Picture this. You and the family are sitting around the dinner table, having a lovely time enjoying food and conversation about school and work. Towards the end of the meal, your spouse says, “We have to talk about something.”
Everyone stops chewing and looks at each other, thinking, “What did I do now?” The children are breaking into a sweat racking their brains about what happened in school the last two weeks, trying to recall what they might have done that you didn’t hear about yet. Your spouse is doing the same, “Did I forget something, an anniversary, birthday, maybe offended someone?”
Your spouse finally breaks the silence and starts talking about Mom or Dad, they’re slowing down, that they’ve noticed some things around the house that aren’t getting done and that in the not so to distance future they may need to move to where someone can take better care of them. Your spouse then says those words you never thought they would say,
We need to think about moving Mom in with us.
And your mind is racing trying to figure out what that means.
Every day 10,000 in the U.S. people are turning 65 years old. The Boomer generation is now entering their 70’s and 80’s, and some of them are slowing down. Cleaning is not so clean, maintenance is left a bit longer, cars are driven a bit less. They may require a bit more help here and there, but they are starting to see the need for more involved care. Some are already in need of care, part-time to full-time. Or, they may have had a fall, and recovery isn’t going as fast or as well as they thought.
We are not talking about all seniors. Some are very active until the day they die. Those lucky ones will need little to no help. Everyone secretly wishes that they would be one of these types, but it’s not always the case.
When you have a parent or spouse that needs more care, you have some options.
- Moving into a group home or co-housing where others are in similar situations. Generally, there will be more engagement and closer relationships as they are with others 24X7.
- Moving into a facility. Many are choosing this route, especially the Continuous Care Retirement Communities (CCRC), that start independent and go through to skilled nursing care. You have to prepare for entry fees that can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and monthly costs, which average $4,500 for independent living to $16,000 for skilled nursing or more.
- Moving in with a family member. This option is happening more and more as finances may not be there for a facility, and co-housing or group homes are not an option.
Millions of people have three-to-four generations and more under one roof. Multi-generational families have worked for thousands of years. Grandparents and Great Grandparents had active roles in families, from teaching younger children to passing down traditions and maintaining a sense of community with others. It has only been since the last century when facilities really began to be an option for families.
You had built-in advisors, confidants, baby sitters, and coaches all under the same roof. You also had Grandparents looking out for other children, sometimes much to the angst of those children as they would hear about something they did once parents got home. You also had ones with years of experience in showing gratitude, grace, patience, and kindness.
Many now living have not had the experience of living with aging parents. They have been off with their own for many years and haven’t spent long periods with their parents as they age. Staying at grams house overnight or for a week doesn’t count. Everyone is on their best behavior for that short of a time.
But now, the conversation needs to take place. So how should you prepare, and what should be discussed?
Talk it through first
You are in a better position if you have this discussion long before any action needs to be taken. Read Are You Ready to Have That Conversation with Your Parents?! It will give your parent(s) time to process it and to make adjustments to their lifestyles. It may be difficult from their perspective as they may have to leave their neighborhood, all the things they are familiar with, shopping, clubs, parks, theaters, and, most importantly, their friends.
Do not underestimate the impact this will have on them. This is a big decision for them as they recognize the signal that they will be losing their independence and may need help from you or others. Everyone will be impacted, so think it through. It can be done and done well if you plan ahead.
The first question to ask is if your parent wants to move in with you or you move in with your parent. For some, this is not an issue as they are in and out of each other’s homes so often that it comes naturally. Others have been separated for a time, either by distance or emotion, it is a much more involved discussion. In either case, you need to talk it through and make several decisions.
The old saying, “I love my grandchildren, especially when I can send them back to their parents,” will no longer apply when they are living with those same children full-time!
The next question to be asked should be – is there room? For them, for you and your family, for the stuff that comes with whoever is moving? We accumulate way to much stuff, and it needs to be dealt with as a part of the discussion. Living in the same house for 30, 40, or even 50 years, you attract a lot of things that have to be gone through.
Everybody dreads going through the stuff, but it can also be a time to get to know your parents more as you ask them why this piece or that is significant to them. You may find out more about your parents through this process, so look for those opportunities.
You then need to decide what to do with the house if they own one. Do you sell it and put the funds in an account to pay for medical expenses as they age. (Yes!) Or, do you use some of those funds to make modifications to your home so they can live there longer? Look for a Certified Aging-in-Place contractor to evaluate the home and provide estimates on costs.
Try it out
You might want to have a trial period to see what works, or doesn’t if time allows. Two weeks is a vacation, so it will have to be longer, a month to six weeks should shake out any issues you need to discuss. Make sure you review them weekly; if you do it every day it will seem more like complaining or nagging, which does no one any good. Keep a list and talk it through at a set time every week, so issues don’t go too long and turn into something unintended.
Having the conversation ahead of time lowers anxiety and stress as you can talk through reasons, needs, wants, and a host of other topics. If you’ve taken our Caregiving Toolkit course, you will have heard me say many times, start the conversation as soon as you can.
So let us know how you started the conversation with your parents and what you decided. Or, if you haven’t, when will you or what’s holding you back?