When you suggest to your parent that maybe it’s time to consider making a change, whether that is moving far away or moving into a senior living facility, does the room get quiet? Does the tension increase? You love them, you want to honor their wishes, and the last thing you want or need is to have them angry with you.
So, would it be easier to take a step back, drop the subject for a while and enjoy the peace and tranquility this would give you? Probably. The problem is that a potential crisis may be lurking around the corner, and we all know that having a plan, even if you don’t have to use it for a while, can avert the stress of crisis management.
While a conversation about a parent’s living situation can be difficult, it does not have to be adversarial. In my years at Laureate Group Senior Communities helping older adults in transition, I have been witness to many family discussions that have honored the experience and feelings of everyone involved and achieved a successful outcome for the entire family.
What does their reluctance really mean?
Consider what your parent’s reluctance to talk about moving really means. Are they trying to be difficult, or is it something else? It is important to recognize that when someone is “being difficult” they are often acting out of fear – fear of change or maybe fear of the unknown.
What you see as hitting the proverbial brick wall with a parent can be a line of defense for them. What if I move and I don’t like it, or can’t afford it? I’m afraid I won’t fit in.
Leading our loved ones through difficult times, helping them make tough and emotional decisions in order to gain a better quality of life, is what most of us want to do.
Sue and Emma’s experience.
Sue, a client of mine, asked me to meet with her aunt, Emma, about the need for her to leave her home and move to a retirement community. Emma was barely managing in her home, but not without some in-home care and considerable help from her niece, who was having growing difficulty balancing caregiving, her full time job and her own family.
Sue loved her aunt and was honored to help her and be a vital part of her life. But she also knew that Emma was alone a lot and that her quality of life had diminished significantly. She worried about her when she couldn’t be with her.
I sat with Emma for quite a while, listened to stories about her home, allowed her to share memories, and finally asked what concerned her about moving.
It wasn’t an easy question for her to answer because she had so many emotions to sort through. Eventually she said,
“What if I don’t like my neighbor? I don’t like my next door neighbor here, but at least I know that and have learned to live with it.”
Emma also revealed that she feared she would no longer see her niece as often if she moved and Sue didn’t need to stop each day to take care of her.
Sue shared with Emma how important it was for her to stay connected, and that she would welcome the opportunity to spend time with her aunt that did not revolve around care giving but was time spent together having fun and making new memories.
How do I talk to a parent about moving?
Until a family listens to their loved one with an open mind and receptive ears, they’ll have difficulty getting at the truth and real feelings. When a family reports that they cannot discuss a parent’s living situation because he or she closes off conversation, it makes me think that they have gotten stuck behind a few common barriers to open and honest communication.
Feeling stuck is frustrating for everyone. But there is a solution, and you can have an honest yet honoring conversation. Perhaps some of this rings true for you. It is my hope that my experience will be of help to you and your family.