Often, as family becomes aware of their elders losing their ability to take care of themselves, they start to ask them about moving. A move closer to family or somewhere they can have more help. Over my years as a senior care manager, I’ve heard some of the most amazing excuses elders have used to avoid moving.
One gentleman, who lived out in the middle of the woods, told me that he had a herd of wild deer that he fed in the winter, so he couldn’t move. Mind you, these are wild animals, they take care of themselves. But in his mind, he was responsible for them.
Another couple, living in their isolated home, tells me that “we made a commitment to the dog, we will move out when she passes away.” I’m sure the dog is unaware of this commitment, and how powerful it is in their lives.
Another elderly woman who has kept parrots for years, tells her daughter, ”you know I would love to move closer, honey, but you know I have the birds.”
All of those excuses may seem ridiculous to the family, but are legitimate excuses to the elder involved and they are dead serious. As we age, the scope of our responsibility shrinks, but often times our sense of responsibility does not. In other words, getting older may mean we are responsible for less (retired, kids grown, etc.) but we don’t feel less responsible. Elders may take those fewer responsibilities and take them VERY seriously, to the point of being confusing to loved ones.
At those times when our elders hide behind a shallow excuse, what is a family to do?
Don’t judge. Whether the excuse is a real issue, or just another excuse to avoid a change in living, it is still a valid issue in his/her mind. Keep the lines of communication open and listen.
Read the clues. If the current excuse is just another issue in a long line of excuses, no solution a loved one offers will work to fix the problem. There will be another excuse right on its heels. When a senior is throwing you hurdle after hurdle, it could be another way of saying “No” to moving without using the word “No.”
Get professional help. Bringing in a Senior Care Manager can change the conversation. As care managers are not family, the relationship has less baggage and can move more directly, but sensitively, to help them make good long-term choices, even if she still has the birds.