Do your aging parents live too far away?

The key is to help aging parents weigh their relocation options and help with the move.

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Assisting aging parents who live far away is tough. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the challenges they may be facing on a day-to-day basis if you cannot see the changes taking place in their lives. Many boomers talk about moving their aging parents closer to them, but this idea comes with many challenges of its own. The reality is that families find it difficult to relocate older adults for a variety of reasons:

  • The parent(s) did not want to relocate and leave behind friends and community;
  • The parent(s) felt that relocating was too overwhelming a task to undertake;
  • A health crisis occurred, eliminating the possibility to relocate;
  • The adult children were not living in a location suitable for older adults (e.g. limited health care or housing options).

Some families will try to preempt this situation by stepping in and managing the entire move. It is key to not force a decision on an aging adult. On the other hand, some degree of nudging is often required because of the overwhelming nature of a relocation decision. It is important to tackle this before the possibility of a decision is taken away due to health problems or other issues. Unfortunately it is very difficult to know when the right time is to undertake the move.

Some tasks to consider if moving mom or dad closer to you are:

  • Is your living arrangement stable so that your parent will not need to relocate again? Multiple moves may be detrimental to both physical and mental health.
  • Do your parents have friendships, even older ones that can be rekindled, that would be able to assist with settling into the community?
  • Are there local community or faith groups who can provide social interaction and guidance while settling into the new home?

Prepare a move team who can help with all aspects of the relocation including:

  • Selling or donating items from the current household;
  • Cleaning and preparing the home for sale or for cancelling a lease;
  • Readying the new location with suitable household items;
  • Moving personal items such as clothing and mementos;
  • Arranging for continuous medical support though transfers from one community to the next, including patient files;
  • Ensuring medical coverage during the relocation process and adequate coverage if there is a wait period for insurance coverage; and,
  • Meeting with legal advisers to ensure that key documents such as wills, power of attorney and health directives are valid in the new jurisdiction.

Lastly, make family and friends the focus of the move. For example create memories by holding a reunion in the home that is soon to be sold. Make the relocation trip a journey to be shared with other family members rather than only a destination. With some careful planning the odds are in your favour that your aging parent will settle into their new home and wish they had made the relocation decision sooner.

Lee Anne Davies has worked as a consultant for insurance, wealth management, banking and financial education companies. She has a PhD in Aging, Health and Well-being and a Masters of Arts (MA) in Gerontology and Health Studies from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from Athabasca University’s Information Technology Management program. She’s also successfully completed the Canadian Securities Course and the Professional Financial Planning Course. To read more from Davies, visit her blog Agenomics.

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