An Age Old Question

At some point we are all faced with that difficult decision about when and how to talk with our parents about downsizing and moving.  Whether they’re fit and healthy, or ailing and need care, the conversation is inevitable.

The best scenario is when our parents decide to move to a retirement-type place on their own, while they’re in good enough health to complain about all the packing.

But when this kind of move is reactionary to illness or death, or to a cooking fire that sets off the internal alarm of the family, the stress is magnified.  Moving is hard enough as it is.  When you complicate it with age, depression, illness and quick decision-making, this kind of move can take on a life of its own.

So what’s a good daughter (son, nephew, niece, friend) to do when their parents are reluctant to prepare for a move?

Be nice! Don’t talk to your parents like they’re children misbehaving.  Don’t scold them and tell them they’re being unreasonable or selfish if they’re reluctant to move.  They’re your parents.  Let them know you completely understand, and will be faced with the same decision yourself someday.  And really do spend some time understanding what they are going through. Empathy goes a long way.  If you aren’t able to have this kind of rapport with them, take a back-seat to someone else who can, and concentrate your support elsewhere in the process.

Ask them for advice.  What did they do for their own parents?  This can be a good idea or a horrible one.  If you already know their experience with their own aging parents was not ideal, don’t go there.  But maybe you can talk with them about how they dealt with it, and how their experience might better guide you. The more input they have, the less likely they are to feel helpless.

Tell them the truth.   Let them know you want them to be in a safe environment, and that frankly, you don’t want to be burdened with worry every night.  Let them know how important it is to you that these things are taken care of sooner rather than later, so you can get back to the business of simply enjoying each other’s company.

Gather resources.  Don’t expect your folks to initiate any of this if they are reluctant to moving.  Look into establishments that make geographic and financial sense. Set a time to sit down with your parents and go over the brochures you’ve gathered.  If you know your parents at all, you will know what to look for in new housing to some degree.  Some places offer golf. Others offer different levels of care. Others are big on the arts. Some are known for great cuisine.  Or you may need a place with round-the-clock-care.  The options are many and they are getting better all the time.  They’ve become less institutional. They’ve become less “old”.

Retirement communities love to hear from you.  They will gladly give you a tour, show you a model apartment and tell you about everything they have to offer. If you like what you see, ask about returning for a meal. And view the place at a different time of day.

But long before you call the realtor or put a deposit down on that cute cottage, there are so many tasks that can be started NOW.  The most important of which is getting rid of “stuff”.  This is the part that throws everyone.  And it’s often the seemingly silly things that bog people down, like the kitchen drawer full of 500 twisty ties or the worry about learning a new phone number.  These worries can paralyze people from even being able to start the process of getting rid of things.

Once you have some direction, the momentum will kick in. And instead of being weighed down with nightmares of giant twisty ties that take over the world, energy is directed toward more productive things, often with growing excitement about living someplace that is maintenance-free and full of activities.  But how do you get this “direction”?

I give talks on how to start this daunting process and I offer services specifically designed for this type of move.  In fact, I have even branded the service.  LifeStaging™  is my specialized service that encompasses everything needed to make such a move.   And while it is great when there is family around to help, my clients are often more willing to implement strategies when the advice comes from me.  There is no history with me, and no baggage, making it less emotional for them.

Aging parents never go out of style.  Neither do their well-meaning yet bewildered kids.

Click here for more information on my LifeStaging™ services.  Or call me for a consultation 207-776-9558.


Kate Lowry is an interior designer located in Portland, Maine. 207-776-9558


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