We often consult with the families of seniors who are resisting a move, so today we’ll talk a little bit about that conversation. We call it “The Moving Conversation.” Facing the need to get help with daily activities is difficult and almost always emotional.
Timing “The Moving Conversation”
Families who have been dealing with the issue for a long time may have had many conversations, without reaching resolution. Sometimes, they’ve postponed having the conversation at all, until a crisis happens.
Our suggestion is to begin the conversation at the first sign that daily activities are not going well. Spoiled food, an empty refrigerator, unopened mail, or stacks of unwashed dishes might be indicators.
We also suggest opening the discussion when the elderly person is relaxed. Holidays may seem like a convenient time for “The Moving Conversation” with the folks, but in our experience that is usually not a good choice. We advise finding a time when not much else is happening. Make sure that everyone can focus calmly on the key issues triggering the concern.
Processing the reality
For several years now, a family we know has had conversations off and on with their mother about the possibility of moving to a senior facility. Every so often, the mom will say something like, “I can’t ever move to one of those places. They never let you shower more than once a week.” Or, “I can’t move to one of those places. They never have gardens.”
When she says these thing, the daughters have been reminding her that she knows that her statements just aren’t true, then they give her counter-examples.
But, recently, the youngest daughter put her foot down. She said, “Mom, if you don’t want to move, please just say you don’t want to move. It’s OK. I’m just tired of hearing these made-up reasons for why you can’t move, so please stop inventing them.” They all had a laugh, the mom included.
The most common issue that has triggered moves for our clients is one or more obstacles in the current home. It’s too big, it has too many stairs, or maintenance has become too burdensome. Sometimes, the issues include other safety or health concerns.
Losing the ability to drive is a common trigger for considering a move. Care facilities usually have great transportation alternatives, which residents can use instead of driving.
In some cases, health issues have become too difficult to handle in the home. We sometimes receive referrals from home care agencies who have clients whose needs have grown to exceed the agency’s capabilities.
Setting the tone
Probably the best advice we’ve heard about how to have a successful conversation about this is to keep the focus on the issues, and to treat seniors as the adults that they are, with respect and love.
We’ve also found that “The Moving Conversation” extends over a long period of time. It isn’t always a one-time event. It can happen over time and through many smaller talks. The hardest talk is that first one, so it’s good to remember that that first talk does not need to end in consensus.