Convincing an aging parent to move in, is challenging. Most seniors are fiercely independent and don’t want to “be a burden”. But there are many positive benefits to this living arrangement for both you and your parent.
When convincing your aging parents to move in, create a plan together. Don’t dictate. Recognize your parent as an adult. And finally start discussions before there is a medical necessity. This allows everyone to grow accustomed to the idea.
In the 1950s, 8 percent of the U.S. population was over 65. Now that number is 16.5 percent. There’s a growing need for senior housing and care. But how do you convince your parent that your home is the best solution for them. We’ll discuss ways that you can not only broach the subject, but persuade your aging parent to move in.
Broach the Subject in a Calm and Casual Manner
The best way to bring up the subject is to casually drop hints about the idea. Ask questions. This is the time to plant seeds.
One way to plant the seeds is to throw it in your parents’ or parent’s court. Ask the questions, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” They may have never thought about it. If they’re currently healthy and vibrant, there might be an optimistic answer. It’s your turn to ask the “what ifs”.
“What ifs” can be questions like what happens when the house becomes too big to take care of. Do you know what you’ll do? If the answer is, they haven’t thought about it, give options to them.
The discussion could also be what if you get sick and need help. If they’re healthy, they probably still feel they’re immortal and won’t get sick. Push softly. What if you do? What will you do? If nothing else, you’ve put the thought in their head. They may bring it up later.
If it’s a single parent, the big question can be if they ever get lonely. Remind them that you get lonely when the house is empty. And you were just wondering if she or he felt the same way.
Regardless, what questions you ask, listen to the answer. I mean really listen.
Your Parent Lives Alone and Isn’t Well
Even if your parent is ill or has injured themselves, be subtle how you bring it up. You don’t want to insist they move after they’ve fallen and broken a bone. This makes it look like you’re punishing them. Seeming to be Independent is still important to them.
“How do you feel about living alone”? Ask the question. They may surprise you with the answer. Regardless of how they answer, be supportive. Your follow up question should be “What can I do to make things easier for you”? Let them direct you.
Don’t Ask Yes or No Questions
If you ask a yes or not question, the answer has a 50 percent chance of being no. Hedge your bets. Don’t ask the question in that manner.
When my mother-in-law was 88 and still living in her home, her son started talking to her about moving in with his family. She resisted because she didn’t want to leave her house or lose her independence. When she stubbornly refused to discuss it, my brother-in-law grew impatient. He wanted a yes or no answer. My husband who was in sales, suggested a sales technique.
It’s called the assumptive close. You approach the buyer, in this case my mother-in-law, with the assumption that they’re going to say yes. There is no other answer other than yes. My Brother-in-law went to his mother and started chatting with her about her life and health. He then started the assumptive close.
He asked, “When you move in, what do you want to take with you?” She hesitated, but ultimately started talking about what she could take. He then asked her if she wanted to move on a Friday or a Saturday. By the time the conversation was through, they had decided what to bring and when to move.
By not forcing a yes or no, my brother-in-law was able to empower his mother and make the move her decision.
Give Examples of Other Seniors Moving in With Children
Talk about other people and how they dealt with similar situations that your parent is in. “Mrs. Malony is moving in with her daughter. They’re expanding a room for her”. Then go on to tell your mother or father how healthy Mrs. Maloney is but that she’s tired of taking care of her house. Establish that it’s not necessary to be old and feeble to move in with an adult child. Sometimes, it’s just convenient.
Loneliness is a big motivating factor when a healthy senior moves in with his adult child. That loneliness drove one man to live with his family. Share with your parent the circumstances of another senior. After John’s wife died, he got tired of milling around a big house by himself. He moved in with his daughter. There were a few bumps in the transition, but ultimately it worked out well.
Or it could be that after Emma broke her hip, she found it hard to live in her two-story house. She decided to move in with her son. Now she can maneuver around the house fine and she is able to see her grandchildren on a day to day basis.
Knowing that other seniors are moving in with their children can influence your parent to at least start thinking it might be possible.
