When Parents Resist Moving to Senior Living

Your elderly parents say they won’t move out of the home they have lived in for decades.

It’s a common, exhausting scenario. You see signs that your aging parent(s) need help, but they refuse it. They insist that they’re fine on their own, but the evidence and your intuition tell you that’s not true. Perhaps one or both of your parents’ health has taken a turn for the worse. Or, maybe after months or years of being a caregiver, you’re experiencing burnout and see your own health and relationships deteriorating.

Yet, having the conversation and ultimately moving elderly parents to assisted living, or another form of senior living, is probably one of the hardest decisions an adult child will ever have to make. Many seniors unrealistically believe they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. That’s why family members can be instrumental in identifying problems and making changes to help their loved ones.

Reasons We Feel Guilty

Even when you know relocating your parents to a senior living community is the right thing to do for their safety and health, guilty feelings may arise.

No matter our age, the role reversal is uncomfortable

For many adult children, their desire is to have their parents remain decision-makers. They often become upset when they have to take over those roles and feel guilty about the role reversal.

The feeling of failed caregiving efforts

For some adult children, the act of moving loved ones into assisted living loudly declares that they can’t handle taking care of their parents. The paradox is that children want nothing more than to ease their parents’ pain and suffering even temporarily sacrificing their own comfort to improve the quality of their parents’ lives.

Not delivering on the promise of never putting your parent in a nursing home

While in the past, you may have made the promise to your parent of never putting them in a eldercare setting, decisions must be made based on what’s best for the parent at the given time. Oftentimes, having a parent move to senior living can be the most loving act a child can do because it can greatly improve the quality of the parent’s life from a medical and social perspective. Parents often thrive in a senior living environment, which may surprise some adult children.

Knowing that we’re asking a lot from our parents

Change is hard for everyone, and a move to assisted living or long-term care is a big change. Suddenly, you’re asking your parents to form new acquaintances, trust professional caregivers, navigate unfamiliar schedules, and acclimate to new environments.

Make It Your Problem…Not Theirs

While a large percentage of adult children fully realize that “earlier is better than later” when it comes to discussing a move to assisted living, many still find themselves putting it off. The harsh reality is that by doing so, delays can often bring about a needless crisis situation, which can result in caregiver guilt and added stress. If you have the discussion early and often, your loved one will be better prepared for the next steps.

As for what to say? Try to make it your problem, instead of your parents’ problem. Clearly express your concern by saying something like, “Mom, I’m concerned about you. It makes me worried to see you like this.” Nine out of ten parents don’t want to burden their children, and will often respond to this sort of honest communication. If you make clear to your loved one that you’re focused on doing what’s best for both of you, it can be easier for them to accept change.

Three Ways to Cope with Guilt

Whether the process goes smoothly or if there are bumps along the way, children often have guilty feelings about moving elderly parents to assisted living or long-term care.

Here are three ways to cope:

1 – Focus on the small victories

Did your parent enjoy a meal or activity in their new home? Do you sleep better knowing they’re less likely to fall in their new surroundings? When guilt creeps in, remind yourself of the benefits of their new home. “Small victories” include excellent palliative care, creating meaningful activities even keeping our parents together as long as possible.

2 – Accept some uncertainty

Being put in the position to make critical arrangements for others is often hugely stressful. When the task concerns relocating your parents to an assisted living community or nursing home a decision with enormous financial and lifestyle consequences the anxiety and second-guessing can be even higher.

3 – Give it time

As with any change, there will be an adjustment period for children and for their aging parents. It will likely take time for your parents’ relocation to senior living to bear fruit. Strike up a conversation with family members visiting their loved ones and ask them how they dealt with the change. Enjoy meaningful moments with your loved one, and restorative time doing what you like to do, during this transition time.