I live in Miami with my three teen-age children. My parents, ages 86 and 83 still live in my childhood home in Maine with my sister nearby. My mother is in the early stages of dementia, but with just a little extra help, my father is able to take care of her and provide the supervision that she requires. It has gotten exceedingly more difficult for them in the cold winter months when weather prevents them from getting out, taking care of the house and visiting friends.
My sister and I have convinced them to relocate to south Florida for the winters. Though I found communities and Assisted Living Facilities for them near where I live, they ultimately decided to purchase a home in a rural part of Florida well over an hour drive away from me (without traffic).
Other than warmer weather, their relocation here doesn’t accomplish anything. They will be as isolated here during the winter months as they are in Maine. Any recommendations or suggestions to make this workable? Jill M., Aventura, FL.
Having parents relocate at this age, even for half of the year, can be very challenging for all family members. I agree that their decision to come so far and not live close by to you has not accomplished as much as you would have liked. However, the steps that are needed to help them get established are the same as if they lived just next door, year-round.
For example, it’s important that you help your parents create the infrastructure that they need to assimilate easily and safely into their new area. This includes identifying community centers and other social venues where they can make new friends; opening a local bank account where, with your parents’ permission, you can be a co-signer so that you can monitor finances and help them pay bills if and when necessary; and identifying the best physicians in their area with geriatric experience.
On this last point, consider introducing your parents to a geriatric care Buttonsmanager (GCM), who can put together a care plan and also make certain that their home is safe for them. She could check in on them periodically to ensure that their medical needs are being met and quickly put key medical relationships in place, including physicians, and companion care if needed. The advantage of working with a GCM can be especially meaningful to family caregivers like yourself, who live far way and are not familiar with their parents’ community.
Alternatively, engaging a good home healthcare agency could be a big as help has well. Be sure to choose an agency that provides good oversight and that will communicate with you and your siblings on a regular basis so that you can be notified of any changes in their health status.
Many snowbirds in their eighties are delighted by the comfortable life that warm weather affords them. So it wouldn’t be surprising if their part-time relocation becomes permanent within just a few years. That’s why I recommend taking the time to help them get their footing in their new home and find trusted resources that they will be able to depend upon for the years ahead.