Just like the night out where responsible folks have a designated driver just in case the party was a bit too intense, the same holds true for that “chosen” child who has the responsibility of handling the move for mom and dad from their long-time home. I know from many years of experience that when there is more than one child, resentments and sibling rivalries can result from the family stress when approaching a change in address for mom and dad. If you are that child, please read on. If you are not that child, please read on!
Family harmony is so important when confronting any challenge that has the potential of unearthing deep-seated emotions that are ready to rise to the surface. When a parent is faced with moving from the home they have loved, so many thoughts and memories swirl around in our minds, causing feelings of confusion, sadness, depression and sometimes anger. “Why am I doing all of the work for mom, and yet I get ‘suggestions’ from my brother and sister. They are doing nothing, and I am going to scream!” If this isn’t you, I’m sure you know others that have traveled down this very bumpy road.
Your family in the end means everything to you. We all hold back things we would like to say, but we don’t because we know what the outcome will be. So many of my clients tell me that they have not spoken to their brother or sister for many years due to an argument long ago. Sometimes they can’t remember exactly what that disagreement was! How sad. It is critical to express your feelings in a constructive manor so that all of you are “Moving in the Right Direction” (the title of my first book!). In the end, your parents should be the only focus of attention when helping them to navigate their move to their new surroundings.
Looking at this from mom and dad’s perspective is the best way to begin the process of successfully assisting your loved one to their new home. Imagine what your parents are going through. They have lived in their home for 20-50 years (average span of my client’s stay in their homes). Memories of raising a family, neighbors who were friends, and the stores and restaurants nearby are coming to the surface for mom or dad. They are having a harder time physically and mentally when facing the challenge of changing their address. Fear of change takes over and procrastination is the result. They are stuck and you are frustrated. It is understandable why so many children of the older adult are having a tough time with this move, especially when they are leading complex lives worrying about children and grandchildren of their own. Baby boomers are the generation I am referring to in this article. If you were born in 1946-1964, you may be facing this challenge as this article is written. If not now, soon. So be prepared with knowledge, understanding and enlisting the help of your siblings and close family.
Have a family meeting without mom and dad present. This will enable all of you to speak candidly without hurting mom and dad’s feelings. You don’t want to have them feel that they are a burden on the family. This generation of seniors have shunned assistance throughout their lives. It is hard for them to accept help even from the family they love. So always keep that in mind when discussing the next steps. At this family meeting, decide who will do what and how that will impact mom and dad. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your siblings so each member is doing what they do best. Obviously there must be one-point person in the family. If this is done democratically with your siblings, and you know all are moving in the same direction helping mom and dad, much of that anger and frustration will be mitigated. Have another family meeting with those in town to meet with a Senior Real Estate Specialist who will come to their home, design a game plan and give you all the information you will need for a successful move. This senior niche real estate agent will help by offering their trusted professionals who specialize in downsizing, preparing and staging the home, as well as Elder Law Attorneys who will make sure tax implications and inheritance are handled if necessary. They will help to establish the value based on how the property will be presented. The agent will help time the sale to maximize the asset realization when the home is sold. The more information gathered up front, the more likely your siblings and parents will not disintegrate and fall into lost or damaged relationships. Keeping family harmony should be the number one goal when helping mom and dad through this very challenging time.
I have written a book called, “Guiding Our Parents in the Right Direction” specifically addressing these issues. I have learned so much from writing the book and have been blessed to work with so many families over the years to share their stories with me. Love binds the family and love is unconditional especially when all are moving towards a shared goal of making sure mom and dad are in a safe and pleasant new home. Best of luck to any of you who are about to give of your time and love to those who have been there for you as your life story was created.