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Driving Miss Daisy: Is Moving Grandma Worth it?

At some point, most seniors must decide whether to move out of a long-established home and into another. That other home can be the home of a child (and their family) or an independent living facility, assisted living or skilled nursing facility. Sometimes the decision will be obvious; other times it will not.

Parental health will obviously be a factor. If your parent is still in reasonable health the decision can be made in a more leisurely manner. If their health has started to go downhill - and especially if they need mobility equipment or significant assistance with incontinence or other medical concerns - the decision will need to be made more quickly.

If you can begin to have conversations with your parents before the need arises, you will find the entire process easier, and so will they. Make sure you don't tell them what to do. Rather, you should open the conversation in a way that shows you are willing to carry some of the burden. Most parents don't want to be an encumbrance, but if you show you want to help make this process work, you are more likely to be successful.

You will likely meet resistance regardless of need. You may need to back off for a while. You can also suggest that the parent(s) indulge you in a visit to a facility or two, especially if they're near their home. You might want to take the time to visit them in advance, especially to get some advice on handling resistance.

Considerations

Of course, the health of the parent(s) will indicate the level of care they need.

The second consideration should be an honest assessment of their current home. They may be perfectly capable of being independent, but if they go up and down stairs multiple times per day, maintain the yard and keep the house clean, they may be doing more than they should.

Finances obviously play a role in the options you have. You'll need to assess their social security, pension, investment income and value of their home.

If they have long-term care insurance, find out what the policy covers. Some policies will pay for family members to provide care. You may have to take some certification courses, but it is a possibility.

If you do move grandma, consider all the things you need to move with her. You will need her prescriptions, glasses, personal items, doctors phone numbers, appropriate clothing, accessories to make her feel more comfortable, personal electronics, personal decorative touches and other items to make the move less traumatic.

Should I Take Mom and Dad In?

You and your family may be considering taking your parents in to live with you. This option should only be considered when you can make plans well ahead of the time. You have a lot to consider in this decision, as does your parent. The change in your way of life, the obligations you take on, financial burdens you might incur and other factors will affect your decision.

Levels of Care

We generally see three levels of care: independent with some support, assisted living, and skilled nursing.

Independent living allows your parents to live on their own while taking advantage of some extra services. They won't have to mow the lawn, but if they find a villa-style community, they will be able to garden. They will have a kitchen, but many places have meal plans available for easy access.

Assisted living places help people who need assistance with one of the key activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating or dressing. Long-term care insurance may help support their residence in such a facility. Assisted living typically costs more than independent living and almost always includes three meals per day.

Skilled nursing is the most intensive and most expensive form of care. Long-term care policies will almost always help cover the costs. Many places are private pay and take Medicaid. If you can place your loved one in a skilled nursing facility with Medicaid beds, when their resources run out, they'll most likely be able to stay there on Medicaid.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities allow the elderly to age in place. These communities have all three levels of care, and people may move to another level as their situation changes. You have to be in good health, and they do require a hefty initial buy-in, but being in one place has a certain appeal.

The Trip

If you're going to be moving your parent a long distance, you will need to plan the trip carefully. Consult with their physicians in advance. Contact the airline for assistance if necessary. Make sure you have the medical supplies they need, including enough incontinence products and travel-appropriate orthopedic equipment.

Conclusion

If at some point your mother says, "We overstayed our welcome in our home because of the stairs," consider all options carefully.

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