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I don't think it's good for my mom to be living alone so far away. How can I convince her to move?


Question: My mother has been living alone since my father died. She is in the house they both lived in for 40 years. I don't think it is good for her to be living alone and have suggested that she move nearer to me and my wife. We live about 3 hours away. I am not having much luck with this. How can I convince her to move? 

Dr. Amy: I know that you would like your mother to move closer because you care about her and are concerned about being so far away from her since your father died. However, having a parent move from his or her home and the community they know is not always best. Before encouraging such a move there are things that both you and your mother should consider:

  • Does your mother have a strong support system where she now lives? Many older adults have lifelong friends and neighbors who provide significant social support.
  • How easy would it be for your mother to establish a new support system – beyond you and your family – in your community? It's important to consider how lonely it might be in a new community. This is especially true if your mother is very rooted in her current community or does not make new friends readily.
  • How much time are you – and your family – willing to spend with your mother if she does move nearer? Have you talked with your mother about how much time you are able to spend with her? There are many instances of older adults and caregivers feeling frustrated and resentful because they didn't discuss expectations about time commitments prior to the move. An open and honest conversation ahead of time can make a big difference in how everyone feels after the move.
  • Do you know what resources are available for seniors in your community? It is likely that your mother's situation will change over time and it's a good idea to know what resources are available prior to a move. Calling the local senior center is a good starting point. 
  • If your mother is still driving prior to moving, is she likely to be able to continue to drive in your community? One caregiver told me that she hadn't anticipated her father's inability to learn the roads in her community and navigate the higher volume of traffic. He was nervous driving in the new community, and this caused transportation issues they hadn't thought of prior to the move.
  • Are there care options you could easily access to help your mother stay in her home safely? Home care is often a wonderful way to provide the little extra support someone needs to stay safe and happy in their home.  

I encourage you to talk to your mother about what she wants for her living situation, and think through these questions together.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. February 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Posted by Kathleen

    Excellent advice, especially emphasizing what her mother wants. Sometimes the children fail to reverse their 'wants' - how easy would it be for the SON and his wife to relocate? Why do we seem to put the burden on the one who least needs another burden? If the Mother's health is good, that 3-hour drive to see her (sans husband) is no longer than it ever was, just as welcomed and necessary. No mention made of housing arrangements, the headaches involved in finding suitable place to live, the emotional aspects of downsizing, etc. Several week-long visits to her son's would be necessary even if his mother did make the decision to move. Also, how close is 'close enough' to satisfy the son. He needs to first evaluate why he is asking her to do this. I am happy that he cares enough, but he cannot be demanding about it in any way; his mother doesn't need to feel guilty about going against his wishes - but maybe she's smarter than I'm giving her credit!.


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