When Your Elderly Parent Refuses To Move: 12 Experts Weigh In

Elderly parents refusing to move

Our homes are more than just a place to go to sleep comfortably. They are the places where we raise our families, make memories, share experiences, celebrate joyous occasions, and spend time with those we love. Imagine how you would feel if someone suddenly told you that you would have to leave your home against your will and live someplace else – either with another family member, in an assisted living facility, or in some other type of residential care center.

Are any of these living arrangements something you would agree to? While your parents may be getting older, struggling with mobility, or dealing with other health-related issues, they probably wouldn’t agree to any of them either.

Even so, this is a discussion that many adult children of aging parents will have with their parents at some point. 

According to an AARP study, 87 percent of people would prefer to age in place (continue to live in their own homes as they get older). But unfortunately, this may not be the best decision for some people. As adults, your parents have the right to make their own decisions about their lives. Just because they are getting older doesn’t mean that they should lose their independence or lose control over their lives. So, what can you do if you really believe that staying in their home might not be the best idea, but they don’t want to move or aren’t ready to move yet?

We asked twelve experts for their opinions, and we wanted to share their advice with you.

1. Assess the Reasons Why They Should Move

Fritzi Gros-Daillon, MS CAPS, CSA, SHSS – Age Safe America

“Assess the ‘why’ of your parent’s inability to stay [at] home. Once you have identified the reasons, the solutions must cover the full range of options, such as in-home caregiving by family, in-home caregiving by professionals, move to smaller yet independent living, move to assisted living or community household. Beginning with your parent’s preferences, medical considerations, and personal support network, and then doing the financial analysis for each option, you will have the framework with which to develop a plan and strategy for a successful transition.”

2. Realize They May Insist on Remaining at Home

Pamela D. Wilson, Caregiving Expert, Advocate, and Speaker – The Caring Generation

“Moving an aging parent from their home is not a decision to be taken lightly. Most aging adults want to remain in their home forever. While the transition to a care community may at some point be necessary, the first step should be identifying what actions can be taken to help the aging parent remain at home. While aging parents may disagree with moving, moving to a care community may not work out like adult children expect.”

3. Be Understanding

Roberta Satow, Ph.D. – Roberta Satow

“Many elders do not want to leave their homes although they cannot care for themselves. The first step is to show that you understand how difficult this is. If you know he or she will put up a fight, it might be helpful to visit someone in an assisted living home.”

4. Determine if Their Home Can be Adapted

Amy Goyer, AARP Family and Caregiving Expert and Author of Struggling Life, Work, and Caregiving AARP Family Caregiving

“If the home isn’t safe for them, what can we do to adapt the home? Look at all of the alternatives. If their wish is to stay at home, we (as caregivers) need to make adjustments. You have to respect the fact that they can make their own decisions.”

5. Address Your Concerns

Bonnie Friedman, Author of Hospital Warrior: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One Hospital Warrior

“Make sure your parent understands that you love them and are concerned; be clear you are not trying to force them to do something they don’t want to do. Explain what issues in particular concern you the most. Mention specific problems such as repeated falling, leaving the stove

on, or other serious safety hazards. Then talk about options, such as an alert system, aides who can help with activities of daily living, and other possibilities.”

6. Try Aging in Place First

Anastasia Blaszczyk, Family Caregiver, President and Founder of Aging Parents Management – Aging Parents Management

“In order to convince Mom to move, you will have to have exhausted all other options. You will have had to try to let her try aging in place first, but when it is no longer possible to do it safely, this will be the way to start this difficult conversation with her. As much as we want them to move out of their home, this will not be possible as long as they feel they can manage it.”

7. Be Proactive Versus Reactive

Dr. Melissa Henston, Psychologist, PsyD – Colorado Neuro Behavioral Health

“I would prefer the conversation start when the parents are relatively healthy and still able to hold a rational conversation. These are the questions: Where would you like to live if you cannot remain here? If you would like to remain here, how do you feel about making some helpful modifications to the house? Can we add some items to the house to make it safer for you? (Security systems, better lighting, safety rails in bathroom, cameras, communication devices where you can activate by speaking). How do you feel about having some people come into the house to help you? Being proactive versus reactive is the better way to go.”

8. Approach Them with Empathy and Compassion

Tami Neumann, CDCS, COO & Cathy Braxton, CDCS, CEO – Silver Dawn Training Institute

“It is very important to remember the value of an empathic approach to the conversation. Consider how you would feel if a police officer pulled you over for speeding and decided to revoke your license indefinitely, rendering you unable to drive. Regardless of the cop being right or wrong, someone else just determined your fate. Our homes mean so much more to us than just a plot of land, a geographic location, or an address. They encompass memories, experiences, a gathering place for loved ones, a sense of security, a sense of accomplishment, a symbol of adulthood, independence, growth, change, and love. As adult children, if we just jump in without an empathic and compassionate approach, we will hit a brick wall each time.”

9. Present Alternatives to Encourage Their Input

Matt Estrade, CAPS, President, Consultant, Trainer at Care Partner Mentoring, LLC – Peace With Dementia

“Remember while they are aging, they are still your parents, used to being in charge of your care, and it can be a challenge to their dignity and ego to be now taking orders from adult children. If staying in the home alone is no longer an option, present alternatives so they have some input. Hopefully, they will land on a decision that you both agree on.”

10. Respect Their Autonomy

Toula Wootan, Caregiving Expert, Creator of Caregiver’s Coalition of Northeast Florida – Toula’s Tips for Caregivers

“Try to understand their feelings, be reassuring of your love for them, but also your concern for their safety. It often helps to have a professional, such as a social worker or geriatric care manager, talk with them. The best thing you can do for them is let [them] be a part of the decision-making process. In the end, when all measures fail, we have to remember that they are autonomous, (if no dementia or mental health issues are present).”

11. Discuss Options Before They are Needed

Marti Weston, Independent Health Blogger on Aging, Caregiver – As Our Parents Age

“I would recommend that every adult child talk, over and over, about what their parents want, long before the need to move comes up. Use hypotheticals and ask questions. Thus asking them what to do if dad needs lots of help that mom cannot give to him or the other way around.”

12. Create a List and Determine Their Needs

Rhonda Caudell, RN, CCM, The Aging Parent Expert – Endless Legacy

“Together with your parent, build a list of every care need they have in which they cannot complete themselves and why. Develop other ways those needs can be met, such as with the help of an in-home care professional, family member for meals and medicine management, home modifications needed for safety. Visit with them, senior care facilities in their area so they get a visual of all their options and costs for in-home care needs and facility care needs. Often their refusal is based on not understanding the real options.”

Conclusion

As an adult child of aging parents, it can be difficult to know how to approach sensitive topics, such as their living arrangements. Keeping some of these tips in mind may help you handle those difficult discussions without belittling your parents or making them think you are trying to take away their right to make their own choices. Often times, letting them know you are coming from a place of concern and understanding, are willing to listen to them, and are respectful of their wishes, may go a long way toward reaching a decision that makes everyone happy.

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