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Talking to your parents about a retirement community.

Many years ago, your Mom or Dad may have felt a bit anxious about giving you “the talk.” You know, that discomforting discussion about entering a new phase of your life complicated by the physical and emotional changes of young adulthood…with all their potential for personal progress or pitfalls.

These days, it may be you struggling with the difficult “talk” you want to share. But this time it’s with your parents about the changes they may be experiencing in their own lives and the move you see as being in the best interests of their future health and happiness–out of their home and into a retirement community.

Broaching this topic isn’t easy for anyone. In her book, The Eldercare Handbook (Harper Collins, 2006), Stella Henry, R.N. acknowledges the emotional aspects and writes that “feelings emerge that can be confusing and overwhelming.” Ms. Henry has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and knows that one of the barriers seniors have to making a move is the idea that they sometimes “unrealistically believe they can care for themselves for the rest of their lives.”

Valerie Stumer-Heller, Director of Marketing at Moravian Village, understands the many challenges this stage of life presents, including how and when to speak to Mom or Dad about moving. Valerie works closely with individuals and their families as they prepare to move to Moravian Village and from her extensive experience, she suggests that one of the most important aspects of this discussion is including the parent in the decision-making process, which leads to the best outcome. “Let your parents know you want them to have as much input and control as possible, and they’ll feel more comfortable visiting communities and making a choice about where they want to live.”

Other thoughts to keep in mind include having the conversation early in the process. It allows you to better understand and honor the long-term wishes of your parents before they have a physical or medical reason which may force them to move under less than ideal circumstances. By doing this, you underscore the idea that while they don’t need to move today, beginning to explore options together now is important.

As the conversation unfolds, listen carefully so your parents know you are hearing their concerns. Assure them that you want to learn what they want as they grow older and their daily needs or activities change. And remember to occasionally just take a deep breath and be calm. This will help both you and your parents stay focused on the benefits of moving into a retirement community as an active, social environment they will truly enjoy and benefit from.

So as you prepare to discuss this important decision with your parents, keep the following tips in mind. Remember: You’re moving a lifetime, not just your Mom or Dad.

Let your parents guide the process on their own terms.
They may want to invest a great deal of time sorting through books or artwork or crystal candy dishes. Their connections to these objects are valuable, and honoring them is important. Follow their lead. How they proceed through the process may not feel practical to you, but it is progress and that’s what matters.

Be realistic about how much time you can devote to the process.
While it will vary depending on the size of the home and its contents, be prepared for the time required. Families doing this together should allow for 60 – 80 hours for packing, unpacking and overseeing the mover and resettling into the new home. Allow 20 – 40 hours for downsizing and another 10 – 20 hours for arranging and overseeing donations and clean out. Alternatively, you may want to hire help for the labor-intensive part of this move and spend more time giving your parents emotional support during this period of change. Getting that professional help is more affordable than you may think.

Concentrate on the big picture.
Recognize that senior moves are emotional and stressful for everyone, including you and your family. As you work through the inevitable conflicts among you and your siblings and continue to care for the needs of your own family, keep three objectives in mind: Care for your parents, care for yourself, and keep your family intact.


Moravian Village of Bethlehem is a leader in 55+ independent living and has a variety of senior living options in their cottage and apartment communities located in beautiful historic Bethlehem.  On-site personal care and skilled nursing are also available for residents as needs arise.  The staff has years of experience and are happy to provide you with insights on how you can best support your parents emotionally and physically as they consider moving to an independent senior living community.

For more information about Moravian Village, please contact Valerie Stumer-Heller at 610-625-4885 x 337 or vstumer-heller@moravianvillage.com.

SOURCES:
The Eldercare Handbook
Harper Collins, 2006

6 Ways to Prepare for “The Talk” about Moving to Senior Living Agingcare.com

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