As life expectancy increases Many more families are faced with looking after aging family members. If you are relocating to a new community your situation may be complicated further by the distance. You are not alone. There are many people who are confronting the issue of giving to care for an older family member from a distance, or facing the decision of having the family member or members, make the move with them.
This can be a difﬁcult time as you coordinate your own move while attempting to understand the older family members needs and make arrangements to meet those needs. On top of that, you still have time restraints brought on by work, family or children that must also be accommodated. Understand that very few families come together in caregiving situations without some disagreement, so be realistic about your family situation and expectations.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that your parent should retain as much decision making responsibility as possible. Your primary objective should be to help them fulﬁll their needs, not take over their life. In some situations, when they are unable to make decisions, you may need to do so on their behalf. But if at all possible, allow your parent to control his or her future.
Staying at home
Many studies have shown, that when given a choice, older people prefer to remain in their own home. If possible, they want to remain independent and not become a burden to their children.
All too often, relocating family members panic, fearing that their elderly parent cannot live alone when perhaps all that is needed is a simple modification to the home and the help of a few friends.
Perhaps someone else in the family may wish to share a home with your parent and be responsible for their care. If not, companions and sitters are available to provide supervision, social stimulation, light meal preparation and some degree of personal care assistance.
If you are concerned about your parent’s eating habits. you can arrange to have home meals delivered right to their front door. The food is warm and nutritious and meals for some special diets such as salt. sugar and calorie restrictions may be available on request.
You should identity an informal support network and get a clear understanding of how they are willing to help. Family and friends living in the area may help your relative from time to time, visit and run errands. Some other people who may be willing to help are neighbors and fellow members of your parent‘s church or synagogue.
Talk to these people and explain that you are concerned about your relative and would appreciate their assistance. Remember. these people care about your relative and in most cases. they are more than willing to help.
Ask them to call once or twice a week or to stop by occasionally and discreetly check around the house and observe your parent’s appearance and behavior. Ask others to share meals with your parent, or simply make sure that he or she gets out of the house from time to time. If necessary, ask someone your relative trusts to assist with paying bills or have the bills forwarded to you.
If you do not have any friends or family who can help you. it may be necessary to work with community agencies to get your relatives needs met. There are an abundance of resources available such as senior centers and adult care facilities. There are also a variety of support groups such as Alzheimer‘s and related disease groups. Mended Heart, cancer support groups. etc. Contact your local family service agency or Agency on Aging to ﬁnd out what is available in your area.
Encourage these helpers to call you collect whenever needed or consider ordering residential 800 services so they can call you without paying for the call. Don’t forget to show your appreciation to all the people in your support network. They are your – and your parent’s – lifeline.
You will probably want to stay in touch with your relative most often by telephone. Organize your thoughts before calling and call during off—peak hours. Schedule conference calls when several family members can talk simultaneously. This will eliminate the need to make several calls to individual family members.
This may be an appropriate time for your parent to consider moving to a more sheltered environment such as a senior citizen apartment complex or a nursing home. There are a number of housing options available in most communities that offer seniors various levels of support.
Together, you and your parent should decide whether to look for a facility in your parent’s current community or to look in the new city where you are relocating. Ask yourself whether you will have the time to visit regularly, or whether your parent would be better off in their hometown where he or she still can visit with lifelong friends and other family members.
Independent living situations, such as a planned retirement community may be a good ﬁrst step of moving from the family home. Typically, these are individual units such as condominiums or apart- ments where the senior citizen can continue to live independently without the maintenance of a large home or yard.
Residential care and assisted living centers usually consist of smaller one or two room living quarters and residents may share a meal or two in a com- munity dining room. There are usually organized activities in which the residents are encouraged to participate. Intermediate nursing facilities and skilled nursing facilities are for those who need medical attention and supervision on a regular basis.
You and your parent will want to identity the type of housing that best meets his or her needs and then visit several complexes. When evaluating the different types of supportive housing, keep in mind the following issues:
Is the unit affordable? What services are included in the monthly rate?
Some charge an all-inclusive monthly rate while others may otl‘er a menu ofoptions or services.‘ available to‘r an additional fee.
Can the resident bring in furniture and other personal belongings?
Your parent will have to get used to the new surroundings and having some familiar furnishings may make the transition a bit easier.
Is the unit handicap accessible?
Your parent may be i in good physical shape today, but you need to verify that they can continue living there ifsomeday they need to use a walker or wheelchair.
Are the stores and places to worship in close proximity? Is public transportation available?
You’ll need to decide whether your par- ent will give up the use of their own car. This is a major threat to their independence so be sure there are easily accessible transportation al-tematives.
What are the staffs qualifications?
Check their credentials and talk to the employees who will have any interaction with your parent. Look for those who are knowledgeable and attentive.
Are the current residents satisﬁed?
Chat with some of the residents and find out what they like or dislike about the facility. Be sure to talk to several so that one overly-positive or negative opinion doesn’t cloud the real facts.
Relocating with the family
You can invite your parent to combine households and move with you. Many adult children feel that it would be easier to share a house with their elderly parent rather than care for them long distance. In reality, this is not always the case.
Keep in mind that relocating is hard for older persons. The decision to move can be a very emotional and stressful lite‘ event. Most seniors do not want to leave their homes and most certainly do not wan’t to live with adult children.
If you are seriously considering having a parent move with you into your new home, you need to think about how this decision will affect you, your parent, your spouse and children, and even other family members such as any brothers and sisters you may have. Set aside some time for every member of your family to frankly discuss all of the issues. Once your elderly parent has moved to a different town or state, it is not so easy to move them back.
You should review the following questions very carefully:
How do your spouse and children honestly feel about the move? Can you all live under the same roof? Strained family relationships do not necessarily get better in close quarters.
Will there be adequate space in your new home for the two combined households? It may be difficult for your parent to part with some of his or her belongings, so you will need to help them decide what fumiture and other possessions will be stored, discarded or given away.
How will you protect each other’s privacy? What are the living and sleeping arrangements? Unless you are moving into a very large home, you will need to give up some personal space to aecomodate an extra person.
How will day-to-day activities change? If they are able, you may ask your mother or father to help you take care of the house or babysit your children. If your parent is unable to care for themselves, decide now how you will delegate the responsibility for their care.
What are the ﬁnancial considerations for both parties? How will this aﬂect the family budget? Often there will be medical and other additional expenses to be met. Review your parents health care coverage and determine how additional expenses will be met.
What about your parents social needs? Will you and your family be the only source of companionship and entertainment? Check into local senior activities an’d adult care-giver support groups- ~ sure to save sufﬁcient quality time for your spouse and children.
If you do decide to relocate with your elderly parent. be patient It will take time for both of you to adjust to your new surroundings and living arrangements. For some. the adjustment will be made qttic‘ltfk but for others. the adjustment may be long and difficult.
Who can help?
Before you relocate let your employer know that you are concerned about how your transfer will affect your elderly parent. Your company may offer benefits that would be useful such as support groups or ﬂexible use of leave time.
You may be able to work something out with your employer to make it easier for you to respond to emergency situations. Also, your relocation team may be able to help you find housing and senior services for your parent in your new community.
If none of these services are available through your employer, social workers and other geriatric professionals can help you and your family assess your parent‘s abilities and needs. Many hospitals have established care management services or can refer you to those they have experience with. These specialists can make referrals to community resources and may be available to monitor and follow up on the your parent‘s situation.
Careful planning, honest discussion and thoughtful consideration for the needs of the entire family will result in a successful relocation for you and your parent.