Moving and Downsizing

The Emotional Side of Moving: Moving a Parent and Family Dynamics

May 24, 2016

“Family Conflict can happen when family members have different views or beliefs that clash. Sometimes conflict can occur when people misunderstand each other and jump to the wrong conclusion. Issues of conflict that are not resolved peacefully can lead to arguments and resentment.” This and additional information on family conflict can be found at Better Health

Here’s the situation: mom and dad are living in a two-storey home and slowly things are unravelling. You start noticing that they’re eating a lot of tea and toast, not going out to their social events any longer, and now while visiting one day, it has become apparent to you that they’re sleeping in the living room.

When you ask why they aren’t going upstairs, their response is “we get tired and fall asleep here.” However, you know mom has problems with her knees and dad is about to go in for hip surgery. The conversation of next steps and moving has been broached many times, but it’s always met with “we’re fine here, we’ll look at a move when something happens.”

In this scenario, all three children are worried about their parents. One believes that they should get some help to come in. Another thinks it’s time to move to a retirement residence and the third insists that “we should just check in on them more, they’ll be fine.”

Regardless of which stance you take, it’s important to find compromise and that everyone get on the same page. Most often parents don’t want to move as it brings more chaos around this issue and definitely seals the deal of doing nothing.

Over the last 11 years, I’ve worked with many families who have done just that –nothing. They go through the first steps but the situation becomes too overwhelming and they give up thinking it’ll be easier to make a decision once a crisis happens. I can tell you from my own experience, it is not. Instead, they have a situation of urgency wrapped in emotion.

Most often, family conflicts come down to one of three scenarios:

  1. Siblings all believe they know what’s best for mom and dad.
  2. Siblings who live out of town choose to weigh in heavily with the least information against those who see mom and dad regularly.
  3. One sibling is counting on an inheritance and doesn’t want to spend the extra money.
Half page is blue and reads "agree", half page is red and reads "disagree"
Issues of conflict that are not resolved peacefully can lead to arguments and resentment

I know what is best for mom and dad

This is possibly one of the most frustrating and common situations, even for a professional. The lack of insight is very hard to reason around and I’ve often sat down with family members to help them “hash it out.” In order to get all of the children on one page, we first need to weigh out the pros and cons of each opinion. Once done as a group, it’s usually easier to see which solution fits best.

I find that the most challenging situation always involves a sibling who is trying to “child from afar.” This is a toxic situation as they most often don’t have eyes on the situation and when they are in town, their parents are able to hide most things from them. I’ve seen this situation over and over. They can’t get a true read on a parent’s situation unless they see it frequently.

As family dynamics like this often require a mediation, it may be helpful for each sibling to begin with this short Pre Planning Questionnaire

Additionally, here are a few steps to help organize in order to make the best decision possible for your parents:

  1. There tends to be one main leader amongst siblings. Without being bossy, it’s a good idea to propose two to three meeting times so that everyone can fit it into their schedule.
  2. Meet with siblings in person, perhaps via Skype,  in a quiet place without distraction. This situation requires full attention.
  3. If possible, it’s usually a good idea not to include spouses in the first discussion if there is any animosity amongst the group.
  4. Write down and discuss the options, and
  5. Come to an agreement which could take a while.

It’s very important to gain the support of your siblings. Bonnie Lawrence offers some terrific tips including “Accept your siblings for who they are. Not everyone thinks, feels or acts the same way, especially when a situation is this emotionally charged. Try to keep your own expectations and expressions of “should” in check, and instead, strive to accept and work with your siblings’ personalities and abilities.”

Often times these conversations are difficult and require siblings to put their own feelings aside and really dig down to figure out the best situation for their loved ones.

Are you and your family struggling to move a loved one to a retirement residence? Based in Ottawa, Tea & Toast advisors offer search services, as well as resources for the senior health care industry. Contact us today at or (613) 698.1319. You can also book an appointment with a retirement living advisor.

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