Transitions: Adult children need to set boundaries

1:26 PM, Aug. 30, 2013  |  Comments
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Dear Jean:

You often give advice about downsizing and moving into a community. I totally agree, but my parents are so stubborn. They won't even discuss it.

They said they are staying in their house. At 60, I am so tired of the workload. I have a full-time job waitressing, yet I'm running to their house all the time; cleaning, doing laundry, getting groceries and taking them to doctor appointments. My husband is 62 and is retired. He cuts their grass and does their yard. Winter is coming, and I don't want my husband shoveling anymore. I want my parents to go to a senior apartment. How can I make them move?


You can't.

You made me smile, though. Similar to how we can give our adult children advice but they do what they want, your parents get to decide where and how they live. You might not agree with them. That's OK.

You can prod, encourage, educate and present options, but the choices are theirs. They have free will.

Note: If your parents are not capable of making rational decisions, then that is a whole different discussion.

Look at what elements of the senior apartment-living you most want them to have, and help incorporate them into their house.

Is it about safety? Things can be done to make their house safer. Possibly you can install grab-bars, emergency help buttons and have the clutter on the stairs cleared off.

Is your concern about having extra help with everyday tasks? There are many in-home health care agencies available. They do chores like laundry, vacuuming and even grocery shopping. As an extra benefit, they are great for companionship.

You can't control your parents' choices, but you can choose how you will deal with their requests.

You can set boundaries. Put a limit to the amount of work you and your husband do there. Helping your parents stay in their home is wonderful, but it shouldn't wear you out.

This isn't a measure of your love.

Have a heart-to-heart talk with them. Discuss what services they can pay for themselves, and what things you will do. Perhaps they can hire a yard service. Share that you would be happy to take them to medical appointments because it is helpful to have a family member along, but that they need to find help with household chores.

Often, they will talk about the expense. If they can afford it but don't want to spend the money, be firm. If they don't have the money, try to discuss ways to reduce the load. Just because they want the grass cut every week, doesn't mean you have to do it. They have made the choice to stay there. What would happen if the grass wasn't cut?

In that generation, our parents have been raised to save, save, save. Remind them that they've saved to have a comfortable retirement, and now it is time to use that investment on themselves (and your health).

-Jean Long Manteufel, senior move manager and CEO of Long's Senior Transitions in Appleton, writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. She can be reached at 920-734-3260 or

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