Talk to parents about the need to move

Safety concerns probably rank highest among reasons to consider moving aging parent into a care facility.

Various reasons present themselves for encouraging a parent to make a move out of their home into some form of seniors’ housing.

Safety concerns probably rank highest, as well as the development of memory loss.

Elders living alone can often experience isolation so making a move to where there are other people their own age to

relate to can have positive benefits. Loneliness can have strong adverse effects on health and precipitate depression in some older adults.

Despite the opportunity for exciting new beginnings, it can initially be perceived by some as the worse thing since sliced bread, surely leading them down a road to unwanted loss of independence.

Here are some tips for starting the conversation with a parent who does not have significant cognitive decline:

But before having that conversation, think about all of the reasons they may not want to move and consider some solutions to these concerns.

For example, if they’re worried about moving too far away from their church, look into whether a ride can be arranged with a church volunteer.

Anticipating their concerns ahead of time may help you be more relaxed during the conversation and able to actively listen.

Acknowledge their concerns about moving right at the start. Express the fears you have had in the past around change and ask your parent what might make him/her anxious about moving to a retirement community.

Explain why you think this is an important conversation to have. Say something like: “Even though it is hard to talk about the possibility of moving, I really think it is important we do so now because I am starting to worry about your safety in this house, given your recent falls.”

Give plenty of reassurance that your number one goal is their happiness and their safety; you are not trying to take over their lives.

Accentuate the values of more freedom and choice to use their energy for making new friends and enjoying new activities, rather than cooking, cleaning or worrying about yard work. If you have examples of people you know who have made a move and are happy about it, recount them. You may even be able to utilize that person to talk to your parent themselves or host them at a complimentary lunch at their retirement residence.

Remember to be gentle, to frame the situation from their perspective, and avoid trying to prove them wrong or prove why they “have to move.”

Think about how you feel if someone tries to tell you what you should do.

No matter what their age, youthfulness stays in their hearts and they want to be treated with respect and validation, honouring their ability to maintain control over their lives.

But even if you say all of the right words, if your tone conveys that you are trying to push them into a decision, they will respond to your tone rather than your words. Breathe and let go as the conversation unfolds.

Don’t be overly attached, as this leads to being reactive to their concerns, which leads to a breakdown in the communication. Thinking ahead and being proactive about possible future transitions that aging may bring is not unlike planning that has occurred at other stages of life:  planning the wedding; planning to have a family; planning for retirement.

Remind your parent how well they prepared for these transitions in their lives and that this is much the same.

Remember, everything happens step by step. Be patient.

Moving a parent into a care facility can be even more emotionally difficult. As a family, we just experienced this with our own mom.

The health system’s rules of having to accept the first available bed immediately when it is offered leave your head spinning. You feel unprepared, as much time can pass before that fateful phone call.

Your first concern of course is how you are going to tell your parent? How will they take the news and manage yet another readjustment in their environment and caregiving staff?

This is when understanding the traits of this older cohort can be helpful. A generational cohort is a group of people who, usually within a 15- to 20-year age span, have shared common characteristics and common experiences during the course of their lives.

People born from 1922 to 1945 come from what is referred to as the “silent generation.” Characteristics that describe this cohort are dedicated and hard working; sacrifice their needs for cause of the greater good; conform to rules, laws and order; respectful of authority; patient and able to delay personal rewards; place duty before leisure; adhere to rules.

These adjectives are quite different than that for us baby boomers who strive for personal gratification, frequently are “workaholics” and place the focus for health and wellness as priorities in our lives.

Walking a moment in your parent’s shoes and connecting with the traits that exemplify their cohort helps.

Knowing my mom has an overwhelming trust and respect for authority, it helped me in having this conversation to include that this was a decision of the doctor, how he supports it and what his plan is for her care.

She also cares about others and understood the reasoning around the influence of this decision for the greater good of the whole family.

Making change is stressful, but as always it involves keeping love at the forefront for your parent and letting go of guilt within yourself.

Making the effort to form new relationships with care staff with a positive and open style helps them to embrace the special, unique needs of your parent and of you and other family members and in return, you embrace and are compassionate for the often difficult job that they do each day.

More and more, as we all move deeper into these changing times of being the child caring for our beloved parent, we adjust. The journey isn’t perfect or easy, but staying centred and in balance helps.

And in the moments of greater challenge, remember the Serenity Prayer:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

When feeling anxious about what to do, stop, breathe and listen.  The answers are there, you just have to receive them.

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