Resources for Seniors: Expert Advice to Consider Before Relocating Parents

Recently, in our mission to offer resources for seniors, we published an article about the challenges families face when relocating an aging parent from state to state. We asked a few of our professional peers to chime in on this subject and share their experience assisting their clients with this challenge. Here is what they had to say.

resources for seniors, Raleigh, N.C.“Although it may seem like the adult child is our client, the aging parent is actually the client and the one we advocate for. This perspective allows us to anticipate potential challenges the adult children may not have considered. Adult children may not realize just HOW stressful moving can be on their parents. The parent may experience depression, and dementia may get worse. This is very frightening to the family, but making them aware that this is common and that symptoms often reverse after settling in can make it less frightening. Sharing ideas with the family on how to make the move less stressful can help. One idea is to have the Senior Move Manager sort through belongings with the client if sorting with family members will be contentious. Also helpful is for the parent NOT to be present while their belongings are being packed and loaded on the truck. Have someone take the parent out to lunch, shopping, something fun!”

June Copeland, Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist™ – Rigsbee Relocations

Resources for Seniors, Raleigh, N.C.“The biggest problem my clients face when trying to relocate their aging parents, despite their best intentions and purposes, is that the parent(s) don’t want to leave the comfort of their current surroundings – which includes their doctors and hospitals (‘since they have all the records’), friends (‘who will never call them again’), church (‘no place has a church like this one’), other family members (‘even though I haven’t seen them in awhile…’), etc.  While change is hard for anyone, it’s even more difficult for aging parents, esp. when everything happens quickly and at the same time.  If you’re fortunate to relocate your aging parents, don’t forget their healthcare power of attorney, their ‘financial’ power of attorney (also known as the durable general power of attorney) and their other estate planning documents (e.g., will and trust). While it’s not always required to have new ones created, it will be easier for your parents and you to have a new health care power of attorney and a new ‘financial’ power of attorney in their new state of residence.”

Ralph DiLeone, Attorney –  DiLeone Law Group

“I find that the biggest challenge in relocating an elder parent is restoring the sense of security they may have enjoyed in the former location. The unfamiliar surroundings and new faces often lead to confusion and anxiety. This is best overcome by getting the elder on a regimented life routine in the new location as quickly as possible. Many clients underestimate the level of care needed in getting their parent acclimated to the new location. Provisions should be made to check in with the elder on a regular basis and provide supervision where necessary. Legal documents such as Power of Attorney, Health Care Directives and HIPAA Releases should be updated in accordance with state law to allow family members and/or caregivers to take action on behalf of the elder when appropriate.”

John Perna, Estate Planning Attorney – Perna Law Firm

Resources for Seniors, Durham, N.C.“Hands down, the challenge I encounter most frequently is what to do with the overwhelming amount of stuff. Even if parents aren’t ‘savers,’ when moving, they have to touch everything in the house and make a decision to keep it or let it go. As human beings, we attach meaning to our stuff – special plates for holidays, grandma’s quilt that is tattered and unusable but loved, even wedding gifts that were rarely used hold meaning because of the person who gave it. One 90 year-old client said to me ‘there goes my mother’ as we were hauling away a broken chair. I think that when moving a parent’s home, adult children encounter the intertwining of their lives and their parents’ lives and the process pulls at their hearts as they comb through the memories attached to the items in the home. It’s emotional and it’s overwhelming. That’s why we’re here.”

Jennie Alwood, Move Management Specialist – Here 2 Home

“When relocating an aging parent for instance from out of state sometimes families forget to make sure all of the correct estate planning documents are in place, as these are crucial in situations when children are trying to care and arrange things for their parents. I’m referring to a General Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, a Will and an Advance Directive. They want to be sure these documents are in place so that as their journey with their parent continues no hiccups arise when the children are helping with finances, health care options and more. These documents will allow those actions to proceed smoothly and give legal authority for the children to act on the parent’s behalf. I always find that the best transitions occur when everyone keeps open communication, and although sometimes it’s hard to discuss certain documents it is very important that these are in place, as they are an important part of the planning process.”

Crystal Beard, Attorney – Arnette Law Offices

“Relocating an aging parent is a stressful exercise for both the parent and the child.  Legal issues seldom arise if you have a current financial Power of Attorney completed before it is needed, but stress of the move can be a major issue. For some elders, especially those with early dementia, the routines of ‘home’ keep them safe and within a safe zone. And, even if they don’t get to see their old friends often, there is comfort in knowing your ‘people’ are nearby. Moving to a new place, home, or community can stress and confuse them, and create a greater risk for accident, depression, or other health declines. In addition, the children caring for the newly located parent also will find their lives changed. More time is spent with the parents and the responsibility of care can become overwhelming. It can even feel unfair when one sibling shoulders all the work. It is wise for all involved to take breaks, care for themselves, and ask for help from professionals before a crisis hits.”

Doug Koenig, Attorney – The Law Offices of Doug Koenig

Resources for Seniors, Raleigh, N.C.“My grandmother has been digressing with Alzheimer’s for the past five years since my grandfather passed away. While my grandfather was still alive, they moved closer to family that lived in Texas. My aunt lived close by and was very active and helpful through their health events and concerns. This certainly put an unequal burden on my aunt and her family. One of the toughest things that I see is that nowhere looks like ‘home’ to my grandmother. This was primarily her choice before the Alzheimer’s set in, but now it is a reality that can’t be overcome. When it comes to Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers, it is extremely important to change as little as possible in their lives. This isn’t always feasible, but it is certainly something that should be strongly considered. This means that the family should seek out caregivers that can coordinate care from a distance.”

Justin Struble, CFP® – Wealth CAPS Financial Planning

“Deciding to relocate an aging parent is a huge decision that can have major legal, financial, and familial implications that aren’t always apparent on the surface. Before relocating a parent, you should consider whether your parent and the whole family is on board with the decision. If not, the family dynamics can spiral out of control pretty quickly. Have you explored the different legal and financial implications of the move? The laws and public benefits vary from state to state. Often, your parent may need to update their legal documents such as power of attorney when they move between states and the availability of public benefits programs such as Medicaid can vary dramatically from one state to another. You also want to think about how you’re going to help your parent acclimate to the change. Many parents resist moving and are prone to depression after moving away from their home, friends, church, etc.”

Jackie Bedard, Estate Planning & Elder Care Attorney, VA Accredited Attorney – Carolina Family Estate Planning

NavigateNC hopes this information provides valuable resources for seniors and their families. We thank all of this month’s contributors who shared their expertise with our clients and friends. If you would like to be included as an expert contributor in future articles, please contact Dave Baldwin, our Community Relations Manager, at dave@navigatenc.com.