Elderly Parents: To Move or Not to Move?

The answer is typically a blend of personal preference, desired lifestyle, financial resources and health care needs. Ideally the decision to move is a matter of choice, but frequently it is driven by necessity. At some point all families wonder if elderly parents should remain at home or move to one of the many senior care options. It’s best to plan ahead. But if you find yourself in a crisis situation with tensions mounting and options waning, look to a geriatric care manager for help.

Elderly parentDon’t Wait

Getting the conversation about “future” needs off the ground can be difficult. The anxiety of these discussions is minor when compared to the stress of a decision to move that is forced on your family when a sudden health crisis happens. Don’t wait to start talking about the senior care options.

Personal Preference

It really is all about how elderly parents view their lives. Here are some good questions to get the conversation started with your parent or loved one:

  • Where do you want to live and what do you want to do?
  • Do you want to spend time at home or traveling?
  • What does being independent mean?
  • What services do you think you’ll need as you age?
  • Who do you want to provide those services?
  • Where do you want services to be provided?
  • What are your biggest concerns about aging?
  • What are the pros and cons of aging at home?
  • If you were to move, where would you like to go?

These types of questions will help you and your elderly parents clearly define their personal preferences.


Many people equate “home” with independence. It’s familiar and has been a safe place. Without a planned approach for the right support at the right time independence can be replaced by feelings of loss, disappointment and isolation. Can your elderly parents separate the place “home” from “living?”

Desired Lifestyle

Lifestyle is the way a person lives. How do your elderly parents describe their lifestyle? Casual? Formal? Are they entertainers, fitness buffs, joiners, music aficionados, readers? How do they enjoy spending their time? What are their habits? What are their attitudes? What are their tastes? As we age our lifestyle choices may change. Is there anything about their lifestyle they’d like to change? The answers to these questions will help you match the lifestyle your elderly parents desire with the best senior care option.

Financial Resources

A discussion of finances can be the elephant in the room. Call on a financial advisor to lead a complete review including income, existing expenses and estimated costs of aging both at home and in other settings. It’s particularly helpful to compare costs for each senior care option. Geriatric care managers can provide a health assessment and information about anticipated services associated with aging. They also can help gather costs for care options like retirement communities, assisted living communities, adult family homes and nursing homes.

When staying at home appears to be the option of choice, don’t forget to consider the costs of home improvements like a new roof or energy efficient doors and windows. Can the existing home environment support the desired lifestyle and anticipated health care needs of your elderly parents? What home modifications might be needed and what would they cost? What if stairs become too difficult? What if wheelchair accessible ramps are needed? The answers to these questions will help you identify the current and future financial resources needed to support your elderly parents’ lifestyle and needs.

Health and Safety

It’s important to consider not only the health of your elderly parents today, but also a decline in health that may require special services. The geriatric care assessment is an excellent tool to evaluate the health of your elderly parents today and anticipate changes that may require additional resources. What is the cost of in-home services today? What additional services may be needed and what will they cost?

What would those services cost in an alternate setting like assisted living? Do you have a plan for addressing unexpected health changes? Which senior care option will provide the most comprehensive health services in the safest environment? The answers to these questions are crucial to matching the best senior care option to the needs of your elderly parents.


Whether you’re planning for the future or are in the midst of making a quick and unexpected decision, if you consider the questions in each of these categories: personal preference, desired lifestyle, financial resources, and health and safety, you’ll find the question”to move or not to move” easier to answer.

Written by senior care expert Peg Witham.

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