by Janet Campbell
Many people ultimately choose to step into the role of family caregiver, but figuring out exactly when they should take on that responsibility isn’t always easy. This is especially true if you don’t live in the same area as your senior loved one.
Since relocating comes with its own challenges, making sure the time is right is essential. That way, you can move with confidence, knowing you’re doing the best thing. Here is some guidance to help you figure it out and make the move as manageable as possible.
Start with a Conversation
Before you do anything else, start with a conversation. Don’t necessarily begin with presenting the idea of moving. Instead, simply talk with them to gauge how they’re doing in general.
Ideally, arrange to talk in-person at your loved one’s home. That way, you can chat about their day-to-day life while observing their living situation, giving you a chance to spot signs they may be struggling. In some cases, one-on-one conversations may let you see symptoms of cognitive decline or developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.
A lack of personal hygiene or home cleanliness signals they may need help. Sudden weight loss could be a sign of meal preparation struggles or food insecurity. Research from Tulane University points out the dangers of social isolation, such as inability to get to places to engage with friends, a limited social circle, or mental health struggles.
Present Your Offer of Help Strategically
As you talk, inquire about their life gently. To reduce the chance your loved one will become defensive about their capabilities, don’t be accusatory or overly forward.
One study in the Journal of Consumer Research showed that seniors struggle with accepting help if it’s broached in a way that makes them feel old. Do your best to frame the support positively, choosing a route that comes from a place of respect, appreciation, and admiration, instead of doubting their capabilities.
Ideally, you want to make the prospect of moving as much about you as about them. Highlighting your desire to spend more time with them and how that benefits your life can be a great starting point, as it shows you don’t view the situation as a burden.
Address the Housing Part of the Equation
Once you know that it’s the right time to move, you’ll need to handle your housing needs.
First, determine whether your loved one can remain in their house. If they’re able to care for their property — either alone or with help from service providers, like housekeepers or landscapers — then support them if they have a desire to stay there. Spend some time making their house easier to manage, such as assisting with decluttering, arranging for needed services, or setting up automatic bill pay.
If they can’t effectively manage their home, then explore moving in with them or having them move in with you. Along with your needs, consider what features will benefit your senior loved one if (or when) they move in with you. For instance, you may want to choose an accessible home that is easier for them to navigate.
These considerations and conversations are a good place to begin approaching the significant changes you and your loved one might be undertaking.
Janet Campbell is the creator of Elder Spark, which aims to help seniors find resources and motivation to stay fit in their golden years.