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Moving My Kicking-And-Screaming Elderly Parents 1,600 Miles To Be With Me

03/21/2014 07:12 am 07:12:15 | Updated May 21, 2014

Originally I was going to title this "Kidnapping My Elderly Parents." I was just desperate enough to try that if I couldn't get them to budge. But first, a brief history:

I moved 1,600 miles away from my parents to Houston as a young adult. As their generation aged, and our other relatives scattered, I became increasingly worried about them being there still, somewhat isolated, without a close family member looking after them. They lived in their aging home all by themselves and tried mightily to keep it up.

Fortunately, my dad was a robustly healthy, mentally sharp man into his mid-eighties and he still drove a car, managed his household, cared for his wife. Being a social guy and wanting something to do with his time, for many years he worked as a greeter and mascot for a local grocery store part time up until the past couple of months. It gave him a place to go, something to do, and pocket change.

When you live far away from your elderly parents, you are always walking on eggshells, dreading a phone call of illness or injury. I got that call this winter -- having just turned 87 years old, my dad had taken a tumble down the stairs of his house. The strong ox that he used to be dissipated with this accident, and he felt frail, vulnerable, and shaky enough where he didn't want to drive any more. (I know many struggle with this alone, and taking the keys away from elderly parents is a torturous decision too. I am fortunate that my father made this decision on his own.)

With the vicious weather this winter, my parents struggled. Now hearing that my father was frail, weak and not able to drive was the last straw. My mind was made up after the scary call I got from a visiting nurse caring for him while he was mending from his fall.

The nurse got me on the phone, and said it was not safe for my parents to stay on their own in their house with two flights of steps. I knew it was no longer their decision on whether to move to me, but mine alone. If I had to kidnap them, or move them kicking and screaming along the way, I would do whatever it took to get them here.

I told my parents that they had to come to be with family in Houston to be safe. My father was all for it, but was not able to set a plan in place to sell their home and leave everything behind. He feared he would be stuck there for a while, unable to put such a plan into place.

Thanks to the assistance of my very levelheaded and capable husband, we put everything into motion and took care of every detail for them. We were able to make many arrangements long distance, getting referrals and advice along the way.

When I got an investor to look at their home and quickly make an offer, I thought that's where the brick wall of stubbornness would go up again. I had tried at least five times previously and one time my dad even looked at apartments in Houston.

The investor made an offer in the amount my parents wanted for the home, and by phone I urged them to accept. Facing the thought of being homeless, and my reassurance that all details would be attended to for them, suddenly there was no more resistance. They knew they were moving away to be cared for and looked after. Along the course of this quickly paced plan, instead of resistance, and replacing the above titled kicking and screaming, there was gratitude.

After several weeks of non-stop arrangements on the Houston end and the Philadelphia end, and a closing by proxy on their home, we arranged the last touches by having an experienced woman help pack them and ship some stuff. Another relative would fly them to Houston and help with all of the last minute details.

A huge worry burden was lifted from my shoulders even with the knowledge that the work was just beginning for me once they got to me.

I have more than a few friends who had to move their parents near them like I had to do. It's a tremendous undertaking and I have a new appreciation for anyone who has tried to do this.

In our middle age group, for those of us lucky enough to have parents who are still alive, it becomes obvious that we have to do the parenting and decision making for them at some point. Just when we finish caring for our now grown children, many of us must begin the caring for our geriatric parents. It's the least we can do.

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