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When Grandparents Move to a Nursing Home


Your kids are getting older, and so are their grandparents. It can shake kids up to see Nanny or Poppy leave their home and relocate to a care facility. Here's how to make the transition easier on everyone.

Don't go on a guilt trip. It's natural to feel sad if you can't take care of your parents yourself, but try not to wear your sorrow on your sleeve. Your child will pick up on your attitude—and anxiety—about the transition, says Carol Rosenberg, director of the Jewish Senior Life Foundation in Detroit.

Tell the truth, but focus on the positives. “Instead of saying ‘Grandpa's too old to keep his house anymore,’ say ‘He's moving to a place where they'll shovel the snow and cut the grass for him and make lots of good food for him every day,’” advises Rosenberg. “In addition to being curious, children often just want to know that their grandparent will be kept safe.” Visit as soon as you can and point out the nice things about the facility, like the comfy furniture and caring aides.

Snag a souvenir. Has your child always loved the wind chimes on Grandpa's porch? Hang them on your own, or even in her room, as a keepsake.

Explore intergenerational activities. Many retirement homes organize events where grandchildren are encouraged to participate, points out Rosenberg. “Your child can join the residents in a Wii bowling tournament, for instance,” she says. If not, maybe he can volunteer to read the front page of the newspaper to the residents when he visits.

Read all about it. If a grandparent is going into a home due to dementia, it can take a bit more explaining. A book like Hugging Grandma: Loving Those With Memory Disorders can help children learn to understand and accept the condition.