February 4, 2009

Home is Where the Heart is

In the past two months we have moved four customers across the country; seniors moving closer to family in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. What we learned was that the stress level seniors feel in this situation is much higher than in a typical “in-city” move to a retirement residence.

Why? First, so much more is unknown. It is a different city, different weather, different culture, and likely a living accommodation that they have never even seen.
Second, they feel like they are leaving their current home town forever. . That, of course, includes their house, their church, their doctor, their friends, and their favourite shopping spot.

Third, in two of our cases (the widowed mom and the couple) they are moving into their daughter’s home. This situation creates huge questions. Will I be a bother to them?  Will I still have my independence? Will we argue like we did when she was younger?

In all three cases our clients were very open about their fears and concerns during the months we were working with them. If you know someone who is about to do this, here are some tips on how to paint a rosier picture for them … gently and subtly, of course.

Remind them that they have few friends left here, and that their social life is limited. That while living here they rarely get to see sisters, brothers, grandchildren, and other relatives.

Let them know that the family really wants them. That the long distance has made them spend too much time worrying about mom or dad’s health, eating habits, and social life.

With Sandy we emphasized that she would be able to go shopping with her daughter. With Nancy we focussed on Sunday night family dinners at her sister’s that she would be able to attend. With Ethel we kept reminding her that there would be someone else in the home to share her caregiving responsibilities with George.

Above all, remind them that home is where the heart is. And throughout life, our heart keeps coming back to our family.

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