I have moved a lot. In total, I have moved 9 times in the last 25 years and I am sure we will move again. Moving is both emotionally and physically taxing, not to mention the amount of coordination involved plus the financial costs. Moving is even more stressful when children are involved. That element adds a whole new dimension of stress to the equation. Now, when the conversation of moving comes up, the protestations from our children are loud. They bargain, cry, threaten, and beg to remain where we are. They fear losing friendships, making new friends, changing rooms, and most importantly, they fear leaving their home..a place of comfort, security and love; emotional connections.
The familiar saying “there is no place like home” resonates with most of us. This is especially true for someone who has lived in the same home for over 30 years. When I meet with many seniors, what is usually evident, is the amount of pride and love that shows when I ask for a tour of the home. Many enjoy telling stories of their home- every nook and cranny has a memory.
Our society seems to associate aging with a eventual move into a facility environment-it seems the appropriate and reasonable thing to do. Many people fail to recognize that home is not just the physical walls that hold our belongings. For many seniors who are faced with the prospect of moving from their home, it is important to identify the intangibles of what makes a house a home for them. Some suggested intangibles include: “the meaning of home, the meaning of personal belongings, the delicate balance between expectations and reality, and the need to have control over our lives”.
“Home is where the family memories are, where the familiar paths are, and where a lifetime of history has taken place”.
Truth is far from perception. “A recent survey found that 83% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 years old and 86% of those 75 years and older want to remain in their own homes as they age”.
Realistically and practically speaking, I know that there are times when a move into a facility environment is a necessary decision. Cathy Jo Cress, a Geriatric Care Manager, defines the two types of move that occurs in later life.
The “Push” to move is usually associated with a crisis that forces the elder person and family to relocate in search of a more “supportive living environment”. Some examples of crisis are: declining health, decreasing finances, and home safety issues. All those elements impact an elder’s ability to function or to live independently.
The “pull” to move is triggered less by a crisis and more by a yearning for lifestyle change such as desired social, recreational or health opportunities. Some people use this pull effect to move from a colder area to a warmer area-Florida here we come. Some people want to move closer to family so they will have familial support as they age. Others move to long term care communities with levels of care that can accommodate their changing health care needs such as to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).
The issue is not that we move an elderly person, but that we pay attention to the details of moving so we support the integrity and stress involved in what is a life changing process-creating a new home.
If the appropriate decision is to move your loved one, a successful move consists of multiple steps and it involves making sure there are available resources for all of it.
- The needs of the older person should be assessed to determine what level of care or home is required based on their financial reality.
- Allow the elderly person to select personal items he/she wants to take to their new home
- Encourage he/she to participate in the selection of their new home and the available activities either within or nearby.
- Arrange pre-move visits to the new home to meet staff, residents, tour the facility, sample the meals and drive around the surrounding community.
- If the move is to an apartment, make sure there are support services nearby, or in place, to facilitate future care needs.
Push or Pull, moving day is a stressful experience for most people. Your loved one will need lots of support and help. Some amount of anxiety can be expected so arrange some avenues of distraction during the move and afterwards. You can arrange visits from family members, friends, and other social networks. There are of course many legal and financial ends to tie up, so it is important to plan and manage those issues in advance of the move.
If home is where the heart is, let’s help our loved ones create a space filled with love, and a pallet for new memories.
Cress, J. C (2012). Handbook of Geriatric Care Management.