Elderly Parents Moving to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello! We've recently moved my father-in-law to the US from Asia, as he is showing signs of Alzheimers and needs care. If there is anyone who has any advice regarding how we might secure health insurance for him and/or a recommendation for an immigration attorney, as well as any general advice about having a grand/parent with dementia living with you, that would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    I work at Asian Health Services in Oakland Chinatown - https://asianhealthservices.org/location/. I recommend reaching out to the Member Services Dept (or any of the clinics) to help with reviewing health insurance options and scheduling to see a doctor. We offer language concordant services for many Asian languages. The Alzheimer's Association has great online resources for people with dementia and their families, as well as many support programs locally - https://www.alz.org/norcal/helping_you/education_conferences. As for immigration attorneys, I know of Bay Area Legal Aid - https://baylegal.org/. Good luck to you and your family.


    Is he a US citizen or has residency? 

    In any case, the  most important issue is insurance....medical?

    Living with a person with dementia is pretty exhausting and sad. Yes, you want to do the best for your parents but you have to set up a care system.

    You can email me in private and we can talk. The last 6 month I have been living with my 63 year old sister in law that had develop some dementia and my 82 year old mother. I could tell you what has been useful or not.


    I just did this with my 99 year old grandma from Canada. First, good news, in CA undocumented immigrants are eligible for Covered California, so if you can afford it, you can sign him up for health insurance right away. I did it in January during open enrollment, so that was easy. I think at this time of year you have to show that he moved, which will require something with old address and something with new address. We got Kaiser and it is $900/month. Totally ridiculous.... so the other option is start putting money aside for medical costs instead of paying that (i haven't tried an immigration attorney - obv if you can get him qualified for MediCare that would be fantastic). Definitely have him complete an advance health directive and DNR form (if that is what he wants). Kaiser is helpful on those things but you can find the forms online as well.

    You might check with your employer and your partner's employer to see if perhaps he could be covered. My gma was not covered by my employer, but worth a try. My employer does have an employee benefit of an eldercare referral service but that seems to be about it.

    As to general advice, not really, except take/ask for help. Fortunately my brother lives nearby and is taking her for one weekend/month to give us breaks. After first time of two nights, I said we need 3 nights each time and after a few months, I said we needed a week! (not every month, but at that point). I have also asked other family members to come stay with her for a couple hours at a time. And fortunately at this point she is fine on her own for a few hours too. It's been a strain on my marriage so watch out for that and try to keep communication open. We can't do it much longer - trying to figure out a new plan.

    Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about it! 

  • My parents would love to spend roughly half the year, give or take, in the Bay Area and the other half on the east coast with the rest of their grandchildren. On the other coast, housing is far less expensive, and there are time share type options for them to explore. I am wondering whether there are similar arrangements here. They could buy a place and sublet it for the time that they are absent from the area, but this seems like an utter headache. Looking for resourceful folk on this list that might offer leads for further research. Thanks!

    If they bought a place over here, they could use a service like KeyBee hosting (https://www.keybeehosting.com/) to manage the rental in their absence. I met with Keybee about possibly getting their help to manage a short term rental of my own, and was very impressed with the array of services they offer. I ultimately decided not to rent my space at all for the time being, but I would definitely consider using their services in the future. 

    You might try an extended stay hotel or SabbaticalHomes.com. Or you could post on the "Housing Wanted" section of craigslist. 

    Hi, I would imagine that your parents would be most comfortable having a set home of their own to come to each visit... And I know that having a long distance property can be a huge headache, dealing with: finding and managing renters, maintenance, cleaning, etc. I have 3 ideas as possible options for your parents to have a home to come to but without the headache.

    Option 1: Buy a single family home. Find a responsible and insured house sitter with a flexible schedule to care for the home and it's maintenance while your parents are gone and have it ready and available for them when they return.

    Option 2: Buy a single family home with a backyard and find someone to live in their own tiny house (that they bring with them) in the backyard. They would live there in exchange for taking care of the would-be headaches involved with managing the short term rental of your parents' home, using sites like Airbnb

    Option 3: Buy a home that has an additional living space, such as a back cottage or an in-law unit. The fantastic headache-preventing property manager would live in the smaller unit while caring for the upkeep and/or short term rental of the larger living space.  Mzima LovedNotLonely [at] gmail.com

    I have a nice rental that I've made available in the past to people here on extended stays - such as professors spending a semester here.  Get in touch and perhaps we can work out something.

