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When mom refuses to move


Question: My mom is 88. She has lived independently very well, but is beginning to have short-term memory loss. My sister and I visited her last summer and, together, investigated assisted living facilities. Mom liked one in particular. Recently, mom got the flu and an infection. Now she realizes she really can't live alone anymore. In her own words, she was “deluding herself” that she is OK on her own.

My sister went to Seattle to help mom prepare for the move—downsizing, re-visiting facilities, etc. She said that mom talked a lot about Alzheimer’s (her sister just died from the disease) and about memory loss. My siblings and I are on board with the move but now mom is waffling—going back and forth and resisting any suggestion that now is the time. Today, my sister and mom put down the deposit on a unit. The facility rep knows that mom is having mixed feelings but told us there is a perfect unit available right now. Mom says she won't be forced. She says she may be ready in three to six months. What are your thoughts?

Dr. Amy: I encourage you to talk with your mom and find out why she feels reluctant to make the move. What are her thoughts and feelings? What concerns does she have? This sounds easier than it is. She may simply say, “I just don’t feel ready.” Your challenge is to gently and respectfully peel back the layers of the onion, so to speak, until you get at the underlying reasons. You can do this by:

• confirming that she is in the driver’s seat and you are going to do what she wants;

• expressing empathy (by saying something like, “This is a big move. And it’s not just any move. I am sure it’s stirring up all kinds of feelings”);

• telling her that your goal is not to push her into doing what you think is right, but to help her remain in control for as long as possible and make decisions while she is healthy and able to do so.

By talking to your mom in this way, you may be able to get everything on the table and establish a clear picture of what the holdup is. There may be things you can address. It is also possible that she will not move just now. Whatever her decision, you will both feel better for having open and respectful conversation as you navigate this journey. All the very best to and your mom.


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