Living far away from your family can be a struggle at any point in life, but as your parents age and certain tasks become more difficult for them, it becomes especially hard. Being the caregiver for an aging loved one requires a lot of time, effort and energy – but being a long-distant caregiver brings its share of extra challenges.
If every time your loved one needs you at their side during a hospital stay, you have to spend several hours and a good amount of cash traveling to get there, you’ll quickly find the situation unsustainable.
That introduces the difficult question many families face: should you move your senior parents close to you?
It’s not a question with an easy answer and figuring out what will work for you and your family requires looking closely at your particular situation and the needs of your loved one. One thing’s for certain though, it’s much easier to make that move before your loved one suffers an injury or medical emergency, so talking about it proactively will be best for everyone involved.
Reasons to Move Your Parents Closer
The reasons to move your senior parents closer to you are pretty persuasive.
They’ll be safer when you’re close.
This is probably the number one reason most families make this decision. When your loved one reaches an age where falling down can mean a long hospital stay, you want to keep them close enough to easily check on them regularly. You know the troubling image of someone stuck on the ground for hours after a fall won’t happen if you’re just a quick drive away.
They can spend more time with family in the years they have left.
No one lives forever and even if your loved one has a good number of years left, you want the chance to spend as much of those years with them as possible. If they have grandkids, the chance to watch them grow up more closely is a meaningful opportunity to most seniors. They can’t get on a plane every time your kids have a soccer game or dance recital, but if they live in your same city, they can actually be present for those precious moments.
You won’t have to travel far when they need you.
If your loved one does end up in the hospital after a fall or due to an illness, you’ll want to be there with them. If they’re living a few hours away (or more) that means time off work, the cost of plane tickets or gas, and a limited amount of time you’ll be able to stay with them before you need to get back to your life. If the same thing happens nearby, getting to the hospital to visit them or to their home to provide them the care they need during recuperation is something you’ll be able to reasonably fit into your life around all your other responsibilities.
You have time to provide some of the care they would otherwise need to hire someone or move to assisted living for.
You can help with things like cleaning, grocery shopping, and driving them to doctor’s appointments. If they’re living on their own in a city where they don’t have close family, they’re probably stuck either paying someone to help them with those things or depending on charity or the kindness of friends. If they move close enough, you can even help with some of the things assisted living staff provide, like help getting dressed in the morning and taking their meds on time, forestalling the need for an expensive move to a facility.
Reasons for Your Parents to Stay Where They Are
Those are all pretty compelling reasons to get your loved one set up somewhere nearby, but there are some similarly convincing reasons to avoid uprooting them from the life they’re living now.
It’s the home they love and have spent their life in.
The city and house they live in now may well be where they’ve spent the majority of their life. If they spent time decorating the house to look exactly as they like or put years of work into that garden in the backyard, leaving all that behind isn’t easy. Everybody wants to live out their senior years in the place and lifestyle that feels most right to them and if your parents have carved out a life they love where they are now, then moving will mean giving all that up.
Their friends and hobbies are based in the community they’re in now.
If your parents volunteer, have a church community, or have friends in the area they regularly meet up with, moving them away from their current home will force them to lose all that. Asking a parent to leave behind a full, active life – even if you feel strongly it’s for their own good – is a lot to ask. Starting over is hard at any point in life, but especially so for the elderly.
How Can We Decide?
Knowing the plusses of each option doesn’t make the decision for you. Here are a few questions and discussions to have to figure out the right choice for your loved one.
First, find out what your loved one most wants.
This isn’t a decision you can make without their input. Find out how they feel about the idea and what concerns they have about moving, as well as any concerns they have about living on their own where they are now.
Consider what resources they have nearby.
Do they have a close friend or church community willing to step in to fill the roles you would fill if they moved closer? If your desire to get them closer to you is based on needs they don’t actually have, then you can forego a lot of potential trouble by simply finding out what kind of help they have available where they are now.
Figure out the logistics of where they would live if they moved.
Would they be moving in with you, or were you thinking of an independent living community nearby? The specifics of where they’d be living should play a role in the conversation as well, since they’ll affect the cost of moving them closer and what the experience will be for both of you.
Consider the resources you have to offer if they move.
Are you prepared to become their primary caregiver? That could potentially eat up a lot of your time and energy and may not be a feasible job for you to take on alongside your other responsibilities. If you and your family aren’t in a position to provide care to the degree your loved one needs, then your discussion may need to shift to finding an assisted living facility.
Research local churches, organizations, and activities nearby that could fill in for some of what they’re leaving behind.
If your loved one devotedly goes to church every Sunday, look into the local churches that most closely resemble theirs. If they volunteer at a museum they love, research the museums in your area to see if there’s one that’s similar. Leaving behind the activities they love will be easier if they know they’re coming to a place where they can pick up similar ones.
Research options available to make staying where they are safer.
If safety’s your main concern, there are a few things you can do to make aging in place safer. Some simple home modifications can alleviate a lot of the risks of living alone as a senior. Medical alert systems can ensure loved ones know immediately when a senior has a medical emergency. And electronic medication dispensers can help your loved one make sure they’re taking the right meds at the right time each day.
Consider if any of these solutions can satisfy the concerns you have, or if they fall short of your loved one’s needs.
Do a cost-benefit analysis using all the information you have.
Finally, take all the information you’ve gathered and discussed and determine if the benefits of moving outweigh the risks of staying. The answer still won’t necessarily be easy, but considering these various questions helps you know you’re making a well-informed decision.