My Aging Parents Won’t Move: 7 Tips for Getting Unstuck

Trying to convince your aging parent to move to a retirement home isn’t for the faint of heart. Despite your best intentions, you may well meet with resistance.Here are some tips on how to overcome that.

1. Take a step back – imagine things from your parent’s perspective

Imagine if someone questioned your ability to make your own decisions. You’d push back. Now imagine that person was one of your own kids. Someone whose diapers you changed, whose school lunches you packed, and whose growth into a happy, well-adjusted adult you did your best to nurture.

Is it any wonder that parents resist the advice of their children? No matter how old you get, your parent will always carry around a younger version of you inside their head. Who are you to tell them how to run their lives?

So, before you label your aging parent as stubborn for staying put and ignoring their own safety, think about what you may be asking them to give up. Perhaps it’s a home full of memories, mementoes they’ll be forced to give up when they downsize. Or a sense control over their own lives, particularly if they’re facing a health crisis.

Recognize that this is not an easy decision you’re asking them to make. Because, when it comes right down to it, it is their decision. Avoid backing them into a corner. Invite them to share their concerns. Listen. Don’t debate what they’re feeling. Show that you’re taking them seriously by offering to help them come up with a plan that takes their concerns into account. Let them see that you’re on their side.

2. Try to uncover the underlying cause of their resistance

As your parent begins to feel safe expressing their concerns to you, you may start to get a better understanding of their underlying fears. For instance, if one of their fears about moving is losing touch with current friends and neighbours and becoming socially isolated, try to figure out ways to address this. Perhaps it’s getting some of those same friends and neighbours to pay your parent a visit and discuss how they can stay connected. Or, if you’re trying to encourage your parent to move to a retirement home, it’s learning what opportunities will be there for them to make new friends.

3. Clear up misconceptions

Sometimes fears can be based on misconceptions. For example, a lot of people incorrectly assume that there’s no difference between retirement homes and nursing homes. Or they may have outdated notions about what life inside a retirement home is like.

Make sure your parent is basing their decision on accurate, up-to-date information. Check out our post that explains how retirement homes and nursing homes are different. Look at the websites of a few retirement homes to get a feel for what they offer, not just in terms of care options, but also social life. Share some of the information with your parent to show them how retirement living might not be as bad as they assume. 

4. Emphasize benefits of a move as opposed to the need for care

Few people are happy to be told they need care, even if it’s true. That’s why focusing on the advantages of a move over the necessity of a move can get you more traction. Are there certain aspects of living in their own home that your parent isn’t enjoying anymore? Maintaining their own property? Making their own meals? Climbing the stairs? Feeling lonely? Point out how moving to a retirement home could eliminate these hassles. Plus, remind them that selling their home could free up equity they could spend on things that are important to them.

5. Mention friends who’ve already moved to retirement living 

Despite your best intentions, your parent may still be reluctant to take your advice. But if they were to hear from someone in their social circle who’s already moved to a retirement home and is enjoying life there, that could be a game-changer. If you know of such a person, don’t be afraid to drop their name into a conversation. “Hey, Mom. I heard so-and-so moved to such-and-such a place…”

6. Give them time to think about it

Remember: you’re asking your parent to make a major life decision. If at all possible, give them time to sit with it a while. Avoid nagging them. Don’t forget how much you hated it when they nagged you as a kid. More often than not, it probably just made you dig in your heels.

7. If you’re stuck, get a professional to help you out

Even if you follow all the preceding steps, you may still be at an impasse. Or perhaps your history with your parent simply makes it impossible to have any sort of calm discussion with them on this topic. It happens. No need to blame yourself.

If that’s the position in which you find yourself, you may want to enlist the help of a trustworthy professional who’s skilled in navigating these sorts of conversations. 

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Want more advice on how to help your parent transition to retirement living? Our e-book, Breadcrumbs: Piecing Together the Retirement Living Industry dives a little deeper into the issues you might face.