Relocating for elderly parents

As parents age and become dependent, it’s natural for the question to arise about whether they would be better off living near at least one of their adult children. Given our very mobile society, that often means either the parents or adult child needs to relocate. While it may seem that the parents would be the most likely ones to move, that’s not always the case.

A woman contacted me regarding this question. In her case, she wanted to move closer to her mom and other family, yet her husband preferred to stay where they were. How can one reach a solution in such a situation that honors both one’s marriage and one’s parents? Here are a few thoughts.


First, recognize the importance of maintaining unity between husband and wife when it comes to resolving this situation. Remember the words in Genesis 2:24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” Discussions and eventual decisions shouldn’t be a cause of division in your marriage. An open discussion between spouses can go a long way toward better understanding the pros and cons of each option, and draw them together as a decision is made.

Here are some issues to consider: Do job or career issues make it difficult to relocate? Do responsibilities with children make it difficult to move? Have roots and friendships been established in the area that would be hard to leave? Is the new location a place that both spouses would enjoy living even after the parents pass away?

Finally, it’s important to take into consideration one’s financial position. Are there sufficient resources to make the move and still fulfill other responsibilities, including the education of children and retirement? Remember that selling a home, making the move, and buying a new home is a very expensive proposition.

Of course, it’s important that we also honor our parents, yet that normally can be accomplished in multiple ways. If other family members live close to parents, and are in a position to take the lead regarding their care, it might make sense to make several extended trips each year to visit, rather than make a permanent move. This might fulfill the desire to be close, while being a solution that better fits one’s financial situation.

In order to determine the financial impact of a move, I recommend preparing a “pro-forma” budget for such a scenario. The “pro-forma” budget should take into account changes in income and expenses related to the move, including one-time expenses associated with the sale/purchase of a home and the move itself, as well as changes in recurring expenses once in the new location. While finances aren’t the most important issue at stake, any move needs to be economically viable. Given the fact that there will at least be substantial one-time costs, ask whether you are in a position to absorb those.

Once you have taken into consideration the needs of your marriage, your parents and your financial circumstances — and you have spent time in prayer with your spouse — you’ll be in a position to make a decision that honors everyone involved. God love you!

Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries ( and author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free” (OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to