Dear Family Advisor

My parents would rather move far away than "be a burden" -- but I want them nearby!

Last updated: May 18, 2010

Dad wants to move to Florida with Mom and live in a graduated-care facility -- but I think it's because he fears they're a burden to us. How do I convince them that staying near family is important?

I was hoping they'd stay closer to us (I'm married with three children and live in the Northeast). My sister died of breast cancer five years ago, and I know just how important family is. I think they're moving because Dad's proud -- and my mom has never been one to stand up and voice her opinion.

While their physical needs might be met in Florida, what about my family's need to see them? I'd like for my children to know their grandparents. Besides, I really think they need someone looking out for them who can check on them often to make sure they're getting good care.

Some people also have a romanticized notion of how life is going to be once they move to a certain place or make a big change. Your dad might envision himself on the golf course, the two of them in a little condo, his wife making new friends. All that may be possible. But as you said, family is important, too.

As much as we love our men, not all of them are great at expressing their emotions. They don't mean to come across as cold and "I know best," but they sometimes do. They may need help opening a dialogue about how their decisions affect others. Tell your dad that you don't want to tell him what to do; you want to brainstorm with him and help him think it through.

Share your heart with both parents. State how strongly you feel about family and why it's important for them to have someone nearby who can check on them. List your concerns about the move clearly. Also talk with your mom privately and see how she really feels. This isn't about getting them to do it your way -- it's about what's best for their care and the whole family.

Do some research ahead of time so you can show your dad the statistics on who gets the best care. It's always those who have involved family members and friends around. Ask questions such as: How much do you see my family and other people coming to visit you? What happens if Mom gets really sick and I can't get there on short notice? What if Mom doesn't like Florida or you don't make friends?

Try to find out why he thinks it would be best to move into graduated care in another state. What does he envision happening in the future? Perhaps he's concerned that if they both need care, that would be too much for you. That's very loving of him not to want to put such a load on his only surviving daughter. If that's the case, share that while you appreciate his concern, you'd like to be involved. Remind him that even when things get tough, that's a profound part of the journey, too.

Suggest that he and your mom consider checking out some graduated care residences in your area. Most communities have several good ones to choose from. Even if he picks one across the state or in a nearby state, it's closer than Florida.

Keep it about the "we." Remind him and your mom often how much they matter to your family. Tell them things like, "We'd like to spend holidays and celebration days with the two of you." Tell them how much you love and need them.

I'm not sure whether this is the case for you, but it's easy to get so wrapped up in our own little families that we neglect to open that circle to the generation above us. They need to feel wanted and needed: helping out with the kids, attending sports and recitals, sharing pizza and movie night. When I asked my mom to move in with us (my family and I were moving to another state due to my husband's job transfer), she kept asking again and again, "Do ya'll (we're Southern) really want me? Do the kids want me?" She needed that reassurance.

Be patient and don't push too hard. Keeping your parents from making a snap decision and getting them to investigate all their options before a decision is made may be the best you can do.

And if they still decide to move farther away than you'd like, that's their choice. Ultimately, family is about loving what is. We love them regardless of whether we like the decisions they make. We find ways to make it work. Call often. Send cards and pictures of your children and the cool things they're doing. Save those pennies and visit them. Hey, I live in Florida, and I can attest that it's a great place to visit.

Families are too important for us not to continue to connect and make memories -- no matter how many miles are between us.