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How to talk to Seniors about Moving

By Diane Schmidt

After several years of taking care of our bed-ridden father, the time had come for us to discuss long-term options as we could no longer properly care for him. Feelings of guilt and overwhelming sadness were all part of the experience, and something I think my mother struggled with for years afterward. Even though the decision to move my father into a facility was more his choice than ours, it was still one of the hardest moments we experienced as a family.

Unfortunately, this is something most of us will have to face during our lifetime. Making this decision as a caregiver and talking to your family member about such a move will be extremely difficult, bringing with it feelings of failure and guilt that you didn’t do more.

And let’s face it, there is no easy way to do this; however, there are some helpful points to keep in mind.

Be aware that both you and your older family member have varying feelings that are attached to this decision. Make sure you recognize them and address them if you can.

Remain calm. Raised voices or outward displays of anger will only leave both parties feeling hurt. This is a highly emotional time for both of you; recognize it, but try not to let it enter the conversation.

Give your family member a chance to react to this decision and voice their concerns. Do not console them by saying how great it will be to move. Instead, hear them out. Listen to their fears. Acknowledge how hard this is for them. Empathize.

Calmly tell them why this is the right decision and explain it in practical terms. Don’t be emotional. Explain how they need more medical expertise or attention than you can provide; that you want them to be safe and well-cared for. Stay focussed on the practical reasons and do not address any emotional reasons; you’re stressed, your family is unhappy, etc..

Do not coax them into moving by making false promises, such as “if you don’t like it, you can move back home.”

Reassure them by telling them that you and your family will continue to be actively involved in their life. For seniors, moving from a home to a facility feels like they’ve been severed from their family. Knowing that you will continue to see each other on a regular basis helps them feel connected.

Let the senior member make some decisions, such as a choice between facilities, what to move and what to leave, room colours, etc… Anything that will help them feel they’re part of this decision.

If you’re family member is having a difficult time accepting this decision, allow them time to absorb the news. You may also consider seeking professional help, such as a counsellor or a senior moving specialist. Sometimes it helps to have a neutral outside party to talk to.

Don’t be hard on yourself; try not to feel bad about this decision. Be good to yourself and know that this is the best thing for the entire family. Dealing with your emotions outside of the decision will help ensure that your conversation remains calm and focussed.
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