Senior Housing: The Emotional Side of Moving Your Elderly Parent


Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. Our home is our castle – a shelter from the storm. These old sayings and many more indicate how most of us emotionally view our home.

For most of us, the feeling is less about how large or how fancy a home is than about it being a place where we belong. Many of us, after getting out of the house we were so anxious to leave as young adults, still find ourselves lovingly attached to the humble dwelling of our childhood.

Now, place yourself in the shoes of your aging mother who has lived in that home since you were a child. It’s a modest place, and your parents could have afforded better, but they stayed because they liked the neighborhood. Now, Dad’s gone and Mom can’t handle the house. She needs something that is easier for her to move around in. She could use more company. One day she’ll likely need nursing care for her diabetes.

You know that a “wise” decision would be for her to move to assisted living. There’s a nice one not too far away, and they are associated with a good nursing home. However, how do you approach Mom? You are attached to the house, too, so you know on one level how hard this will be for her. But you also care about her health and safety. You go back and forth in your head. You talk it over with your husband and check with friends who have gone through the same thing.

You decide that it’s best to bring up the subject to Mom on a day when living in the house is not going so well. Perhaps a day when there are plumbing problems or when she has to pay a hefty bill for lawn care. That’s smart. It gives you an opening where you can say, “Mom, I know it’s hard to think of moving, but we both know that this isn’t a safe place for you. Even with modifications, you won’t be able to stay here long. How about us taking some afternoons to explore housing options?”

Mom balks at first, of course, but you are pretty sure that her biggest dread is how to get from point A (this house) to point B (the new place). Moving is daunting to many of us because we have to, well, move. We have to move everything we’ve hung onto for years. We have to figure out what to do with that huge china closet from Uncle George that fits perfectly under the stairwell. We have to figure out what to do with Dad’s miniature train collection. We have to figure out what to do with the symbols that represent a life lived. What to keep? What to get rid of? And how do we carry out the process?