Things to Consider When Relocating your Aging Parents
Whenever possible, the decision to relocate a parent should be openly discussed with the parent and any adult children in the family. These discussions are an essential first step when you are trying to decide whether relocating is the right thing to do. Active communication among family members can create a strong support system for the parent and all family members involved. Together, the family should talk about all residential options, each person's role in the transition, the type of care to be provided, changes in lifestyle, finances, and the physical setting of the new home.
The division of caregiving responsibilities is especially important for the family members to discuss. The choice of location can cause conflict between individuals because those living near the parent bear most of the responsibility for the parent's care. In turn, those close by may feel that those living further away do not help enough. On the other hand, family members who live far away can feel frustrated that they do not have the opportunity to participate more in providing care. Open, honest communication will go a long way toward sorting out these and other potential problems and finding acceptable solutions.
Assessing housing options
Before you decide on a housing option, it is important to first assess your parent's physical, mental and social capabilities. This important step will enable you to most closely match his or her care needs with a housing option that is best suited for them. To aid your efforts, you might consider having a geriatric assessment performed. A geriatric assessment provides a comprehensive review of your loved one's mental, physical and financial conditions. If you feel that an assessment may be in order, the first step is to consult with your loved one's doctor who can either perform the assessment or refer you to the appropriate specialist.
If you choose not to have a formal assessment, you can also answer key questions that may help clarify the type of housing and living arrangement that will best meet your parent's needs. These questions include:
- Which activities of daily living (eating, bathing, toileting, etc.) can your parent perform independently?
- With which activities of daily living does your parent need assistance?
- Given their condition, what physical or mental changes do you anticipate in your parent within the next several months?
- What degree of ongoing supervision/assistance does your parent need with mobility, medication management or health conditions?
- What financial assets are available?
The answers to these questions should enable you to narrow your options rather quickly.
Navigating the move
In many instances, a parent has lived in his or her current home for many years and has developed strong ties to community, friends, healthcare providers, and a daily routine. Packing and moving out of a house is a significant chore for anybody, but for the older adult who has perhaps decades of memories and possessions, moving can represent a tremendous emotional challenge. Moving away from this familiar and comfortable setting is difficult and can cause great sadness. And a move like this often marks the transition from independence to greater dependence.
As you and your parent prepare for the move, use that time to help them adjust. Consider the following ways to help them with the transition:
- Talk through the difficult feelings they may be experiencing (loss, sadness, anger, confusion, etc.)
- Empathize with those feelings; acknowledge their emotion and struggle as valid
- Reassure him or her that the decision to move is in their best interest; emphasize the benefits of what they will gain as a result of the move
- Encourage your parent to reminisce about the memories they have of their home
Once your parent moves into their new residence, he or she will need additional time to adjust to their new living environment. Your patience and support will help make this transition smoother.
Despite the challenges associated with relocating a parent, most adult children find contentment in knowing they are providing the type of support and care that best meets their parent's care needs. It begins with a clear idea of your parent's limitations, combined with family involvement and a thorough knowledge of the housing options. Armed with these essential pieces, you have a strong likelihood of finding a match that will fit your parent's needs and one that everyone can live with.