  • My parents live in New England, where they have lived in the same community for 50 years, and in the same house for over 30. They have a small group of friends and are active in the Jewish community there. They are currently 70 and 75 (mom/dad). My dad is still working, but plans to retire within the next 1-3 years, at which point they plan to move out here, at least 6-9 months a year, to be closer to me and our two young daughters. My brother and his three children live in New York, so they do not want, ideally, to make a full move out here, at least for the moment. They are active, contented, lovely, healthy people, and I have sorely missed being near them since moving out here long ago. In short, I am thrilled that they will be moving here, and that they will be a huge part of my children's lives. They have always visited frequently (multiple times a year) and love this area, but it is not their home.

    I am looking to hear stories from others who have had parents in a similar position move out at such an advanced age. What have you done to help ease the transition? How has it gone? What would you do differently looking back? I am beginning to worry about potential social dislocation for them, once they move away from all of their friends, known community and environment, and way of life. Will it be too hard for them to adapt and resettle in their mid-70s? I know that it depends on individual inclination, but I also fear that there is a definitive age factor at play that potentially overrides personality/temperament. Over the years of reading this newsletter, I have read many stories of parents/grandparents moving out here, and I am wondering how the process has unfolded. My mom would love to take a weaving class at the Richmond Art Center. My dad loves cooking and wine. But, they are getting up there in age. I am concerned about them being/feeling uprooted, and, too how that will play out when one of them dies first, leaving the other behind, outside of their known community and network of support.


    My parents did it (moved from MA to Berkeley) after my father's retirement.  I had many of the same concerns you did, but it went really well.  You mention a number of the things that helped my parents: a faith community, activities and clubs, and access to local resources for their interests (wineries and restaurants count!).  It did look to me like there were some parallels between post-retirement years and, say, your early 20s.  A lot of people have moved to new towns, or are experiencing other shake-ups in their social availability, whether from the death of a spouse/partner or all the new time available with retirement.  There were a lot of people who were experiencing the same social dislocation they were, and, frankly, that's fertile ground for forming new communities, especially when these are people without jobs, kids of their own to raise, etc. All those things that can make it hard for us to form new social ties, they don't have those barriers.  My parents settled right in, joined a local church, participated in local clubs and activities, got to know their neighbors, and spent a lot of time with my children. It was wonderful.  I do know it helped my parents a lot that they had each other, were in good health at the time, and are the kind of people who will be active and put themselves out there.  Some things that really helped them over the years, especially as they declined: they chose good housing, that they were able to stay in, and they really made a project of learning their way around and what resources were available.  With your parents only planning to be here part-time, they might be disinclined to put in that effort of building local knowledge, but I'd really encourage it.  My mom had a tough last year or two, and it was so great that my dad already knew his way around, so that, say, they greeted having to make a trip to UCSF for a doctor's appointment as a chance to also go to some particular restaurant or museum.  And of course it was hard for him after she passed, but it really was apparent to me then how much of a community he had built.  Best wishes to your family as you make this transition. 

    6 yrs ago, my retired parents moved from Cleveland, Ohio. They lived in the same home for 40 yrs and I too was concerned about the enormous change and transition. They moved to Rossmoor, an incredible very safe retirement community in Walnut Creek, and have zero regrets. Rossmoor is a large community with a variety of housing options from apartments to single family homes. It offers a ridiculous number of clubs, classes, activities, weekly farmers market, etc. This is definitely a place for active seniors. It has a bus system both for inside the community and to downtown Walnut Creek and the BART station, which is a plus when the time comes that they can't drive. Since there is such a variety of activities, they quickly made friends and have developed a wonderful community.

    I am 75 and my husband will soon be 80. We lived in a suburb of Chicago for 30 years. Twelve years ago we relocated to Walnut Creek to be near  two of our daughters/grandchildren. I joined a synagogue immediately.....then joined the sisterhood. I am in the choir, the book club and the social action group--Joining a "chavura" is a good idea. We love it here--lovely weather, a 12 month growing season and beautiful places to visit in easy driving distance. BUT, spending time with our daughters/grandchildren made the move totally worthwhile. I also immediately set up a healthcare system for the both of us. 

