The Life Transition Blog

Moving Your Aging Parent to a Retirement Community

While no two family situations are the same, there are several common scenarios that baby boomers face as their parents come to the point where it is no longer possible for them to live in their own home without assistance. The first is to have the parent move in with one of his or her children or another relative. The second is for a caregiver (family or paid) to provide in-home assistance. And the third is for the parent to move to another living situation entirely. We will focus on the third scenario.

Let's assume that someone has decided that it is time for your parent to move to a retirement community.

Sometimes, your parent will come to this conclusion on his or her own. That is probably the best case scenario, and also the less frequent one. More often, the adult children have reached the decision, but their parent doesn't see things quite the same way. Under each of these situations, what are the steps that you need to take to make that move happen?

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of helping your aging parent transition to retirement living when they don't see the need to do so is overcoming your own guilt. It is natural for you to ask yourself if you are doing the right thing, but if you are convinced that you are, then the most important action is to ACT! The longer your parent stays in his or her current living situation, the more likely it is that a crisis such as a fall will occur, making the move ever more urgent. It is always better to transition calmly than to do so in crisis mode. So, what can you do to help your parent accept the decision that you have made?

One of the best ways to help your parent to see the benefits of a move is to allow them to see what they are moving to. Many communities will allow short stays for prospective residents (and others). If your chosen community allows this, it can be a great way to introduce your parent to the new environment, while still letting them "come home again" before making the move permanent. A week or so is a good length of time for a short stay. Perhaps you can do this if you will be away for a vacation of your own or have a business trip planned. I've actually heard of aging parents who decide not to return to their former residence once they've tried out their new community!

Another possibility is to engage your parent in the process of choosing what furniture, household items, and personal treasures to take to their new home. One of the hardest things for your parent is parting with all of those things he or she has accumulated over a lifetime, and moving to a retirement community usually means downsizing and parting with some of those things. Perhaps there is a favorite chair or dresser that will make the new space feel more like home and help your Mom or Dad get over having to get rid of the rest. Maybe some special window treatments or new bedding can be made for the new space that will make it feel fresh. Hanging favorite photos or art on the walls and making sure the place is all set up for your parent will help to make the whole move less overwhelming. If you are good at imagining an empty room as a home and have the time and energy to set up the new space, then by all means you should take this project on yourself. If not, you might consider engaging a senior move manager who can coordinate the entire project.

Senior move managers specialize in helping people downsize their homes and transition to retirement living. A senior move manager provides services ranging from coordinating the move itself (selecting, negotiating, and supervising the packing and moving staff) to helping decide what to take to the new home and where to put it once it's there. In addition, many senior move managers will unpack and set up your parent's new home and help address the items that are not moving along with them through sale, auction, consignment, or donation, as appropriate. The National Association of Senior Move Managers (http://www.nasmm.org/) provides more detailed information about these professionals including where to find one. For more information about LifeBridge Solutions' household transition services, check out www.LifeBridgeSolutions.com/Household-Transitions.
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