Making the move: Dealing with denial and resistance

by Matt Del Vecchio

One of the toughest challenges when considering a senior residence is denial and resistance from the loved one who needs to make the move.

It is rare that all family members agree. Couples often disagree on their health status. Usually it’s the caregiving spouse who suggests it’s time to move. Sometimes adult children disagree with their parents or one another. Relationships can suffer as tensions mount.

Why is denial and resistance prevalent? The most common reasons are fear, anxiety, lack of knowledge, misconceptions, and not admitting to increased care requirements. Let’s face it — change is difficult. We’d rather stay in our comfort zone.

We often hear: “Why disrupt things? Only old people live in senior residences. I’m not like them. We’ll be able to manage.” The decision to move usually depends on the individual’s physical and cognitive state. Staying at home is an option as long as health, safety and security are not at risk. But once they are at risk, action should be taken. How can we deal with denial and resistance?


Be proactive by discussing your loved one’s concerns. Encourage open, transparent conversation without judgement. Try to address each concern. Perhaps homecare is a good first step. Have these discussions as early as possible to avoid a crisis that requires immediate action.

Take a tour

Seeing is believing. Touring two or three residences may address the fear and stigma associated with the move. It’s a way to get a feel for the culture and atmosphere of a residence. It’s a good idea to visit several residences first and get a sense of the level of care, get an idea of costs and tax credits, observe activities, the demeanor of the residents, and the interaction between staff and residents. Then you’ll be in a better position to bring your loved one for a tour. Some residences offer complimentary lunches. Try their food and mingle with other residents.

Talking with a professional

A trusted advisor can sometimes ease the situation. Start with your family physician. Doctors recognize vulnerabilities and will suggest alternative living arrangements if they feel aperson is at risk. Social workers and geriatricians can also play a role.

Money issues

Talk to your financial advisor and accountant to prepare a financial plan to see if you could justify the cost. Compare that cost to living independently or with homecare.

Trigger events

Slips and falls resulting in a visit to the ER should be reason alone to discuss safety issues. Improper use of medication, unpaid bills, car accidents and forgetting appointments should raise concerns. Another trigger can be a neighbour or friend who made the move. This could open the door to discussing the benefits of moving to a safer and healthier environment.

Dealing with denial and resistance is rarely simple. Be patient, reduce anxiety, educate and offer options. All family members will benefit in the long run.

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