For many seniors, and their caregivers, having to move out of their home can be an extremely traumatic experience. For people who have lived in the same home for a long time, especially if they raised their children there, selling their family home may be particularly difficult. But for some, a move to an apartment, senior community or assisted-living center promises a welcome new way of life – one free of climbing steps, mowing lawns, raking leaves, repairing fences, shoveling snow and cleaning gutters (or, in the case of the latter, having to hire and pay someone to do those things). In those situations, the adult children may be more upset by the move than the parents.
If your parents are initiating a move and you’re saddened, try to understand it’s probably in their best interest. If they want or need help, offer to assist in getting their home ready to sell, selecting new living arrangements, finding the best financing and moving their possessions. If it helps you, spend time reminiscing with them about their home and all that happened there – especially if it’s the home where your grew up. Ask if you can select some special items that will remind you of the house – perhaps a picture that used to hang on your bedroom wall or a pretty vase that always held cut flowers on your mother’s dining room table. If you have the space in your home, maybe you would prefer larger items such as the dining room table itself! Also, be sure your aging loved ones locate and keep items that are important to them to help their new living space feel not only comfortable but maintain familiarity.
If it’s your aging loved ones who are resisting the move, play up the positives of leaving a home they may no longer be able to manage. If they are moving from their own home to an apartment, many of the hassles of home ownership – clogged gutters, leaky faucets, burst pipes, rotten floor boards and broken air conditioners – become the responsibilities of their landlord. With fewer hassles, they’ll have more time to do the things they enjoy.
Also, help your parents find new living arrangements that will suit them. Though finances and their level of independence may limit the options, you probably have more choices than you realize. Remember, always be creative! One woman told me that when her parents became unable to properly care for the two-story home where she grew up, neither she nor they felt they could be happy anywhere else. After looking at more than a dozen senior communities, she and her husband came up with a plan. They moved into the house themselves and had the basement finished into a walk-in level apartment for her parents. “It turned out to be the perfect solution,” she said. “my parents didn’t have to sell the house, they sill have their own space and I’m close by in case they need me.”
ALEXIS ABRAMSON, Ph.D. is cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Abramson is the author of two highly acclaimed books — The Caregivers Survival Handbook and Home Safety for Seniors. For more information go to www.alexisabramson.com.