Many families struggle to convince a parent to move to an ALF. We get lots of calls and emails from adult children at their wit’s end. Recently, a 92-year-old woman killed her son because he was trying to get her to move to an ALF. Though violence like that is rare, even the best relationships often turn sour.
Below you’ll find one family’s success story of Mom moving to an ALF. Their journey illustrates some of the typical struggles and best practices to deal with this process. It offers key tips if you are thinking it’s time for Mom to move to an ALF.
Discussions, Arguments, Getting Nowhere
We realized Mom was struggling to manage her home. She started closing off certain rooms and living in a small area. The home was dirty. And, then we noticed Mom was rarely changing her clothes (or bathing, though she wouldn’t admit to that). My brother and I tried a few different approaches, even playing “good cop, bad cop” but mostly Mom simply denied our concerns. She hung up on my brother when he suggested she move to an ALF and wouldn’t speak to him for a few weeks.
We tried taking her to visit a friend in a local ALF for lunch. She spent the entire ride home talking about “what a ripoff” the place was. She made plenty of digs on her friend’s kids for “putting her there instead of taking care of her”.
Next, we enlisted her doctor’s help. But, instead she enlisted him in her arguments. He thought she was “doing just fine”, didn’t see any reason she should stop driving or any problems. Of course, we realized he never saw her at home and she looked and acted very put together at his office. She’d also been his patient for 30+ years and it must have been an awkward position.
For a time, we just decided to give up and let Mom do what she wanted. But, she continued to have emergencies and I was constantly worried.
Reaching out for help
I finally learned about aging life care managers and made a call. The first discovery I made was a more efficient way to approach the problem. Rather than continuing to “fight” with Mom and try to get her to move to an ALF, I armed myself with information. I spoke with the care manager about Mom’s situation and possible options. Here's what worked for us.
Doing our homework and having solutions ready
We switched things around and began working backward. We researched the options, so we’d be able to present Mom with something that was the best fit for her. This isn’t to say we didn’t want to give her choices, but we knew one bad ALF tour would be a deal breaker. Too many choices could overwhelm her. Plus, we wanted to be fully informed about the “behind the scenes” of any place we would consider. A friend shared her story of being wowed by a beautiful facility with a sweet marketing director only to be highly disappointed after moving. We also read a New York Times article about care facilities being understaffed, despite high ratings by Medicare.
We’d been spending so much time trying to convince Mom, but weren’t at all prepared for what would happen next. They say time kills deals. I believe you need to be prepared so you can take advantage of your window of opportunity.
Our care manager gave us insights from working with clients at various ALFs. She accompanied us on a few tours. But, even more importantly, she helped us with all aspects of a plan. She was more than just a consultant to pick out an ALF. She helped us consider various financial and practical aspects. And, as you’ll see, she was able to help throughout the process with the MANY things involved before, during and after the move to an ALF.
Click Here to get a free guide to Choosing the Right Care Facility.
Letting go of control and focusing on the questions, instead of trying to force our answer
We kept trying to have the big conversation with Mom about moving to an ALF. She completely shut down on us. Our care manager suggested focusing on the specific needs. The conversation turned from Mom feeling we were accusing her of not being capable to us being helpful. Because Mom had shut down on us, I believe bringing in a neutral party was a key to our success too. I always describe this as our “loving intervention” whereas to that point it had been a series of arguments. If I had it to do over, I’d have approached her differently from the beginning.
From these discussions, we were able to make some changes in Mom’s home to make it safer but also easier for her. We found out she’d been afraid to take a bath because she’d had difficulty getting out of the tub. That was such an easy fix! She also agreed to bring in some help with laundry and grocery shopping.
It was amazing what happened when we stopped struggling to control the situation. The care manager helped me see how I might feel if I were Mom. But, she also helped us talk like adults and reason things out. We came to some compromises and were able to make clear boundaries with Mom about what we could and couldn’t do if she made certain decisions.
Check out Six Strategies When Your Elderly Parent Refuses Help for more ideas.
Removing the barriers
Mom was doing okay at home with a little help so we felt some relief at last. I think getting that help actually opened Mom’s eyes to the challenges she was having. It wasn’t just a matter of safety. She used to be active and social. Everyday things weren’t so easy anymore. Through the conversations, she came to the realization that she felt more burdened by her home at this point. What a change of perspective. But, I guess anyone would be defensive when they feel people are trying to force them to move.
And, we were ready! We’d already explored what would and wouldn’t work for her. So we didn’t need to take her to see facilities she couldn’t afford or didn’t offer the right services. And, most importantly, we knew which places to avoid. Mom went with us to tour two places. She was pleasantly surprised and particularly liked the first place.
Now comes the point where we would have been stuck again. Have you ever moved? It’s overwhelming when you’re in the best shape. And, Mom had lived in her home for 40 years.
We removed the barriers by making sure everything was handled smoothly. I made a spreadsheet of the tasks involved. We got resources from the care manager, which saved a ton of time. She even helped us switch Mom to a better Medicare plan and transfer her prescriptions to a delivery pharmacy. We dealt with lots of details, which gave Mom time and space. That window of opportunity wasn’t going to shut on us!
We arranged the moving day so Mom wasn’t stressed. Personalizing her room and orienting her to her new home made her feel welcome. Now, Mom is the "welcome wagon" at the ALF for newbies. She tells all her friends about how glad she is to have made this move and now she's the one pushing people to move to an ALF!
Ready to try something different?
Talk to a care manager about your situation, concerns, and frustrations. Learn about options and discuss whether a new approach might be in order.