Sensitive Senior Moving
“I’m not moving out of this house until they take me out feet first!” Have you heard that? For many seniors that’s their plan for the future. It’s a common story and it has a common trajectory.
Let’s call our generic person, Ruby. Ruby refuses to acknowledge that she is becoming overwhelmed by living in a big house. She hires someone to clean the gutters. She hires someone to mow the lawn. She hires someone to clean the house. But hiring someone to climb the stairs for you poses some unique challenges…
Eventually she falls. She falls on the stairs, trips over a throw rug, steps on a pile of slippery magazines, or trips over a sweater that fell off the back of a chair—whatever the cause, she falls and breaks a hip, and the ambulance takes her to the hospital.
Now the plan was to die, but that didn’t work out… which is a total bummer, because Ruby had no other plans in mind.
If Ruby is lucky, after two months in a rehabilitation hospital, she will be able to walk again with a walker.
Of course she wants to go home, but what about the stairs? There are stairs to the front door, the kitchen, the bedrooms and even the bathrooms. Her split-level has the kitchen on the middle level while the bathrooms are at the top and bottom levels. It just isn’t going to work.
Even without the stairs, after the fall she requires help bathing and dressing herself. She needs a retirement community that offers a little assistance. Now here’s the real rub, Ruby is still in the hospital. She will likely be discharged soon, but she isn’t strong enough to shop for a retirement community. Somebody else, her daughter probably, is going to be choosing the place that she moves into, without Ruby even getting a chance to see the place.
Choosing not to plan for various outcomes meant that Ruby gave up her choice of places to live altogether.
What Can You Do?
What can you do if you have a parent or a loved one refusing to consider any other option except dying in the house they have lived in for so long?
First, understand how difficult it is for a person to accept an unwelcome change thrust upon them from the outside. Put yourself in the position of being told you are incapable of continuing to live the way that you always have. It’s frustrating, humiliating, and could even be shameful. We all have the idea in the back of our minds that if we only try hard enough, we can do anything. But sometimes that just isn’t true.
Second, don’t push the person to move right now. The harder you push someone to do something they don’t want to do, the firmer their opposition to the idea will become. You may well find your good intentions back-firing.
Third, suggest that they consider looking now, so that if something happens their desires can be respected, even if they aren’t able to make decisions during the future crisis.
Fourth, step back and wait. Maybe this should have been mentioned first. Decide at the beginning that you aren’t going to force your desires on your loved one(s). Do you remember being a child and having someone else’s decisions forced on you? That memory can often be the most powerful underlying dynamic in these situations. So be willing to sit back and allow Ruby to stay at home.
Not always, but sometimes when the Ruby in our life feels her own decisions are being respected, she becomes more willing to consider alternatives. And sometimes, when she has a chance to visit a modern assisted living community, she realizes how vastly different the lifestyles there are from the old nursing homes she probably remembers her own grandparents once living in.
Many assisted living communities will allow a person to try before they buy. A potential resident can stay for a weekend, a week, even a month to see how living there really feels. They have guest rooms, so Ruby doesn’t have to make a commitment to actually move in.
Sometimes (not always) after a person tests out the living arrangement they realize that it’s pretty darned nice not to have to cook and clean and figure out what to do if the plumbing gets a leak. It can be pretty darned nice to have more engaging company than an endlessly babbling television set that never listens to any of your stories. It can be pretty darned nice when your next-door neighbor is delighted to have you read the newspaper to them and the members of the quilting club are excited that you can show them how to tat lace.
Being useful. Being respected. Being appreciated. Isn’t what we all want at our core? Sometimes just getting the Ruby in your life to say what she wants if she has to move can unlock the whole conversation.
And if Ruby suddenly does want to move, remember that Moving Forward can help you both get through this giant project with your relationship, your back and your knees intact. Let us know if we can be of any help or if you have questions.