My brother wants to move my 91-year-old mother, who has stage 5 or 6 dementia, from California to Hawaii next year. What is your advice for us?
Answered by David Troxel
My brother wants to move my 91-year-old mother, who has stage 5 or 6 dementia, from California to Hawaii next year. He is successor trustee of her trust, but does not have a durable power of attorney. Three of her five children think it is better to keep her in her own community, where she can go to the same church and the senior center and see her grandchildren and adult children. If he moves her, they will never see her again. What is your advice for us? Won’t this move have a terrible psychological effect on her?
Whether to move a parent is a question many families face. Years ago, experts strongly discouraged interstate moves because the change was thought to be too disruptive. Now we know that surrounding the person with loving care and a rich environment after the move can dramatically lessen stress and smooth the settling-in process.
However, what you are describing is a significant move. I would love to learn more about your brother’s reasoning. Is Hawaii a place your mother has lived before, or wanted to return to? What kind of support system would she have?
The telling part of your question for me is that three of five of her children don’t want her to go. Even if your brother had the legal authority to carry out the move, I would recommend that your family continue to dialogue and perhaps seek a trusted friend or family advisor to help mediate the disagreement. Based on what you have said, I would lean toward letting her stay where the majority of her children live and where she has a good social network.
Sometimes Alzheimer’s brings children and families together, and sometimes it tears them apart. Take the long view. What do you want your relationships to be like after your mother has passed? My guess is she wouldn’t have wanted her disease to cause estrangement. Work towards a compromise. Perhaps your mother can keep her current home and visit Hawaii.