Having the discussion about moving

Knowing that home is no longer a safe place for your parent might happen fast or it may be a creeping thought. However it happens, bringing up the subject is always difficult. Preparation is the only way to properly have such an emotional talk.

Have you noticed that your senior loved one is no longer safe at home? Perhaps your mom has been to the emergency room due to falling, or maybe your dad’s cognitive issues are making living at home unsafe. In any case, breaching the subject of moving out of the home and into a senior living community can be difficult. With the right preparation, an empathetic approach, and the best steps to follow up the conversation, you can make the transition a bit easier for everyone involved.

Before the Conversation

The key to a productive conversation about the potential of moving is being prepared. According to the National Institute on Aging, be sure you have exhausted all resources available for keeping your loved one living independently at home. If you have not explored housekeeping services, meal delivery services, or home care companionship services, you could be missing out on ways to fill in the gap at home.

After you are confident you have exhausted all other options for staying at home, the next step is to consult with the geriatrician. Your loved one’s doctor can give you a list of concerns associated with specific medical concerns for living at home safely. In addition, the doctor can give you advice on how to handle any “push back” during the meeting. In many cases, geriatricians will offer to phone in for the meeting or even facilitate the meeting in their office, bearing the burden for giving the hard news.

You don’t want your loved one to feel ambushed by a large group of family members, but it is wise to bring in a few trusted people to offer support and advice during the initial conversation. Consider calling your siblings or other people who live nearby and have seen the dangers firsthand. Ask these people to share their thoughts with you and invite them to the meeting. Everyone can benefit from the extra support and points of view.

While you do not need to have the perfect living solution on hand during the initial talk, you can do some preliminary research to bring with you. Find a few brochures of assisted living communities or senior care communities that could be a move-in option.

Finally, take time to write down specific incidents that worry you. These can be times your loved one fell or times they expressed they were feeling lonely. While you certainly do not have to share the complete list during your conversation, it is good to have specific examples to share that back up your thoughts on moving.

During the Conversation

On the day of your conversation, try to soften up the atmosphere with coffee or pleasantries. If you have invited trusted family members for support, have them come over thirty minutes early to enjoy some time together. Then, you can approach the subject while sitting around the kitchen table (or somewhere comfortable). Resist the temptation to have this conversation in a public place. This is a serious subject that can be quite emotional for everyone involved, which makes home the best place to talk about it.

Begin your talk by laying out your concerns. You can use phrases like, “it makes me nervous when…” or, “when you were in the hospital the last time, it affected me by…”. These conversation starters give you the opportunity to share your feelings as well as offering specific examples of safety or loneliness concerns you have. This is also a good time to share any concerns from the geriatrician.

Give your loved one plenty of time to talk during this conversation too. Without their input, it can be perceived as aggressive or bossy. Instead, make it a true discussion by asking them how they feel about what you say or how they can feel safer.

If you know family members or friends who live in senior care communities, talk about what life is like there. Hearing positive experiences can make the idea of community living more exciting than dreadful.

Having a conversation about such a delicate subject is difficult, and you should tread lightly to increase your chances of being heard. You know your loved one best; if you feel like they are becoming defensive or overly upset, respectfully stop the conversation and reapproach it at a later time.

After the Conversation

Give your loved one the time and space to think about your discussion. Then, approach the subject again a few days later to see if they have any questions. If they are feeling reluctant or unsure, offer to set up a lunch and tour at one of the senior living communities nearby. Simply seeing a vibrant community, and enjoying a meal with peers, can sometimes tip the scale in your favor.

You can ease any fears by setting up a doctor appointment. Spend the time in the office together talking about safety concerns and solutions with the geriatrician or nursing staff. Hearing your worries validated by an objective medical professional can make a significant impact. If your family sees a counselor or social worker, invite these professionals into the discussions as well.

Involve your loved one in choosing a senior community as much as they are able. Tour communities together and ask plenty of questions. Plan a garage sale while downsizing and packing up together. Be especially attentive during the months leading up to the move and throughout the first six months of the transition.

Keep your loved one’s safety, mental health, and overall wellness in mind as you navigate this emotional time. Once they are in a senior care community, you will both enjoy peace of mind and other health benefits. Good luck!

Last Updated: May 22, 2018


  • National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 1). When it’s time to leave home. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/when-its-time-leave-home
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