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March 23, 2012

Making the Big Move

My mother loves her home.  She’s surrounded by treasured items and mementos, she has the support and comfort of good friends and neighbors, and she welcomes visits from me and my siblings. Of course, Mom’s current home is a good bit smaller than the house where she and my father raised a family.  My mother lives in continuing care retirement community, which is a comfort to all of us who love her.

I won’t pretend that the transition from family home to senior care community was easy. Once my father—diagnosed with dementia 15 years ago—made the move to a nursing home, my mother kept the household humming and kept my father engaged.  But as the stress of managing my dad’s care and all the household responsibilities took its toll, my sister started lobbying for a move. Eventually, we all joined her. It took months before Mom warmed up to the idea, and the final decision was hers and hers alone.

We were lucky.  Often, families contact Care.com to discuss retirement communities and assisted living communities.  I can hear frustration in their voices. Their loved ones do not want to move. Some succeed in hiring an in-home caregiver for a time, but in many cases, that isn’t a viable option.  Often, the home that was so perfect for a growing family is too unwieldy, and would require too much retrofitting, to make it manageable for an elderly parent. I sometimes share the story of a family I know in which each sibling, and there were five, spoke to their father separately about just considering his living options. Then, when he was willing to look at a few assisted living communities, they each toured the places with him. They each listened to his concerns, his objections and the things he said he liked. Later, the siblings got together, compared notes and held a family meeting in which they presented a viable plan to their dad. It took a little while, but the father could see that his children cared about his comfort and his preferences, and he felt that he had been part of the process.  Like my mother, he was able to make the move without feeling pushed, or being resentful.

Sometimes adult children can use the help of a “move mentor” to amass all the details—costs, services, obligations and legalities—before discussing the big move with a parent.  I’d love to hear from caregivers who helped a beloved senior make the move to a retirement or assisted living community.  Tell me how you approached the situation, how your parent reacted and what you might do differently today.  And please let me know what kind of support would have made the move easier.

If you’re in the midst of helping a loved one make a transition and need advice, you can always call one of Care.com’s senior care advisors at 855-490-8654.

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