October 31, 2018

What to do When an Elderly Parent Refuses to Move

7 tips on navigating this challenging time with kindness and respect for all involved.

As the population lives longer, more and more families are faced with questions on how to care for parents as they age. While some seniors may welcome the idea of downsizing to a smaller home or moving to a retirement community, others resist leaving the home where they may have resided for decades.

If a parent is suffering from chronic medical conditions which prevent them from adequately taking care of themselves, families must make difficult decisions. You may be wondering how best to care for an elderly parent who refuses to move, which is a compounded issue if you don’t live nearby.

Here are a few tips on navigating this challenging time with kindness and respect for all involved.

1. Listen

If you are in the difficult position of considering moving a parent out of their home, you are probably basing your decision on signs that they are not safe living alone. Maybe they forget to turn off the stove sometimes, fail to take their medication or fall.

While you may know in your heart that moving is the best idea, your parent may think otherwise. Many seniors get frightened at the prospect of leaving home, and resent being told what to do by their children.

Before you make a unilateral decision, it is important to have an open and honest conversation with your relative. Your mother or father may be afraid of issues (like cost) that you have not considered, and you may be able to alleviate their concerns.

You may be able to address other factors that your parent did not think about: perhaps they would like to move closer to where you live for example, or someplace where the weather is warmer.

Having an open conversation where your parent feels safe to express their fears can often help in dissolving their reluctance to consider other options.

2. Check Out Your Options

If your parent is mobile, you can take them to visit different living facilities. Visiting will allow them to see for themselves what it might be like to move out of the family home and into a place which can provide more care.

Seeing the rooms, trying the food and meeting staff may help change their minds if they are refusing to move. Many senior housing facilities offer online or video tours, or if you have family friends or other relatives who live in a senior facility, you can arrange a visit, or a telephone call so your parent can learn directly what the experience is like.

3. Explore Other Options

Moving into senior housing is not the only alternative when mom or dad is having trouble taking care of their family home.

In home medical services are a viable alternative for many families. This is not home health. Rather, a trained medical professional – such as a medical doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant – who brings care to your loved one through house call visits on a scheduled and urgent basis. Beyond medical care, this in-home provider can help understand your parent’s wishes and goals and work with them, their primary care doctor, other specialists, and you to design a care plan that keeps everyone on the same page.

If home health – someone who helps with activities of daily living – is needed, your in-home medical provider can often make that recommendation to the health plan to get those services into the home as well.

4. Keep Talking

Maybe you went home for Christmas last year and raised the idea of moving to a smaller apartment to your mom. Maybe the conversation didn’t go so well.

It’s always hard to talk about these subjects. Warning: it gets harder.

At some point, you may need to talk about what happens if your relative’s mental faculties start to wane. You may need to talk about the uncomfortable subjects of hospice care, DNRS, and advance care directives.

It may not be easy, but it is always more difficult if you DON’T talk about these topics. You don’t want to be in the situation of needing to know your parent’s wishes about end of life and realize you failed to ask before it was too late.

If your parent was reluctant to talk about moving last year, raise the subject again this year. Maybe she realizes she now needs a little more help but is afraid to ask after previously refusing. Maybe she knows someone who moved and loves it.

Keep the dialogue going, and you and your family will eventually find a solution that works for all of you.

5. Wait and Try Again

As your parents age, their physical and medical needs will increase. Over time, it may be less difficult to convince them that going up and down stairs could be dangerous, or that cooking their own meals is getting too hard for them.

Your parent may have a different view on moving . They may have had a network of friends and even a spouse on whom they could rely. Over time, some seniors see this kind of support network slip away and the appeal of staying at home can start to become a lonely burden if a senior is increasingly isolated.

If you were wondering what to do when an elderly parent refuses to move, try waiting a few months or even a year and asking again. They may realize over the course of time that they need more help after all.

6. Get Outside Help

No parent likes to be told what to do by their child. They told you what to do your whole life!

The role reversal can be difficult for everyone involved.

If your parent is showing signs of dementia or another infirmity, solicit the assistance of a family doctor or maybe a social worker.

Sometimes it is easier to get professional advice from someone who is not your blood relative. They may be able to instruct on next steps and get your parent to listen where you were not successful.

7. Take Your Time and Proceed with Love

If you are wondering what to do when an elderly parent refuses to move, you are not alone. Because so many people are asking the same questions, luckily help is available. Many articles and checklists abound online. A powerful caregiver perspective on this topic is the book Holding the Net: Caring for My Mother on the Tightrope of Aging by Melanie P. Merriman.

If you are interested in learning more about in-home medical care, and want to see if your loved one qualifies, visit our website. If your loved one does not have access to in-home medical care, ask their health plan for that option!


The information provided herein is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.