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Retirement Problem #2: The Other Half of the Sandwich

Category: Eldercare

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.

When Bob Isleib turned 80 he still living independently, even though there were signs of dementia. Within a few years there was no other choice but for him to be in assisted living, but it was a wonderful, caring place.

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

Anonymous
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.

From YoungatHeart:
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.

BFJ
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.

Boomer1:
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.

Comfortlife
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?

Bottom line
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.

Your Experiences
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.

For further reading
How to Handle When It is Time for Your Parent to Move
War stories on helping to manage elder moves




Posted by Admin on January 24th, 2017

21 Comments »

  1. Well, I didn’t have that option because my mother has dementia and doesn’t have the funds to move into a facility. So the best option for us was for myself to stop working and be her caregiver.

    by mary11 — January 25, 2017

  2. It only takes a doctor to prescribe admission, for full time nursing care. If your parent owns their home, cd’s, mutual funds, burial plot, vehicles, stocks, etc… ANYTHING, the nursing home asks for copies of all this plus the last 5 years bank statements, health history and insurance records. AND they will ask you to write a check for the exact amount of the previous month’s Social Security check. Nursing homes want everyone on Medicaid. You can not get a loved one in the Nursing Home unless you sign their 20 some paperwork agreeing to everything. One of those agreements is getting the person “qualified” for Medicaid. How they do this is by “liquidating” the assets of the person. They call it spin down. My Aunt spent her final 3 months of life in a Nursing home. They cleared out her bank account, cashed in her life insurance policy (100K) and put a lien on half the home. Which my Uncle is fighting for his home at 82 years of age!

    by DD — January 25, 2017

  3. I have had two experiences with moving parents from their homes, one was my mother and the other is my father-in-law. In my mother’s case, she was in her 80’s and living in a condo nearby. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer too late to treat it. She knew she had only a short time to live. We toured several assisted living facilities and selected a very nice one that also had a nursing unit. She knew that she couldn’t live alone anymore and wanted to sell the condo and make things easier on me by getting her affairs in order and preparing for the worst. She was only in the assisted living unit for a short while before being transferred to nursing care for the final few weeks of her life.

    A few years after my mother died, any my wife’s mother died in the same year, we moved out of state leaving my father-in-law behind. He was in his 80’s and living in a condo and still able to drive and care for himself. About 5 years later, he began to fall in his condo and one time hit his head and couldn’t get up for some time. After that, my wife went back to assess the situation and determined that he could no longer live alone. The only other family member nearby to him was my son who was attending college at the time. My wife reluctantly persuaded her father to relocate to an assisted living facility in our town so that she could frequently monitor his situation. That was 10 years ago and he is still in assisted living and now in a wheel chair but healthy at age 93. I know it was very hard for him to leave his native city, friends, church and give up his independence but, in our situation, it was the only option. He is the “old timer” at his facility and everyone knows him and likes him. Unfortunately, he has outlived many of the other residents that have lived there and he constantly has to make new friends. However, being around other people, taking part in group activities, eating well and receiving the care he needs in this facility is much better than the alternative if we had not moved him.

    Based on our experiences, my wife and I have both enrolled in long-term care policies so that if we reach the point where we cannot take care of ourselves, we will be able to reside in an assisted living or nursing facility and not be a burden to our children. Something for all to consider.

    by LS — January 25, 2017

  4. DD, I know well from my father being in a nursing home for a little over a month how they work. My step mother was on his bank accounts and the family home was in his name. The Nursing home took the home. Nothing we could do legally. I wish your Uncle better luck there.
    We had an experience with the MIL the last time she was in the hospital. The hospitals have caseworkers that talk to the elderly patients. My MIL doesn’t have dementia, but does get confused at times. More so away from home. The hospital caseworker had asked her about her living arrangements, and such before she could be released. MIL told her that her daughter lived with her, and seen to her needs. Unknowingly to us, my MIL signed herself into a Nursing home. She thought it was her hospital discharge papers. In the meantime, we were waiting for the hospital to call us to tell us she was discharge, to pick her up. Hours later, my wife picked up the phone and it was the Nursing Home. They informed her the MIL had signed herself into a Nursing home. My wife said “ok where are you located?” They told her their location asked my wife “how soon can you move?” The MIL had told the hospital caseworker she owned our home! Once they were set straight, that MIL has no assets, the Nursing home thought it was best if she was returned to home, even though the doctor had approved her admission!!
    In the case of my own mother, my sister and I found a lady to live in and assist with mother’s needs. She gets two days off a week which we take turns staying with mother. Mother put the property in our names, with the legal right to live there as long as she is alive. This qualified her for Medicaid, where she can get home health care 3 times a week. She had to also sign her life insurance policy over to the Funeral home which at that time she decided the specifics for her funeral and burial. She wants nothing to do with a Nursing homes or the high costs of medical care. Yes, it costs me extra each month with utilities, food, and necessities to see to them. Yes all of these things will defer my retirement plans, as mother and the MIL could live a long time.
    My advice. Start early talking to your elderly relatives to make them understand their options and let them decide. Tell them from the start what you can or can not help with to insure their independence. Be aware of their health issues, researching options to help them live independent. Be ready to break that commitment when and if the need arises, due to your own finances or health.

