Our home is our castle – a shelter from the storm. When the time comes to leave that home, it can be an emotional experience. Sometimes in life, we must watch as an elderly relative leaves their home to move to a senior community.
For example, Dad’s gone and Mom can’t handle the house. She says needs something that is easier for her to move around in, and we know she’s right. She could use more company. One day she’ll likely need nursing care for her diabetes. She is excited about the prospect of moving to a retirement community. She knows it’s the best decision and feels it represents a new, exciting chapter in her life. But despite this positive spirit, she still frets about leaving the home she shared with her husband for 40 years.
You and the family know that the wise decision would be for her to move to independent living. There’s a nice one not too far away, and they have an assisted living residence and skilled nursing center on the same campus to meet her future needs.
So you set about convincing mom that the decision to move is the right one. How do you bring moving up at all?
Households Hassles Can Be Conversation Starters
One technique is to bring up the subject to Mom on a day when living in the house is not going so well. Perhaps a day when there are plumbing problems or when she has to pay a hefty bill for lawn care. That’s smart. It gives you an opening where you can say, “Mom, I know it’s hard to think of moving, but we both know that this isn’t a safe place for you. Even with modifications, you won’t be able to stay here long. How about us taking some afternoons to explore housing options?” Stress that while the family will still be there for her, there will be more people in the new place who can help.
Help Make the Move Easier
Mom balks at first, of course, but you are pretty sure that her biggest dread is how to get from point A (this house) to point B (the new place). Moving is daunting to many of us because we have to, well, move. We have to move everything we’ve hung onto for years. We have to figure out what to do with that huge china closet from Uncle George that fits perfectly under the stairwell. We have to figure out what to do with Dad’s miniature train collection. We have to figure out what to do with the symbols that represent a life lived. What to keep? What to get rid of? And how do we carry out the process?
There are professional movers who specialize in elder moves. They can help take some of the emotional pain out of the practical part of packing up and moving. But first you have to decide where Mom should live.
Get Excited About Planning the New Home
Take your relative to visit several assisted living facilities. The neighborhood atmosphere and vibrant community activities will likely get him or her excited about the prospect of a new life. Explore a little. Discuss where he or she would put the things. Let your relative have as much say in the move as possible.
Focus on the Future, Not the Past
Try to keep thoughts on the future more than the past. This is not an easy task, especially when we ourselves have some emotions to overcome. But talking a great deal about creating a new, comfortable living space that accommodates your relative’s needs, while it incorporating as many old favorites as possible, generally helps. If your Mom likes new things, this is the time to talk about a new couch that will fit into a special nook in the new place. If her old couch is her favorite, talk about how it can be incorporated into the space. The idea is to focus on the present and the future, while respecting the past.
Accept Your Own Feelings
There’s no way around the fact that making a move to any type of senior housing is an open declaration that our relative is aging. They must accept it and so must we. The move is physical proof, and that hurts. But it is a reality that we must face. Keeping mom at home isn’t going to make that reality go away. But it might jeopardize her safety and well-being.
There’s just no way to slide around this process. This is where an old saying applies. The only way out is through. Moving from a person’s own home to a care facility of any kind is emotional. Concentrating on the new place, while accepting that making such a move involves mourning the past, helps some. Acknowledge your relative’s pain as well as your own.
Get Help if You Need It
If you and your elder are struggling too much, get third party help. Often a close friend, a pastor, priest or Rabbi – or even a paid counselor – can help you both through this minefield by offering support and fresh ideas to help you both look to the future as you mourn the past.
Brookdale Senior Living communities provide active retirement living for thousands of residents, serving seniors and their families since 1978. Find a Brookdale community near you