What to Do When Mom and Dad Return from Florida

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

The last few years have seen more elderly parents returning to New York from Florida and other retirement locations. It happens all too often after the adult children have made a few trips to care for their parents after a health issue. The distance that wasn’t a big deal years ago has become a problem, and it’s time for the parents (or parent) to be closer to their children.

We see a “reverse migration” in our Elder Law practice. People who moved to Florida years ago now find they no longer have a support system. This is especially true for older seniors. When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse finds it difficult to manage independently. Often many of their friends have passed away, so they feel isolated. Being far from family might not have mattered when they were both living. Their children up north are now too involved with their own families and cannot constantly travel to help their parent. Often, they want their parent to come back to be close to them.

If this sounds familiar, here are things to consider.

The key to making this less stressful is to prepare. Instead of waiting for a health crisis and moving an ill older person a long distance, talk with parents about their health and plan for the future beforehand.

If there is space in your home, could they live with you? Do they need help with daily activities, or are they determined to stay in their distant location until they must live full-time in a nursing home? What residential options exist near you – assisted living, intermediate care facility, or a residential care facility?

Have they planned for long-term care costs? Do they have long-term care insurance, and if so, do they have the policy to review?

Will they need to apply for Medicaid? If so, should Medicaid planning be done? New York State doesn’t have a residency requirement for applying for Medicaid. Still, financial restrictions may make it difficult for them to qualify for Medicaid.

Do they have estate planning documents so adult children can make financial, legal, and healthcare decisions on their behalf? Documents prepared under the law of another state either may not be valid or accepted in New York. They may also be outdated, which we often see in our office.

There will be many moving parts if it is time to move parents from a distance. A family member will probably need to go to their home and help them decide what to move, what to gift to friends or family members, what to donate, or what to put in the trash. It is an emotionally charged process requiring a lot of patience.

Accredited moving professionals work with relocating seniors. Ask for recommendations or check with the National Association of Senior Move Managers. A social worker at a local hospital or care facility may also be a source for people who regularly help seniors prepare for a major move.

How will you get your frail parent home? If they can fly, request a wheelchair at arrival and departure airports. Try to travel midweek when the airport may not be so crowded. Ideally, family members will fly with them so they are not traveling alone.

Getting health care providers lined up for your parents should be done while the relocation process is ongoing. Get their prescriptions transferred to a new pharmacy and alert their health insurance provider they are moving in advance to prevent any coverage issues.

About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.