It starts with a conversation
By Carol Nelson
Many adult children will eventually face the decision of when to move mom and/or dad closer to home.
Aging in place has definitely become a popular buzzword, but when parents live far away it can pose a variety of challenges on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s home maintenance, safety and transportation issues or shopping and meal preparation, helping parents’ transition into smaller accommodations with less maintenance and within easy driving distance you is often a viable option. However, suggestions to that effect may be met with resistance and defensiveness.
Timing is everything
The number one thing to consider in all of this, however, is timing. Too many times families miss the ideal window of opportunity for relocation for all sorts of reasons and loved ones become too reluctant, frail or ill to make the move.
Going to a new place at any stage in your live is not an easy decision. There are numerous considerations and logistical matters for handling and discussion. So, before you take the leap, create a plan of action that is flexible enough to modify if need-be and has the buy- in of all parties.
• Have the talk. Yes… it’s the one where you talk about moving your parents to live closer to you and appointing a designated caregiver and power of attorney. Adult children are not always in agreement about timelines and who is best suited for this responsibility so be ready for siblings to jostle, parents to disagree with each other and perhaps even worry about a basketful of issues that aren’t even care related.
• Do the research. While older parents may be a big help in investigating the communities where they could potentially live, trusted advisors and family members should also be invited to help. Make sure you perform due diligence when it comes to real estate sales or investments, meetings and tours of care communities and hiring of homecare, cleaners or handyman services. In addition, financial discussions and budgets as well as safety issues and transportation needs should be on the table.
• Help with the transition. Many of us have accumulated decades of clutter and cherished possessions. Sometimes older adults are reluctant to let go of things they feel are a part of their legacy.
• Take the time to assist your parents when it comes to sorting and packing their possessions. Decide what to purge or give away well before the actual move to ease the load. Keep enough special items to make things feel like home. If things get awkward, hire a service that specializes in downsizing. They’ve got easy to use systems and they are used to tactfully working with homeowners.
• Make estate decisions. This is a wise time for your parents to consult with an attorney to update wills, end-of-life documents, estate plans and budgets. They may be willing and able to handle decisions on their own or they may want your assistance and support. Make sure you agree on a place to store vital paperwork that’s mutually accessible, as well as finding timing to collect up-to-date documentation. Creating power of attorney plans or medical directives at a time like this is also a good idea.
• Be sensitive. This transition often creates a genuine sense of loss and sadness. It’s a journey that includes perhaps a loss of a loved one, loss of their home, giving away possessions and handing over power over their own lives. This can create stress and anxiety. Recognize
this and don’t rush. Be considerate and sensitive to the speed at which they’re going and their feelings. Stress the positive aspects like being closer to their children and grandchildren, the fun of more regular family gatherings and the benefits of greater connection on a local level.
Moving is stressful, no matter the age or physical ability of those making the move. Look for a helpful checklist online to make the move easier. Even if adult children have planned everything out according to a detailed timeline, there will be unexpected glitches. Having a backup plan is one of the best plans of all, and it will make everyone feel better knowing that there is a solid contingency plan in place, just in case.
Carol Nelson, RN, BSN, MBA, is Healthcare Solutions Manager for FirstLight Home Care.
She has more than 35 years of experience in government and private duty homecare services, hospice and palliative care, and assisted living management.