Should We Move Mom and Dad Back Home?

To move or not to move? That is the (perennial) question. Mom and Dad retired and joined friends who moved from the cold north winters to warm, dry Arizona. They were healthy and had a good life. That was twenty years ago. Now, Mom is getting frail, and Dad has heart problems.

The “kids,” Sally and Lance, still live up north – Sally in Minnesota and Lance in Wisconsin. They would like their parents to move close to one of them. They want to make sure their folks have the help they need, and be available for emergencies. Sally lives close to where she grew up, and feels her parents would feel at home living near her. The parents, however, think otherwise.

It’s been twenty years since they left. Most of their Minnesota friends are gone, either moved or deceased. In Arizona, they have friends, church and familiar doctors. Sure, they’d like to be closer to their kids, but it’s going to mean taking on a whole new type of life. Moving back takes them out of their comfort zone.

As with so much in life, there is no easy answer. My elderly friend, Mary, was a widow. She’d lived in North Dakota for seven-and-a-half decades. She had her neighborhood, her social circle, her church, doctor and dentist. She was comfortable with the stores she shopped in. But, because her health was declining, her children wanted her to live near them, and they had a point.

Mary often had to call on friends for help. I went on a rescue mission for more than one emergency. Mary resisted her children’s pleading for a long time, but then she became so ill, she was afraid. She agreed to move to be near one of her sons. Her son set her up in a beautiful facility where she had all the independence she wanted, and the help she needed. He and his wife took her places, she spent a great deal of time at their home, and they visited often, frequently bringing the grandchildren. They took her to doctor appointments and they helped her get settled in a church. Yet she was never truly happy. She’d left so much of herself in North Dakota.

Was moving right for Mary? I doubt that she could have lived independently much longer. Her family could have used the Elder Locator to find agencies that would provide the needed help in her home, but someone had to be able to supervise and check on the quality of care. The family wasn’t comfortable with that option.

Mary’s health was such that, if she stayed in her apartment she likely would have needed long-term nursing care before too long, so her move to a flexible living situation set up by her family put that off for awhile.

Still, though she had her son near by, she was lonely for the life she had left behind. Moving was a difficult choice; an imperfect answer. Each case is unique. When seniors are able, they need to be presented with every possible option, so they can make their own choices. Mary reluctantly chose to move. Not everyone would. But once the choice is made, it’s easier to get the whole family on the same page, and keep the senior’s quality of life at the highest level possible. That’s about all anyone can do.

Over the span of two decades author, newspaper columnist and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. With this experience, Bradley Bursack created a portable support group – the book “Minding Our Elders: caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Her sites, and include helpful resources as well as links to direct support. Bradley Bursack is a newspaper columnist and an eldercare consultant who also writes on caregiving and senior issues for several national websites.

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