During Sunday's radio interview on the Dr. Stan Frager Show, a caller asked me about when it's time to look into a move when a person is concerned about their aging parents' safety in the home. It's a tough call, but safety and mobility issues are often the trigger point for such discussions.
Another way to approach this touchy subject ideally occurs long before any concern over safety. Have a dream session with your aging loved ones about what they envision for their future. Remember, it's not your vision for their future, it's THEIRS. But listen. If the idea of moving closer to family (ie: you) for support with health issues does not enter the conversation, now's a good time to bring it up. Doing it when there is no pressure makes discussions like these so much easier.
If you have a vision that includes them moving to a retirement community closer to you, or to one in their current town, ask them to give you a gift - the gift of knowledge. Ask them to visit the area retirement communities or assisted living facilities with you so you can learn about options for the future with them. Just checking these places out doesn't mean you are asking them to choose one and move tomorrow. It's about educating yourselves on the options for the future.
If the idea of a retirement community isn't in their future due to finances or resistance, the gift could be the gift if knowledge about what resources are available if the need arises. "I'm concerned about you getting caught in a crisis situation," is a good way to approach it. Your concern as a caregiver, whether you've actively stepped into that role or not yet, is concern for them, not your needs, at this point.
Once these discussions are opened, it may well be that you can interject your concerns about how your world and life would change if their need for your involvement increases. "You know, Mom and Dad, I'd really want to live here forever too if I were you, but I'm a little concerned that if you ever needed my help, I might not be able to get to you since I live three hours away and I travel a lot for work. What can we do together to ease all our minds that you have the resources to live the way you want to in the event of a health crisis?"
Asking for the gift of education can be a gift of peace of mind for the recipient, and the gift giver.