Always Listen Without Dictating
Your adult children come home for the holidays. During the visit they start telling you how to arrange your furniture and that your kitchen isn’t organized correctly. Later they tell you that you should stop working and just retire. How would you feel about that? You would react in several ways:
- Silently sullen
- Go into fight back mode
- Maybe some yelling
You wouldn’t like it and you probably wouldn’t tolerate it for long.
That’s how your parent will feels if you start dictating how they should live. You can’t walk in like a bull in a china shop and point out that they can’t be alone. You can’t tell them that they’re moving in with you. And you certainly can’t tell them that they’re selling their house.
You wouldn’t want that done to you. So why do you think it’s ok to do that to your parent. Go back to step one and calmly and casually bring the subject up. If you have push back, don’t start dictating what’s about to happen. Just back off and bring it up later when everyone is calm.
Remember Who the Parent Is
You are not your parents’ mom or dad. I want you to say this out loud! “I am the child they are the parent.” That’s right, they are still your father or mother, and they shouldn’t and won’t be treated like a child.
You may have the best intentions, but they are still your parent, not your child. Even if they are weak, physically or mentally, they still have earned the right to be treated like an adult.
Be respectful in your conversations. Don’t have the “I know best” attitude. You may be surprised what ideas they have about their living arrangements. Your parent may have a reason why they don’t want to live with you that you haven’t thought of. If you don’t know the reasons, you can’t overcome them. Healthy, “adult”, dialogue is vital.
If you don’t treat your parent as an adult, they’ll resent you. It may be passive aggressive or loud, but they will fight you.
Any discussions you have with your parent must be respectful.
Explain that Your Parent isn’t Interfering with Your Life
We’ve all heard the “I don’t want to be a burden on my kids”. It’s like an anthem to seniors. Keep in mind this generation was taught self-reliance. Some of them remember WWII, all of them remember the Korean war. They learned not to depend on anyone.
Your parents may still be healthy and active. But the thought probably looms in their head. They don’t want to impede on your life. They don’t want to get in the way. Have a good reason for them to move in. Let them know you need them in some way.
If your parent is not in good shape, let them know that you want to spend more time with them. “I’d love to see you more, but I can’t always get over to your house”. If they live a long distance away, this is even more poignant. The grands are missing out on knowing their grandpa. Let him know that.
Remind them that their knowledge and experience is an asset that your family needs. And if you were together, all would benefit.
Grandma and grandpa are not a burden they’re a virtue. They make all of your lives better.
Let a Third Party Discuss Living Arrangements
Sometimes someone outside the family has greater influence than you do. A third party can bring new perspective to everyone involved. Does your mother have a trusted friend who understands the situation? Is your dad close to his pastor or rabbi? Sometimes a non-family member has more influence than you. When you are talking about where to live and who to live with, emotions start running high. It often takes a coolheaded bystander to put things in perspective.
The friend isn’t there to plead your case. But they can help in getting to the root of what the real objection is.
Find Out What the True Objection Is
We can’t read our parents’ minds. At least I can’t read my mother’s. And you’re probably the same. People have a habit of saying one thing when they mean another.
“I don’t want to be a burden”, could actually mean “I want don’t want to give up my lifestyle”. When you hear that objection, simply ask, what do you mean by burden? In other words, have your parent define burden. That might seem simple, but that one word can have many different meanings.
Does it mean they don’t want to give up their car and be dependent on you to drive them? Does it mean they want to run the show and don’t think they can in your house? Or maybe it just means, they’re not ready to consider it and want to put you off. Their need for self-reliance, despite obvious weaknesses, often kicks in.
Ask them specific open-ended questions. Don’t take any objection at face value. There’s a meaning behind it that will probably surprise you.
Bring Your Sibling in On the Discussion
Your siblings should already be up to date on the situation. If not, discuss the living arrangement you’re exploring. It’s their parent too. But once all of you are on the same page, work together.
I don’t mean gang up on mom or dad. That would be horrible. You’d all be in for the fight of your life. But if you want your parent to move in with you, elicit your sibling’s help.
