In sailing, the technique used to move against the wind is called tacking. In common use, tacking is the concept of making progress by zigzagging rather than moving forward directly. For adult children helping their parents transition from one home to another, tacking can be a useful concept.
I met recently with a client in her early eighties. She suffered a stroke, and a few months later, lost her husband. They had planned to move to a nearby retirement community, and my client decided to continue with that plan. As she recuperated from the stroke and dealt with her husband’s loss, planning her new home — a large two-bedroom villa separate from the main building — gave her great pleasure. She worked with a decorator and implemented changes that made the villa “her own”. Both financially and emotionally, she was invested.
For months after her stroke, she was not permitted to drive. Shortly before her planned move, she was evaluated to see if she could resume driving and was crushed when she did not pass. Without driving, her children argued, moving to a detached villa was a mistake. She would be cut off from activities and opportunities for socializing. It was likely she would need to move to an apartment in the main building within a few years. Wouldn’t it be better, they maintained, to move just once?
I saw the issue differently. In less than a year, my client had lost her health, her husband, her ability to drive, and her home of forty years. The villa was something to move toward, something in which she had invested time, energy and passion. Now her children were suggesting that she lose that as well. How much can a person lose?
I hoped her children would support her decision, and fortunately, they did. If and when she moves an apartment, the difficult transition from the family home will already have been made. She will change spaces, but will be staying within a community she already calls “home.”
Somtimes getting parents to agree to move requires supporting a decision that may not be optimal, but it is the decision they are willing to make. Faced with formidable obstacles, going sideways is sometimes the most straightforward path.