January 24, 2017 — Earlier this month we wrote about “The Retirement Wrecker You Never Considered“, which turned out to be about adult children that fail to fledge. Today we will tackle the other half of the sandwich that often squeezes baby boomers; what happens when elderly parents and relatives need help that interferes with your retirement plans. We are certainly not saying that having elderly parents is a “problem”, it is a blessing if you get to enjoy your parents and relatives as they age. Unfortunately for some adult children, they experience challenges with their parents that can turn into a problem for their retirement plans. We know many of you have had experience dealing with this sometimes difficult issue, and hope you will contribute your knowledge and experience in the Comments section below.
To get started we have 11 tips to offer when it looks like your elders need more help but don’t seem to want to get it. After that we have re-posted some comments on this same topic from the past. Obviously there is a range of experience – some elders can live completely independently and have no effect on your retirement, while others need enough help that it disrupts your retirement plans.
An 11 Point How-to Persuade the Parents Tip List
Many of the issues having to do with caring for our elderly relatives relates to their living situation, and a conflict about when and where they should move to a more appropriate setting. To that end we offer these 11 tips, and would love to hear more! Please note that these ideas are just suggestions, every family’s situation is different and requires individual approaches. The forces that affect seniors’ ability to live safely and independently are real and powerful. Some people can manage by themselves into very old age. Try to remember that there are many kinds of success – so be reasonable, persistent, and hopeful.
1. Start early. Don’t wait for the first sign of health deterioration, talk about alternatives and issues well ahead of time.
2. Be consistent. If it looks like they will need help soon, be honest and keep presenting a consistent message. A family meeting to discuss the issues and try for agreement is a good idea. Ideally you can get all family members on the same message – you don’t want Suzy promising to take care of them if Don thinks they need to enter a facility.
3. Act on Bad News. When your parent get sick they are often more able to see more clearly what is in store for them ahead. A situation like that might provide a good time for discussion.
4. Visit facilities now. Take your loved ones around to facilities now. You will like some, and your parents will like others, but ultimately it is their decision. If they like a place it will be so much easier.
5. Encourage your elders to visit their friends who’ve made a move. The visit with the marketing people is one thing, which most people view skeptically. But if you or they have friends who live in a facility, have them invite your folks over for a meal or social event. Seeing the good life in person can overcome a lot of negativity and doubt
6. Make a deposit. This is an insurance policy. For a small deposit most assisted living facilities or continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) will guarantee a spot for your loved ones for a certain period, IF they can pass a medical exam at that time. Even if they don’t ultimately decide to move in they will at least have somewhere to go if (and when) disaster strikes.
7. Be understanding – but firm. Leaving their homes and giving up privacy and independence is a traumatic step, so don’t ignore their feelings. But on the other hand be firm about your capabilities and intentions. If you cannot care for the parent, either in their or your own home, say so. As Helen, one of wonderful old friends, told us after she moved to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (which she adored), the power of a child saying “I can’t take care of you anymore” can be the tug that brings about change.
8. Stress the positive. Helen’s advice on this point was great too. Take your parents to a facility that you have heard good things about. Once they see what a good time everyone is having socially, with so many friends and things going on so close, they will be a lot more likely to want to move. Helen adds this was particularly effective for her as a single woman, who faced the triple problems of social isolation, declining ability to drive, and ready access to good medical care.
9. It’s not your decision. Remember that this is ultimately your parents’ choice–regardless of your strong opinions and preferences.
10. Driving. This is one of the most difficult issues for elderly parents and their children to face. Giving up the car keys is a huge blow to personal independence and self esteem. It is the exceptional person who voluntarily recognizes it is time to quit driving. Yet letting someone with bad eyesight, confused mental state, slow reactions, and poor hand-eye coordination continue to drive is dangerous. Innocent people can be killed, not just your elder. If you are concerned, one of the best ways to handle this is to ask your elder’s doctor to give an evaluation. They are not only in a great position to evaluate the situation, they offer an objective and authoritative voice that cannot be ignored. Many states require road tests and eye exams as people get older and older, which seem like a really good idea.
11. There may be other, better options. Consider that there may well be other and better options for your loved one. For example in-home care might be possible, letting them in his normal home and avoiding a traumatic move. We even know a person who sold her home to an assisted living facility. She now lives in that same home with 2 other women as housemates, supervised by staff from the facility. And of course the way it used to be works too – some parents live quite happily for a long time with one of their children, often in their own in-law apartment.
Now, some comments on the topic made previously on Topretirements
Along with many people we know, we have struggled unsuccessfully with this issue. It is extremely difficult to persuade some elderly people that they need more care. The reasons why relatives and friends don’t want to move out of their homes are certainly understandable – loss of independence and privacy being two really good ones. Whatever the reason, it seems like the majority of older people refuse to move until it is too late. The most serious ramification of waiting too long is that a serious health event occurs and the help that could have been there is not, making a bad situation even worse. Another problem with waiting is a getting a condition that means disqualification for admittance to the most attractive facilities, or admittance only at a much higher cost. There are many other negatives associated with waiting too long as well.
I hear so many people talking about this issue and it sometimes it’s hard for me to take the “me” out of the conversation. In other words, some of us “children” (in our 50’s and 60’s) think we should decide where the parents want to live, because we know best (not Father!). But the bottom line is unless the parent is certifiably senile or a proven menace, it’s their life. Awfully hard to accept when you hear the horror stories, but they have a right to live where they want to be.
I agree, it’s not your decision. But what I find harder is deciding what i would do – in my own situation. When would I be willing to move out of my beautiful home into a facility with a lot of old people? When would I think that it is time to turn over my car keys and depend on others for transportation? Probably a long time from now! At least the wife and I can work on a plan for what circumstances would force us to kick our movement plan into gear. For example, a major health change, a certain age, distance and capabilities of our children? Realistically, I don’t really expect that my children will have the time or inclination to help on a basis sufficiently frequent to keep me living independently.
My advice is don’t be too eager to move your elder, particularly if it is far away from where they live now. We just had some experience with this and there were some unpleasant lessons learned. First, the elder was very disoriented by all the change – takes a lot of time to get back to normal. Second, the family caregivers underestimated the stress and time they would be under/have to give to make this work. Moving an elder is a VERY big deal! Good luck.
I think it’s difficult to choose, because at this moment I think I won’t want to say goodbye to my loving home ever, but who could say that at 80, my decision would not change?
Everyone’s situation is different. Thinking about what to do in advance and discussing it will all parties can go a long way into arriving at the best possible outcome for your loved one.
We are very interested in hearing “war stories” from our members’ experiences in trying to persuade their relatives to move from their private homes to a facility where they can get the care they need (independent living, assisted living, retirement home, continuing care retirement community, or nursing home). Please share suggestions on how to handle this often emotional and complex in the Comments section below.