    by DeyErmand — January 25, 2017

  5. Similar to the above comment – after my mom and I disclosed all of her assets to the facility she was entering, guess what the entry fee was? That exact amount! She was left with only her monthly retirement pensions to try to cover the expenses, which were a joke: $8.00 for a box of Kleenex for example. The monthly bill which was mailed to me as I had to handle her checking account was always more than they stated it would be by the initial salesperson, and at least 1000-1500 beyond her income. As she aged, and her needs got greater, the bill climbed dramatically! Guess who paid the difference – me! For 3 years! Right out of our retirement savings. My husband and I purchased long term care insurance when we were in our early 50’s so that we don’t inflict this on our kids when the time comes.

    by SandyZ — January 25, 2017

  6. Thx, I will be checking into this long term care insurance!

    by DD — January 25, 2017

  7. Sounds like there is a lot to learn about Long Term Care Insurance. What are the pros and cons?

    by Caps — January 25, 2017

  8. My mother owns her own condo and she doesn’t want to be put in a nursing home. Also, the condo is willed to me. She knows with my receiving only $760 per month on SS AND no pension fund this is the best situation for the both of us, at least for now. She was born in Europe and the thought of you putting your parents in a nursing home is blasphemy in their eyes. It’s a different culture. So I guess the best option for me is to hire someone to be with her so my husband and I can spend some quality time together once in awhile.

    by mary11 — January 25, 2017

  9. I bought Long Term Care Policies for my hub and myself many years ago through an employer. I was able to take the insurance with me as long as I kept paying. Which I have for years now. I was under the impression that the prices were set in stone and there would never be an increase. That was one of the features to me. However, just two days ago I received a letter in the mail stating both policies would increase by 15% each. It said ‘as stated in your policy’ in regard to the increase. This policy pays $210 a day to a nursing home. There are two nursing homes in my town and I believe both cost around the same and that was $12,000 in 2013 when my Mom was in one of them. At $210 a day that leaves a balance of $177 a day or $5487 per month out of our pocket. The total lifetime amount the policy pays is $420,000. At $12,000 at $210 a day that would last about 5 years and around $30,000 out of our pocket. This is based on prices 3 years ago. I know nursing home costs are around half as much in TN and KY. Not sure how that all would work out moving to a less costly city. They may make some kind of adjustment on daily payments to nursing home. The insurance is not a forever thing till the person dies. It is figured on statistics and typical life expectancy. Unless you find some unique policy with more bells and whistles.

    by Louise — January 25, 2017

  10. The irony of many of these stories is they involve boomer-generation “kids” moving their parents into safer accommodations and giving little or no thought to what they themselves will do in 20 years. I strongly encourage anyone in their 50s, 60s, or 70s to begin looking at where YOU want to live when it isn’t safe to stay in your home. This is especially true for the 20% of boomers who do not have kids to nag them to move. We Solo Agers must think ahead and take care of ourselves in advance or risk loneliness, isolation, and the declining ability to care for ourselves in our oldest years. It feels like it will never happen…but likely as not, it will.

    by Sara Zeff Geber — January 25, 2017

  11. It is not in my family culture to put a parent in a nursing home. Both my parents are gone now and I have no regrets, but miss them very much. Why old age is seen as such a burden is beyond me. Have we all gotten so busy with work that there is no time for family? Sometimes, I just can’t relate to my own generation. Children ruining your retirement plans? Parents a burden that you must convince to go to a nursing home? I just really don’t get it. I guess we all come from very different cultures.

    by MaryNB — January 25, 2017

  12. I can’t speak for anyone else here but my wife and I are doing our best for our mothers. Both our mothers were women who were “traded in” for a younger model after 30 plus years of marriage. Both our mothers took a great loss without each of our father’s pensions and assets, when the father’s both passed. They don’t want a nursing home. They raised us, cared for us and we owe them our respect and love. And if they want to move into a nursing home, that is up to them. I hope they are happy to stay where they are right now. I can only hope my children will do the same for me one day.

    by DeyErmand — January 25, 2017

  13. I am researching continuing care retirement communities as I near my 60th. birthday. The choice of whether or not to put me in a nursing home or to have to deal with the issues that may or may not arise in my old age (my parents both had Alzheimers) will not be a burden to my children.

