How can I convince my mother to move to a safer place near me?

3 answers | Last updated: May 27, 2015
Mags asked...

My mother lives 400 miles away in a two-story home. She cannot navigate the steps well, is confused at times, doesn't drive much (shouldn't at all), and is TOTALLY resistant to moving. I have leased a small apartment for her near me, but she insists she is NOT moving. I am at a total loss as to what to do. How can I convince her to move?

Expert Answers

Laura Juel is an occupational therapist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. She works in the Outpatient Occupational Therapy Program and the Duke Driving Program for older drivers.

Many adult children are going through this same complex scenario -- when do I step in to help a parent who's living alone?

If you feel that your mother isn't safe in her home, I'd suggest having a conversation with her about specific concerns; for example, falls in the home, medication management, self care, driving, and/or financial matters. If she acknowledges some areas of difficulty, see if she would be open to having some assistance in the home.

I encourage my home care clients and families to be proactive by exploring local options for assistance -- for example, Agencies on Aging , Meals on Wheels, as well as continuing care retirement communities. Older adults perform best in familiar environments, although at some point their home may not be the safest place for a variety of reasons, including the physical layout of the home, and changes in cognition and/or mobility. If your mother insists on remaining in her home, try to find out why. If you know that, for example, she is worried about finances, or about moving away from her network of friends, or about being a burden to you, you can better address her concerns.

If you truly feel that she's unsafe living independently and she isn't open to assistance, I recommend that you discuss your concerns with her physician. A physician can make appropriate referrals that will help you assess her ability to live independently. An occupational therapist can perform a one-time home safety evaluation to determine your mother's ability to perform everyday tasks and make recommendations to improve safety in the home.

If her driving capabilities are in question, ask her physician to address this and possibly refer her for a driving evaluation by a certified driver rehabilitation specialist. If she's unable to continue driving, she'll need to explore alternative transportation options to enable her to continue living independently.

If the final decision is for your mother to move closer to you, do some homework on medical services, transportation opportunities and activities for seniors in your area to support her physical and emotional well-being. The initial move will probably be very unsettling and require more assistance from you until she's settled into a routine and has developed a social network.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

we have a dad who refuses to move, his house is a mess ,its tks.unsafe. what can we do?

Dee marie answered...

Good luck with trying to get her to move. My Mom is in a condo, bedroom is upstairs, laundry in the basement. She did quit driving,but only after taking out the water pipes at the library and wacking her fenders repeatedly on the carport. I talked to her Dr., as I had medical POA. We met with her together and she denied her many falls, etc. He said there was nothing more he could do. She is living on frozen eggrolls and sardine sandwiches. She refuses to have a meal service. I then met with her attorney as I had financial POA. He met with her without me, and my POA's were revoked. I was told at the next meeting with the 2 of them, that she is going to stay in her home, no matter what. She denied falling to her attorney, and said she had many friends to take her out and help her. He has made it impossible for me to stop her from giving thousands of dollars to one son that is draining her financially. I have hired a wonderful company that comes in and takes her out once a week to do grocery shopping, etc. She has refused to hire a housekeeper, even after referals from neighbors. I live in another state and have refused since Oct. of 2009 to clean her home. I have also stopped maintaining her home, telling her she needs to fix it herself, hire someone, or do without. She has alienated all her 'friends' and neighbors, being nasty to them. Her neighbors actually do all they can to avoid her, and I have rec'd calls asking me to get her out of there. She complains she only gets out once a week now unless I visit. She told her attorney that her neighbors and friends take her out every day and help her with anything she needs. I found a pharmacy that will deliver prescriptions, and I have the service taking her to Dr. appts. now. She can barely walk, as she is wobbly and must stop every 10 steps to catch her breath. My 2 brothers want very little to do with her as she pits us against each other. I know there is some form of dementia going on here. Her last fall, at 2:30 am, resulted in cutting her hand open. She waited until morning to tell me and then it was too late to allow for stitches. She refuses to use a walker in public, because it makes her look old. She is in her late 80's. Always set in her ways and always fiercely independant. But I see no reason why I should maintain her condo, clean it, and be responsible for her transportation and entertainment. I live in another state and have my own family to care for and a husband with very serious medical concerns. He even offered to buy her a one floor condo down the street from our home. She refused. There is no way she can live with us. I had her here for 6 weeks recovering from surgery and she was so mean to us that I promised my family she would never stay with us again. She seems to lean toward the son that is financially taking advantage of her. He refuses to help her with anything. I don't understand any of this. I found a wonderful facility near her and she won't even look at it. She could stay in her own suite of rooms, have transportation for trips, meal service, housekeeping. I told her she could even contract to just spend the winter there. She won't hear of it and is afraid I will kidnap her and leave her there. I have told I won't do that. My brothers and I have just decided that she will live where she is, in filth, until she falls and breaks a hip and is forced into a nursing home or hospice. Her family doctor is even refusing to treat her, suggesting strongly that she visit her OB/gyn and urologist for problems before calling him. I keep in touch with the once a week caregiver company, and they will alert me if they see anything dangerous, but I don't want Mom to know or she will drop them. It's a shame that doctors and attorneys feel they are protecting the senior when all they are doing is enabling them to continue a deteriorating lifestyle that is dangerous to their health.