Long-Distance Caregiving: Moving an Aging Parent Cross-Country

Senior talking on the phone and smiling

As an adult child of a senior parent, you may have noticed that Mom or Dad is having more and more difficulty as the years go by. You’re noticing that the house is looking less than pristine when you come to visit. Maybe they’re growing a little forgetful, or they’ve had a few health scares recently. If you live far away from your parents, you may be constantly in a state of worry as you try to take care of emergencies or even normal tasks from afar. 

“Families are much more spread out these days, which can be problematic as the senior parent ages and starts having difficulty with the tasks of daily living,” says Sue Sunderland, Executive Director of The Bridges at Warwick, a supportive personal care community in Jamison, PA. “Adult children do their best to handle things from afar, but for emergencies and other serious matters, they have to travel at the last minute to rush to their parent’s side, which causes a host of issues with work and personal responsibilities.”

When these emergencies become more and more frequent, adult children must realize that there's only so much they can do from far away, and should be thinking seriously about moving their loved one closer to them. This can mean moving them into your home or to a senior living community near you, but of course, this is easier said than done. 

 “The most important thing is that your parent is in a safe environment near enough to you so you can handle anything that pops up,” says Sunderland. “However, there are many issues that need to be considered well before the move actually happens. It’s a challenging experience loaded with emotions and logistics, so it’s important to take time if you can, discuss everything well in advance and plan, plan, plan.”

If you’re considering moving your aging parent closer to you – whether that’s an immediate need or a plan far in the future – here are some steps you can take to make a cross-country move as smooth and as stress-free as possible.

Discuss options with your parents and other family members. 

The first step, of course, is to discuss the move with your senior loved one as well as any siblings or family members who will be involved. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the process. In a perfect world, your aging parent will be completely open and on-board with moving to be closer to you. It’s more likely that you will be met with some resistance, since your parent has built a life in the place they are now and are reluctant to leave it. You may have to deal with anger, denial, frustration and fear. If you have time on your side, it’s best to allow for processing and coming to terms with the decision. However, depending on your parent’s care needs, you may be on a timeline and will have to begin preparations before he or she is comfortable with the decision. Nonetheless, it’s best to get everyone’s buy-in – as much as possible – before anything gets physically moved. 

Choose a place to live. 

First, determine where Mom or Dad will live. If they require a supportive care or memory care community, research options in your area, having your parent tour the facilities with you whenever possible. Think about care needs now and in the future, and choose a community that you're comfortable with and that meets all your needs. 

Downsize your parent’s space. 

Whether you’re moving Mom or Dad from a family home or an apartment, it’s more than likely they will be headed to a smaller residence than what they have now. This necessitates a downsizing of their possessions. It’s best if you can physically be there to help your parent, but if that’s not possible, see if a trusted friend can help, or Skype with your parent in order to help work through the process. This may be an exhausting and frustrating part of the process, because your parent will be working through not just ”stuff” but also all the memories associated with their home. Stay calm, remain kind and do your best to move your parent along without rushing them. 

Plan out their new living arrangements. 

Once you’ve selected where your parent will live, figure out how their new space will look. Take measurements of the new room and sketch out where different items will go – Dad’s favorite chair, Mom’s curio cabinet, etc. This will help you determine what items can stay and will fit in the new space, and also provides a map for movers, so they know what goes where. 

Find a senior-friendly moving company. 

Professional help is the best option for the actual move, especially when you live far away. Start the process by researching moving companies near your parent, looking for several that have experience moving senior adults long distances if possible. Get estimates and schedule a date that will require the least hassle (you don’t want to have to store your parents’ possessions for months on end or have them stay in a hotel while they wait for their move-in date to the new place). 

Get packed. 

Consider hiring professional help for this part of the process, especially if you or another family member can’t be there to help. Make sure boxes are labeled clearly with what’s inside as well as where it will eventually be going. Pack valuables separately and handle the transport of those yourselves – you don’t want special treasures to become lost or broken. Don’t forget an “unpack first” box with essentials like toothbrushes, pajamas or special decor items. 

Hire an expert. 

Moving anywhere is a complicated and difficult process. Check around your parents’ city to see what options are available. In some areas, there are companies that specialize in moving seniors and help with every aspect of the process, from organization to downsizing to packing to selling or giving away items you won’t be keeping. National senior relocation specialists like Gentle Transitions and Caring Transitions have franchises in all 50 states, and there are many locally owned businesses across the country. 

Moving your aging parent cross-country will require a good amount of planning, but in the end, both you and your loved one will have peace of mind knowing that they’re being cared for in the best possible way – and you will be near them to visit, to support, to help at any time. 

For more information about moving your parent cross-country, or for more information about our supportive care community, please contact the staff at The Bridges at Warwick.

Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.

You’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where everyday is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.

Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program offers specialized programming our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our secure, comprehensive memory care residence.

In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.

Contact us today or call 215.269.7745 for more information or to arrange a personal tour.

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