    My parents moved from Chicago out here in their mid-70's after living there their whole lives. They moved to Rossmoor in Walnut Creek where they became very active in a number of clubs, from big band, Democratic Party groups, WW II vets, Jewish women's group, swimming, current events, ...  There are over 100 clubs there, so they made friends quickly. There are lectures and classes they took part in.  When they got more invalid, they used the services there. What else did I do to help them? I took them around the neighborhoods: Walnut Creek, SF, Oakland, Berkeley, and Marin. I made sure I had doctors and dentists lined up for them so they didn't have to search. I gave them lists of stores and service providers and restaurants near them. I think they were content with the move and were glad to be near their only grandchildren. I'm not saying it was easy on them, but I believe they thought it was worth it. I sure am glad they moved here.  BTW there are weaving classes offered through the Pleasant Hill recreation department that I've taken and liked.

    My parents and my aunt did the same thing, but in their late 60s and from the Midwest. I was so worried about them -- about their safety, about their navigational abilities, about loneliness. But they have LOVED it out here after so many years spent in boring, conservative, homogeneous suburbs. They love the easy access to culture, the diversity, the restaurants, the warm winters. In particular they've enjoyed the OLLI program at Cal, Berkeley Rep, bridge groups, tennis clubs, the Montclair Swim Club, Rosie the Riveter museum, art classes, stuff at Stanford, the Oakland Museum, films. One interesting thing is that they *haven't* fallen in love with SF. They barely have time for it and when they do make it into the city they mainly hit the art museums. I'm not sure if it's too overwhelming or too young or what. They adore the East Bay. Learning their way around has been a bit of the challenge, with the density and all of the highways, and the hills. If your parents can learn to use their GPS or a smart phone with Google Maps (if they don't know already) that might be a big advantage to feeling comfortable. Mine also rented AirBNBs/VRBOs to try out different neighborhoods for a while before buying homes. My aunt in particular has enjoyed Bay Farm Island on Alameda, which has a certain Midwestern quality that she likes. I would also suspect that life east of the Caldecott Tunnel might have an easier, slower pace for older folks, if that's important, but perhaps less public transportation options. Overall it's been a great move for all of them, they are SO happy here, and it's wonderful to have my family nearby. They've been way more intrepid and adventurous that I ever would have imagined and have adjusted really quickly.

    While I have not personally experienced that, I want to say, since they are Jewish, my temple (Temple Sinai in Oakland) is very active and has a large number of people in their 60's-80's who are involved. One group "The Next Chapter" does occasional outings, the Women's group has book clubs, bridge and maj jong, etc. Social Action has a slew of things going on. 

    Several years ago, my in-laws moved from Westchester County to a large apartment complex in Walnut Creek located between the BART station and downtown. They are now about the same age as your parents. I was convinced that they should be in North Berkeley, but they are quite happy where they are. If they did stop driving completely, I think it would be slightly harder for them.

    They love being able to walk anywhere and take BART or drive. My father in law is involved with several synagogues including one in Walnut Creek and Chochmat Halev in Berkeley. He also takes classes at the Fromm Institute at USF. They go to theater, opera or museums in Walnut Creek, Berkeley/Oakland and San Francisco. Many of their friends have relocated to the Bay Area or Florida and they both like to travel to them and also have regular visitors. They are glad to not have to deal with shoveling snow and weather-restricted travel.

    Two of their friends have grandchildren in Connecticut and here in the Bay Area and they do try to split their time by coming to the Bay Area two to three times per year for 4 to 6 weeks and staying in short term rentals. I think they are not as happy with that situation.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Moving elderly parent from East Coast to Bay Area

April 2006

My 87-year-old father has been living near Atlanta, Georgia, for thirty years. Currently, he resides in an assisted living facility at care level ''assisted living plus plus.'' His health is frail, but stable. Recently, he talks more and more about wanting to finish his life in California, where I live and where he spent some of the best years of life. All four of his children now have agreed to accede to his wish to move, and I have made preliminary arrangements toward transfering him to an associated assisted living facility near where I live. So far, so good.

The actual nuts and bolts of moving someone of his age and health so far seem daunting to me, and I will be the one responsible. I am guessing that fellow BPN members have carried out such a move with one or both of their parents, and might have some experience and advice to share. If people can share particular pitfalls I might not otherwise consider, lessons learned, or things that they ''wish they'd known beforehand,'' I'll appreciate the input. Trying to Plan Ahead

My husband and I recently attended a great presentation at the N. Berkeley Senior Center by Donna Robbins about moving elderly parents-- she is a geriatric care manager and one of the services she provides is orchestrating just the sort of move you are describing. She has written a book called ''Moving Mom and Dad'' which you can order from her website (www.ultimatemoves.net)and she also provides consultations. Good luck!