When I look back at my over 35 year career in real estate sales here is what comes to mind. When discussing a move with mom and dad, there is never a right time or a wrong time…it is just time!
It is the elephant in the room. Think about it. Your parent(s) have been in their home for 30-40-50 years or more. They know the streets, the neighbors, stores and of course the home they love.
For most of us, the number one fear we have is fear of change. Going from a known to an unknown. Moving from one’s long-time home to a senior apartment or community is a daunting process. Everyone involved wants to do the right thing. The problem is that both parties, parent and child, want something different!
You, the child, want the best for your parents. You want them safe, happy and cared for. However, your parents want autonomy, independence and control of their lives. Your involvement may feel like an intrusion. It may feel like a role reversal where you begin to feel like the parent, thus anger and frustration may be the outcome. It is understandable and any guilt you feel as a child must be put aside. Remember, your parents have lost much over their lifetime. They may have lost a spouse, friends and some family members. They may be experiencing diminishing health. Moving from the home they love may feel like one more loss.
It is best to start with an honoring and honest conversation. You must truly listen to what your parents are saying. I mean listen without thinking as they are talking. Truly absorb their emotions, facial expressions, and of course their feelings about moving. Try to stay away from judging their statements about moving. Remember, you have never experienced what they are going through. You cannot know exactly how they are feeling.
A common mistake is for you to use the personal pronoun, “I”. Example; “Mom, I think it may be time to start looking for a home that meets your current physical and psycological needs. I am worried. I am afraid you may fall or have a health incident. I am worried about you not socializing”…on and on. Your mother listens to the “I” in your sentences and feels that it really is about you, the child, wanting to move mom to make your life easier. Of course that is the furthest thing from the truth but that is how it is perceived.
The best way to begin a conversation is to ask questions and listen! Open ended questions are best. “Mom, if you fell in your home who would be there to help?” “Dad, you haven’t gotten out of your chair and are watching tv non-stop. How would it feel to enjoy the company of others?” You get the idea.
I just went through a move with my mother who is 91. She was not open to the idea of moving. After my father passed away, mom became more and more isolated. She was becoming depressed and her health was beginning to change for the negative. I discussed the subject with her often. The conversation that seemed to break the ice was when I painted a picture of crisis management. In other words I asked my mom, “what would happen if you had a sudden health change? If that caused a need to move, would you want all decisions as to where you would move to be made from a rehab facility or by your children. That seemed to resonate.
In tandem with my conversation with mom, I decided to arrange for a dinner at a senior community in the area that I believed she would like. She had some friends there so I just went ahead and made a reservation for dinner. She agreed to go with me. When we arrived many of her friends said hello. Some she did not know stopped by our table saying they would love to meet her. It was a wonderful experience and I could sense mom’s wheels were finally turning towards a move. A few days later she called to ask if I would take her there again to talk about the cost and amenities. She even wanted to tour the community and look at some apartments.
The rest is history. She lives in this wonderful community at Laurel Oaks in Glendale. She plays Rummy Cube and meets a few ladies for lunch and dinner. We still pick her up as before and take her with us to events and shopping. Her attitude is great and she feels much better. We are relieved that mom is in a safe and nurturing environment. I asked her if she could move back to her condo would she want to. Her answer was…NO WAY!
In summary, it is best to approach a conversation with you parents when you sense the time to talk has come. You’ll know the signs. Maybe the home has been neglected. Several rooms have not seen the light of day. Personal property, the treasures that have been saved over the years are preventing mom or dad from truly enjoying the entire home. There are many danger areas such as stairs, carpeting, and bathtubs. Remember, all parties are wanting to avoid the topic of a move, but in the end the sooner you have this discussion the better. Don’t wait for a crisis…that is the worst kind of move one can experience.