    by VSB — January 25, 2017

  14. Caring for a dependent parent is one of the hardest things you will ever do but it is also one of the most rewarding. Not all older people will do well in a long term care facility, especially if they have always been a bit nervous around groups and are happily reclusive. In my mother’s case it took a fall and short hospitalization to get her to reluctantly agree to a live in aide even though mentally she should not have been living alone for a year or more before the fall.
    My sister and I, and two wonderful aides cared for my mother in her own house for over seven years. After that time the aides seemed more like sisters ( we still meet for lunch a few time a year). So here are so tips for successfully
    1. Work with an agency that will let you meet prospective aides. You know your parent and its works best if the personality of the aide will work out well. My mother was very quiet and preferred to read or watch birds in the yard than to be araound a chatty person. On the other hand my m-i-l is a real people person and wants lots of interaction.
    2. Respect the opinion and ideas of the aide. Aides are trained and while you will need to show them how the house works ( thermostat, washer, drier, etc) and let them know your parents person prefs for food, time to go to bed, etc., dont t get bossy with them.
    3. Let the aide know that you are all part of a team and let other family members know as well.
    4. Try to have someone from the family visit daily or as often as posible. If the agency allows it, let the aide leave for an hour while you are there. This is really important, esp if you find a great aide, you dont want her to suffer burnout!
    5. Include the aide in your parents birthday celebration and invite the aide to any family celebrations your parent is going to attend.
    6. Remeber the aides birthday and at holiday time.
    8. Get power of attorney for your parent and also have their checking account set up so you can sign checks.
    7. If you have siblings nearby, every has to work together providing visits and even coverage for days when the aide isnt there and the agency cant send a suitable sub. Its best to agree ahead of time on who will be responsible for the household paperwork (paying bills from parents checking accout if there is one), who will do the grocery shopping ( have the aide and parent make you a shopping list. If parent can join you, take them along!), who will take care of the yard work, etc.

    by imme — January 25, 2017

  15. Both my parents are gone now. My mother was in a nursing home for almost three years. Everyone has a different situation and so this should be a judgment free zone. My mom had a major stroke at 87 and weighed twice what I do. She had medical needs. Care at home would have been impossible alone and more expensive to have strangers as caretakers coming in and out. I would need to work as I am single and not independently wealthy. My point is NO JUDGMENT FROM ANYONE TOWARDS ANYONE. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our parents.

    by Bon — January 25, 2017

  16. Bon, I understand completely. My aunt is in a nursing home in TN. Her daughter, my cousin, is a devoted, loving daughter who took her mother to her home and cared for her until she had a stroke. That stroke left her mother without the ability to walk and even though she wasn’t a big person, it was extremely difficult to take care of her physical needs. She resides in a nursing home now and her daughter visits her every day. It has stressed my cousin out completely and the home seems to have a giant turn over of employees. Plus the ones they have are attending to too many patients and no one gets great care at all. It is a sad situation to see your loved one end up in a nursing home.

    by Louise — January 26, 2017

  17. Bon, I agree. It takes a lot of love and respect to pick a nursing home or home health care for a parent. We know our parents health issues and our own abilities/limitations to help as each family situation is unique. The article and comments help open our eyes to ways we can prepare for our own retirement, including long term health care. Medical care is expensive either way.

    by DeyErmand — January 26, 2017

  18. I agree that if your parent is not in a dire medical situation, you may be able to move them in with you. But each situation is different. In my case, my mother was a victim of polio and had many complex medical issues – she needed full time care, not just “help” at home. When she was diagnosed last summer with a rapidly failing heart, and was enrolled in hospice comfort care at her facility, we decided to bring her home to our house for her final months. I will never regret spending the end of life with her, sharing stories and memories. She rapidly declined, as Hospice removes all life saving meds, and just continues with comfort meds. She only lasted 3 weeks with us before passing peacefully in her sleep at 91 yrs. old! Together with her, I think she had the best care for her final years in a facility where she had fun and felt safe, and then when the end was near she passed with family at her side. My point is to stay flexible and make changes to the care plan as best fits your parent’s needs.

    by SandyZ — January 26, 2017

  19. Can you imagine how patients are treated in a nursing home when there is no family coming in to check things out? Please keep tabs on your loved ones and make unscheduled visits often to stay on top of things. Nursing homes can be a terrible place to live out the last years of your life.

    by Jennifer — January 27, 2017

  20. Maybe I don’t like the way the heading of this topic is framed. Talking about your parents as”Retirement Problem # 2″ makes it sound as having parents who were blessed to make it to old age are in the way. I never viewed my parents as a problem and I sure hope that my child doesn’t view me as a problem getting in her way of her retirement plans.

    by MaryNB — January 28, 2017

  21. Right Mary NB, perhaps the thread could be renames as Serious Retirement Considerations #2.

    Comment from Editor to Jennifer and MaryNB: Thanks for the Comment. We also wondered about that. Those lucky enough to have long-lived parents are blessed. We changed the intro of the article to make it clear that this is only a “problem” for some people’s retirements, some of the time. Most times it is the opposite of a problem.

    by Jennifer — January 29, 2017

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