When Elderly Parents Must Leave Their Homes
Are you, or someone you know involved with tending to aging parents who may be moving into nursing homes or other similar facilities? Try to keep this in mind: “Moving is moving.”
Moving is one of those words with multiple definitions:
1. to go or cause to go from one point to another; depart
3. to change or cause to change position or posture
4. to take or cause to take action
5. to show marked activity
6. to make a formal request, application, or appeal
7. to change one’s residence
8. to stir the emotions
It is definitions 7 and 8 that we must all keep in mind for folks who are helping elderly parents, or ARE the elderly parents. Downsizing, especially when coupled with medical reasons for the change in residence, stirs the emotions in many ways.
As the friend or advisor, it is easy to accidentally minimize the emotional component of this experience, especially if you have not been through this with your own parents. Again, try to keep in mind, “moving is moving” to stay reminded of the emotional stirrings that may be happening in this life stage change. The “movers” are dealing with multiple emotions in the move, most of them vastly different than your own. You are the manager, focused on tasks and trying to be supportive in many ways. Their focus is how they will cope, and that’s even if they were in favor of the move.
Though it may not be communicated in this way in conversations, they will be grieving many things: the loss of familiarity of their previous home, the security and feeling of independence it once brought them, memories of good times and people there, and the vibrant health they now have lost, to name a few. Fears are their dominant preoccupation, at least for a while. Anxiety over what medical crises may lie ahead and how they will manage are just a few of their concerns. Fear of the unknown keeps them busy with worry. Daily concerns, such as how their transportation will be arranged, pharmacy needs provided for, meals, bathing and laundering and countless other simple tasks become a major preoccupation.
If you or your friends are helping their aging parents, give them (or seek) a much needed dose of human validation and compassion. This can be done by saying simply “Oh, that is not easy. How are you doing with all of it?” If you are the caregiver, find someone you can talk with.
Other questions: “How is the new facility working out? How does your spouse or other family members feel about it? How is your mother/father doing emotionally and physically? Are there any questions you have that I might help you with?” There are always frustrations and giving them a voice can be helpful.
Now, if you want to role play any of this, give me a call – I’ll play the caregiver role. I just moved my mother here from Nebraska three weeks ago and she’s already been hospitalized for pneumonia. She’s back home now (to her new, unfamiliar home) but she’s on oxygen and she’s afraid to do much of anything even though she is considerably better now. We visit the new doctor again the day after tomorrow. We still aren’t sure how to pronounce the doctor’s name, but we hope she can write a prescription for courage.