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What to do When Elderly Parents Refuse to Move

When our parents start showing signs of cognitive decline or start suffering from significant physical limitations, living alone can become unsafe. But people grow used to their independence, which makes it tough to face reality when start needing a little help. Countless frustrated children of aging parents have experienced this first hand.

Even for the most persuasive person, figuring out what to do when an elderly parent refuses to move can be challenging. But with the right approach, convincing senior parents to move is far from impossible. It just takes a little planning.

How to Convince Your Elderly Parents to Move

Whether young or old, persuading people of something that’s challenging to them is something that’s best done over time. If possible, don’t expect to convince an elderly parent they’ll need to move during the course of a single conversation. It’s best to warm someone up to the idea long before it’s necessary, allowing them time to form expectations and process the truth.

Figuring out how to move a parent with dementia can be particularly challenging because you might have less time to address these concerns. Even for seniors who are sound of mind, nobody likes to feel like their agency is being taken. That’s why many attempts to force elderly parents to move are usually destined to fail.

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Moving Your Aging Parents with Grace

Remember that how you communicate with your parents is just as important as what you’re saying. If you come off as condescending, that’s not helping your case. When you want to be persuasive, try to be as empathetic as possible. Ask if they’re afraid about moving, and listen to their concerns in order to better understand their reluctance.

For instance, they might be concerned about leaving friends behind, uneasy about big changes, or feel concerned over how the move will make them perceived by others. Don’t make loved ones feel that they need to undergo those kinds of stresses simply because they’re old.

Instead, you can try to focus on the risks and benefits of the decision. Would they be more independent in a new place? Would they have better access to healthy food? Are you able to locate a place they might enjoy living? If so, you can emphasize the benefits of living there.
And while you shouldn’t guilt your parents or make them feel like a burden, you can try explaining how the move could help make things easier for you.

Moving Elderly Parents Against Their Will

Can social services remove an elderly person from their home? Under most circumstances, the answer is no. Because the law regards people as competent until proven otherwise. However, if a social worker visits the home and sees an obvious sign of danger, they can seek to obtain guardianship over that person.

Guardianship is a special legal relationship between a guardian and the person they are appointed to protect. Obtaining guardianship requires demonstrating beyond a doubt that a person is unable to care for themselves. The children of elderly adults can also seek guardianship, though as with social workers, this involves a lengthy and expensive legal process.


When an elderly parent refuses to move, there’s only so much you can do. Try to show them the bigger picture, including all the benefits and risks involved in the decision. Try to understand the reasons why they’re hesitant, and help them to maintain a sense of control over what’s happening. And if possible, try to convince them gradually.

But if you can’t change their mind, and guardianship isn’t an option, then you will have to try and accept their decision. Because provided their judgment is not legally impaired, your parents are adults with the freedom to make their own choices, both good and bad.