A friend of mine, Gina, was trying to talk her mother into moving in. Her mother was healthy but had taken a couple of falls and Gina was getting concerned. Her mother wouldn’t hear of it. Gina spoke to her brother, Joe, about it and they agreed it would be best for their mother. Joe visited his mother and in the course of their visit mentioned moving. He did this by casually making the suggestion as if he had just thought about it.
Gina was surprised to learn from Joe, that her mother thought that was a good idea. Apparently, it sounded better coming from Joe than from Gina. Her mother just needed to know that both of her children liked the idea. Everyone on the same page created a stress-free environment and made their mother comfortable with making the decision.
Parents Must Participate in the Planning
Dad lives alone. He fell and broke his hip and is coming home from rehab in a few days. The family decides something needs to be done about his living arrangement.
You’ve contacted a real estate agent. You’ve also had a contractor look at expanding your house. All the details have been taken care of. It’s time to tell your dad he’s moving in and you lay out the plans. But he immediately says no way. The conversation is over. What went wrong? Everything was planned perfectly. And it was for his own good.
By doing the planning without your dad, you took the control away. Seniors hate losing control of any situation and this is perceived as losing control of their life. There’s that self-reliance again.
Before any plans are put in front of your parent, find out what dad is thinking. It may surprise you to learn he’s nervous about living alone and he has some ideas about where to live. Suggest moving in. Give him ideas how it could work. But don’t make the decisions.
This goes for adding an addition. Don’t make those plans without your parent’s input. Let them pick out the paint color and the flooring. What fixtures do they like? And make sure they decide what belongings to take with them to their new digs. Discuss what will be stored and what will be given away.
Planning where their belongings go is a hot button. They must be there, if healthy enough, during the packing. You don’t want to accidently store the coffee cup they use every morning at breakfast. Bottom line is, make sure that, even the small plans and decisions, are made together.
Make Plans Before There’s a Crisis
This is a big one. Don’t wait until mom or dad has a stroke or hip fracture to come up with the plan. Go back to the first question we discussed. Ask your parents where they see themselves 5 to 10 years from now.
If living with you is an option, depending on their age and health, start working together to plan. How will the mechanics work? If you’re adding onto a house, how will it be financed? This is also the time to make healthcare and legal decisions.
Laurel’s (a friend of mine) mother had a stroke. The family went to Laurel’s mother (out of the blue) and told her they would be taking her to Laurel’s to live. No prior discussions had been made. Her mother not only fought the idea but was resentful and hurt. It caused bad feelings for everyone.
Laurel was just trying to help and was dismayed as to why her mother didn’t want her help. Mother clearly couldn’t live alone. When it happened anyway, Laurel’s mother claimed she had been kidnapped and was almost combatant. It was a bad situation for everyone.
If discussing living arrangements had taken place before there was an illness, it might have gone a lot smoother.
Make Sure they Know Their Options
Depending on economics, independent living or assistant living may be an option. Exploring these possibilities doesn’t have to be a deterrent to living with you.
My mother is 83 and lives by herself 11 hours away from me. Mom is in excellent health and has an active social life. She came to visit, and we toured independent living campuses. Now my mother has a healthy pension and assets but was shocked at how expensive these options are.
We also visited some apartments near my home. Because she owns her home outright, she once again was shocked how much rent and utilities are.
I waited a while to bring it up, but finally suggested she consider moving in with us. She liked the idea of it, if we could expand one of the rooms to give her more space. Her argument is that she would rather do that with her money than throw it away on rent.
Had I brought this idea up first, it would have been shot down. It’s not happening immediately. We’re looking at the next year or two. But the idea is there. And if we ever must move up the plan because of health issues, the idea isn’t coming out of the blue.
My mother knows her options and has a plan.
Show Respect for Your Parents
Showing respect for your parents is the takeaway. It’s their lives we’re talking about. And by the way, it’s your life too. If you approach your parents without dictating and pushing plans on them, it will go a lot smoother. You don’t want your family life to become a war zone because you forced your parents to live with you.
Discuss options before there’s an emergency. Ask questions and respectfully listen to the answers. With forethought and mutual planning, living under the same roof again can happen peacefully.