Relocating Elderly Parents to the DC Area


Many of us in the DC area are from somewhere else in the USA. Most of the time this is not a problem. However, when parents cannot live by themselves anymore or need more assistance, it may be a good idea to consider moving them closer to you in the DC area, as you try to juggle eldercare along with that of your kids. We were going through our adoption journey when we considered relocating one of our parents to Washington, DC.

My husband is from California and most of his family is sprinkled along the west coast. Back in San Jose, his mother had a series of misfortunes, she became a widow, her health deteriorated, and a family member squandered her retirement nest egg. The local Adult Protective Services agency asked my husband to become his mother’s conservator, despite the 3,000 mile difference. We found it impossible to provide long-distance care, so after a year of several mishaps, we asked his mom to move to DC.

Elderly couple waiting to cross urban street
Hand in Hand by Garry Knight

Here’s what we learned when a parent moves to the DC area

Get your parents on board

They don’t have to be enthusiastic about leaving their friends and the places they know. They just have to onboard enough to get through security screening at the airport and the flight. When we first asked her, she said no. But in later phone conversations, after another mishap, she agreed to leave California.

Assess their needs

Be realistic about what they can and cannot do and what you and your spouse can and cannot do. Maybe your parents are healthy enough to help with the kids. Maybe they are healthy enough to live independently in senior apartments in the area. If you are placing them at a local living facility, you will need a physical or health assessment form from their doctor. Due to the myriad of problems we encountered being 3,000 miles away, this was more difficult than it should have been.

Find a place for them

Our home was not an option. The size and layout of our home and my mother in law’s mobility needs and health challenges were a bad mix. Besides, we both worked and she needed a community after being isolated for some time. Her health needs, limited income, and residential status made senior housing in, or near, our neighborhood unobtainable. Looking for residential senior care is a little like looking for childcare. Some places had waiting lists, some places are not right for our needs, and some places were just unaffordable. When you do get them to the DC area, you will need to place them somewhere. We used my workplace EAP to get a list of places that had availability, in her price range and were close enough so we could care for her.

Figure out Medicare

If you have a question about your parents’ Medicare, call Social Security. The number is 1-(800)-772-1213 and make sure your phone is fully charged. You may have to visit the local office. There are local elements to Medicare, like finding new doctors and getting new supplemental Medicare insurance, so research those before relocating your parents.

My mother in law passed away last year and we do not regret bringing her to the East Coast. If she never moved here, she would have never had the chance to meet Junior, who was still under legal risk, when she passed. Junior couldn’t legally travel out of the area and she couldn’t travel due to her health. In California, she had been abandoned to a senior boarding house where all she could do was watch TV. In the DC area, she made friends with other little old ladies, participated in activities, saw specialists, was able to attend church and see her son several times a week. It was a sad and happy ending.

Caring for your parents image
Photo credit Matthias Zomer


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It is very difficult living far from aging parents, especially as a new mother. There are so many responsibilities to think about that make being so far away extremely difficult. I hope that your post comforts those who are unsure of how to handle the situation, and helps them to see a path. Thank you!

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