Tips for Moving Your Aging Parent into your Home

Recently, I worked with a family in a state of physical and emotional transition. The adult child had finally convinced her aging mom, who had begun suffering from dizzy spells and resultant falls, and even fractured a wrist, to make a permanent move to a safer place: her household—which included a husband and three active kids.

For this adult child and her husband, both working full time and raising their own family, moving Mom into their home seemed the easiest solution for keeping her safe.

But as everyone soon discovered, this endeavor would be anything but easy… for anyone.

Thankfully, a few sessions together helped successfully guide these family members through their transitions, both individually and as a new and functional family unit.

Below, 10 tips for adult children who will be moving a parent into their own home

  1. Be aware that this is not going to be easy—on anyone—but most of all on your parent(s). While there will likely be a hiccup or two in your own family’s routine, remember that your folks are starting their own routines from scratch.
  2. Decide on a room that will be given entirely to your parent. When applicable, be realistic about stairs. If there’s a room with a full bath on the main floor of your home, you may very well find yourself moving your office furniture upstairs. Clear the room completely. This is someone else’s private enclave now, not yours. To whatever degree finances allow, work together to re-decorate this space to suit the taste of your mom or dad, which will make the move-in feel more welcoming.
  3. Help Mom sort through her household items and furniture, tagging items to keep, to ensure they will not be lost in the commotion of the move. Be well aware of the space limitations in your home. This, equally as much as the very need to move , will likely be the most difficult activity for your folks, as it is common for seniors to become more emotionally invested in their “stuff” as time goes on.
  4. Discuss finances well ahead of time, such as who is going to pay what. Even if you are not in need of their money, allow Mom or Dad this privilege. Your folks still need to feel vital to the running of the household.
  5. Prior to the move-in, take a deliberate look around your home for areas that might prove dangerous to an older person. Remove area rugs that could pose a tripping hazard, replace worn, uneven carpeting, and make sure there are no areas that need to be tacked back down. When applicable, handicap-proof your home, remembering to consider outside stairs and walkways, in addition to the usual shower handle and widened doorways. I would recommend engaging a certified aging-in-place design specialist for a professional safety check.
  6. Make sure you, and all other family members, reinforce the notion that your home is also your parents’ home. They should feel welcome to have visitors, just as they may have in the past. Perhaps even more important, remember that all of us need the stimulation and positive feelings created by socializing with others. Leaving your mom or dad alone in the house every day while you’re off at work and the kids are at school is emotionally debilitating to them. Find an activity, a friend or care-giver who can come by, or look into a senior day care program near your home where your parent can spend at least some day-time hours.
  7. Look for ways to encourage Mom and Dad feel useful. If Mom can no longer drive, perhaps she still likes to cook. Encourage her to do so with your older children. Dad might not be able to get down on the floor to play with your kids, but he could help read bedtime stories to the younger ones. Make your parents a part of the smooth running of the home, if their health allows.
  8. Understand that everyone is likely dealing with heady emotions right now. After taking care of themselves and everyone else for so many decades, your aging parent is coming to terms with a loss of independence, in addition to the loss of a cherished home and the items in it.
  9. Approach each phase of the move-in with extra patience, and the willingness to be flexible. It may help to imagine yourself in your mom or dad’s proverbial shoes. And really, if Dad wants to put his 30-year-old plaid chair in your den because it’s his favorite, allow him this small comfort. No doubt he’s allowed you many throughout your own life.
  10. Try your best to use this time with your folks to bridge strained relationships, forge new ones with the youngest generation, and to build happy memories. Think of what is hopefully years to come as a great gift, because that’s what it is. Life is all in one’s perspective.

As always, I am here to help families caring for aging parents find workable solutions through thoughtful, meaningful dialogue. If you or your parents are in need of such guidance, please contact me at any time.

All the best,

~Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

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