller home usually entails two main changes. The first is that the new home is probably in a different neighborhood than the one your parents are used to. Second, unless your parents haven’t accumulated much, moving to a smaller home means significant downsizing. Both of these changes can be fraught with emotional stress and sadness.
How you talk to your aging parents about moving to a smaller home and how you handle the move itself will influence their experience.
1. Talk about the reasons why a move is necessary
Hopefully, you and your parents have had previous discussions about aging and gone through the caring for aging parents checklist. If you haven’t, these will be new and challenging discussions about why a move is necessary. Some topics to consider:
- Safety issues. Perhaps your parent’s home has become unsafe to navigate, with multiple stairs to access the central living portions of the house. Or maybe the bathroom is too dangerous to navigate if your parents have lost mobility.
- Maintainance challenges. Larger, older homes can require constant maintenance and upkeep, which can be challenging and, in some cases, dangerous for older people to manage. Smaller, newer homes and condos can have far fewer issues to deal with.
- Proximity. Perhaps your parents live at a distance from you and travel is prohibitive. A smaller home in a nearby community can lend itself to more frequent visits with family. Or if you are the primary caregiver, having your parents closer might make it easier to provide care.
2. Include your parents in all decisions
To the extent that they can and want to do so, include your parents in decisions. Your parents may specifically request that you do the homework of finding several homes to consider, and then they can pick their top three. By including your parents in decisions, the process will be cooperative rather than adversarial.
3. Decide together on important features
For you, safety features might be the most important factor. For your parents, there could be other characteristics of the home and neighborhood that are must-haves. These could include proximity to recreation or senior centers, churches, garden space, or medical clinics. Find out from your parents what they want, and do your best to accommodate their requests when looking for a home.
4. Address the concern of downsizing
Downsizing can cause a lot of anxiety for older adults. Your parents are probably no different, so you should prepare to tackle this concern head-on. Getting rid of things can feel like getting rid of memories, and that process can cause a lot of sadness. Downsizing can take time, so be patient and respectful. Some ideas on how to make it go more smoothly:
- Offer to put items in storage until your parents can decide what they want to do with them.
- If your parents want kids and grandkids to take some items, go ahead and make those decisions. It might bring your parents great comfort to know that certain keepsakes remain within the family.
- If in doubt about some things, go ahead and take them with the understanding that if they don’t fit, they can go into storage.
How to Talk to Aging Parents About Moving to Long-Term Care
Talking to aging parents about moving to long-term care could create significant resistance and even anger. Long-term care usually refers to assisted living or memory care. In some cases, it could mean moving to a nursing home. These supportive senior communities are for people who need more help than they can get at home. Your parents may understandably cling to the notion that they want to remain at home because that is where they have been most independent.
5. Accentuate the positive aspects of long-term care
Your parents may be like many older adults who have outdated notions about assisted living and what it is like. When talking with your parents about moving to long-term care, talk about the positive aspects of living in a senior community, such as:
- Increased opportunities for socialization and friendship
- A wide range of activities and cultural events
- The possibility of staying healthier due to oversight and help with activities of daily living
- Release from household maintenance duties, laundry, cooking, and housekeeping
6. Discuss long-term options with your parent
Before visiting any of the options for long-term care, talk about what is available, amenities, and costs of care. You want to foster a feeling of consensus and inclusion by discussing the possibilities.
Your parents might be on the cusp of needing assisted living but prefer independent living first. Talk about the fact this will probably mean another move later, but honor their wishes if that is what they prefer.
7. Offer your support
If your parents are steadfast in their resistance to a move to long-term care, then offer your support for alternatives.
Be honest about the pros and cons of paying for and managing in-home care as one alternative to a move to long-term care. Aging in place is possible, but discuss the realities of that choice. If your parents decide to move to long-term care, let them know you are available to help every step of the way, from arranging the movers to downsizing and setting up their new place.
8. Stay flexible
In discussions with your parents about moving to long-term care, be mindful that these discussions can take time. In the end, they may refuse a move, and you will have to accept that. Getting angry or upset about it probably won’t help.
Try to have a flexible attitude knowing that not moving could put much more pressure on you and your siblings. You never know; in time, your parents may change their mind.
How to Talk to Aging Parents About Moving in With You or Moving in With Them
Moving in with your aging parents or them moving in with you is a huge decision. Talking in detail about a possible move is the most productive way to address and work out potential problems. Once you all live together, it will be a challenge to turn back. During these talks, you all may decide that it will be positive to live together, or you may decide that the risks and issues are too significant to proceed.
9. Talk about pros and cons of a move together
Talking about the pros and cons of a move together is a critical part of examining everyone’s motivations.
Most aging parents live with their adult children for a reason. What are the reasons? Is it financial? Is it easier for the family to provide hands-on care if an aging parent lives with them? Are your parents lonely and wanting more time with you? Living together is a big step, and there could be other solutions to these issues.
10. Discuss alternatives to living together
Make sure that you have covered viable alternatives to living together in case you or your parents have reservations but don’t know how to express them.
Options could include senior living, in-home care, a move to a less expensive place, or home-sharing. Talk about if it makes more sense for the siblings to help financially support your aging parents in another setting.
11. Talk about the limits of care
At some point, if your parents require too much care for you and your family to handle, how will you make that decision? Establishing some triggers or boundaries on what you can do will help to prevent misunderstandings later. Discuss the kind of in-home care your parents are willing to have or when it would be a good time to discuss a move to assisted living.
Try and be open about your concerns for increasing care needs. Also, discuss home accessibility changes. Your parents might be independent now, but what if your home isn’t accessible should their functional needs change?
12. Decide on rules
Talking about rules before moving will set expectations for everyone. Some of the rules you may want to discuss are finances, household chores, privacy, home maintenance, and transportation. If necessary, create an actual plan that includes a calendar and who is responsible for specific tasks. Decide on equitable financial agreements to cover home costs.
13. Have a backup plan if it doesn’t work out
If moving in together doesn’t work out for any reason, what then? Making another move can be a major endeavor but might be necessary. Having a backup plan for yourself or your parents will make it easier to change your minds later about living together.
How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Moving
Talking with your aging parents about moving should be a respectful and patient process. Your idea of where and when to move may be very different than your parent’s. Take time to explore options and consider alternatives. Try and make the experience as positive as possible by offering your support and empathy.