Helping Elderly Parents Transition from their Home
After Marsha’s husband passed away, her daughter Beverly, started coming around more often and noticed that her mother was not able to keep up with the house & yard as she used to. Marsha also mentioned that she didn’t enjoy cooking for just herself, so would often eat snacks or frozen meals from the grocery store. As a result she had lost weight that she didn’t’ need to. Her driving abilities had also become unsafe. Deep down Marsha knew she should not be driving and therefore did not venture far from her home. Because she wasn’t able to get out as she used to and many of her friends had moved closer to their families or passed away, she was feeling lonely.
One day Beverly was speaking with her friend Kathy about her mother. Kathy mentioned that her own 83 year old mother had recently moved into a Senior Living Community nearby where she had meals, housekeeping, transportation & activities provided. Kathy told Beverly her mother hadn’t been this happy since she lost her husband 8 years ago. Beverly told Kathy she would need a stick of dynamite to get her mother to move from her home since she was very stubborn.
Many of us are facing issues with aging parents who are unable to take care of their homes or themselves any longer and becoming more reliant on others to enable them to continue living in their homes. They are unaware of their dependence on others because they are still “living on their own”. Most seniors and their family members do not realize that being unable to take care of one’s home or self is more costly now and in the future.
As Senior’s age and are unable to maintain their home as they used to, they let routine maintenance go by the wayside, causing the home to deteriorate and lose value. Simple tasks such as cleaning out the gutters, replacing weather stripping, spraying for insects, checking for electrical problems, cleaning dryer vents, checking for plumbing drips or more extensive water damage can all cause costly damage to a home if left unmaintained.
Most Senior’s assets are tied up in their home. When they need to move because of a change in health condition or decide to downsize, they rely on the sale of their home in order to be able to move to a Senior Living Community, whether Independent Living, Assisted Living or Memory Care. The longer a home is unmaintained, the more significant the decrease in value and the higher the cost will be in order to ensure it is in sellable condition and will sell for the price needed to cover the costs of expenses in the long run. If a home has to be sold quickly, due to a sudden change in health, the sale price will be significantly lower than if one plans ahead and works with a Realtor to ensure the home is in prime selling condition.
The logic of many is that staying in their home costs less per month than downsizing and moving to a Senior Living Community. They compare the monthly cost of living in a Senior Living Community with what they are paying to remain in their current home. What they aren’t taking into account are the costs of proper home maintenance, property taxes, car insurance, fuel, groceries, yard care, home care, hiring help and more. They don’t realize that communities including meals, housekeeping, transportation, activities and care can be less expensive than continuing to live at home. Plus the added benefit of not having to cook meals, not having to manage home maintenance, having more time to do things they enjoy, not burdening or causing unnecessary worry to family members, as well as socialization, which improves overall quality of life. Selling their home, allows them to invest the money from the sale and earn a return, which increases their monthly income!
Knowing that one’s home value is based on proper maintenance can be helpful when discussing the topic of downsizing and moving with your loved one. The bigger question is, knowing how to bring up such a topic and bringing them to the decision to move. Here are some steps that can be helpful in communicating with your loved ones when they are no longer able to maintain their home and/or can no longer live safely in their home:
#1 Start the conversation with your concerns
It’s important to keep in mind that approaching your loved one with why you are concerned about them is better than telling them that they can no longer live in their home. You can start by letting them know you are worried about them falling and not having anyone around to help them or that you find yourself unable to sleep because you are thinking about whether or not they had a good meal that day. You may also let them know that you miss spending quality time with them as a son or daughter because instead you are cleaning their home, grocery shopping, driving them to appointments or performing home maintenance.
#2 Compare the Costs & determine finances
Sit down and figure out your parents finances with them or schedule a meeting with a Financial Advisor or Certified Senior Advisor to see what they are currently paying to live in their home and compare with the cost of living in a Senior Living Community. Also, have a Realtor come in to perform a home valuation. They will be able to tell you what the home will sell for, in its current condition, and with the current housing market. They can also make recommendations on what things can be addressed in the home to increase the value. Knowing what a home might sell for should be taken into account when determining what your parent can afford.
#3 Tour Senior Living Communities
Let your parent know that you want them to be in control of where they will move to, whether they move while they are still Independent or wait until they need more assistance. In order to know what options are available for them, schedule tours of Senior Living Communities. This will open their eyes to what Senior Living offers and hopefully put any misconceptions to rest in speaking with happy residents currently reside there. You may want to tour some communities in advance and narrow down the list of options to 2 or 3 that you take your parent to. That way they don’t get overwhelmed or burnt out.
#4 Decide on a Community
If they are going to wait to move until something changes with their health or care needs, you should be touring Assisted Living Communities in addition to Independent Living Communities. If they have any form of Memory Loss you should also tour communities offering secured Memory Care options. Once you and/or your parent decide on a Senior Living Community, put a deposit down. If they are ready to move within 30 days, they can choose from currently available or upcoming available apartments. If they are not ready to move right away, it’s best to be on a waiting list so they will have a better chance of getting into the community of choice when they are ready to move.
#5 Tough Love
If your parent is resistant to moving from their home, realize that if they are still able to make their own decisions, sometimes you have to wait for a crisis to occur before they come to the conclusion that they shouldn’t be living in their home any longer. Whether that crisis is a broken pipe, they fall and lay on the floor until someone happens to come by and find them or they end up in the hospital with health problems. In the meantime, do not enable them to continue living alone by providing them with transportation, bringing them meals, doing housekeeping, yard work or home maintenance. This will only delay their realization that they need to make a move. You can still come by to visit with them as their son or daughter, but when they bring up things they need done around the home that they are unable to do use this as an open line of communication for discussing the reasons why they should consider downsizing and moving.
If your loved one has memory impairment that causes their judgment and decision making to affect their quality of living and safety, you should schedule an appointment with an Elder Law Attorney to discuss getting guardianship so that you can make decisions for them.
#6 Making the Move
Once a move is scheduled, you may want to bring in an Estate Sale Planner or you can take care of downsizing yourself. Either way, it is important to keep in mind what things are most meaningful to your parent to keep. Measure their new apartment home to determine what items will be brought, which will be sold, given away or thrown out. If possible, it’s easier and less stressful to move prior to downsizing and selling the home and then if there are items that are desired to bring from the home they will still be available. Make the move to their new apartment home fun and exciting by choosing out new paint colors, draperies or perhaps a few new pieces of furniture. Once your parent is settled into their new home, schedule to downsize, stage and list the home on the market!
#7 Dealing with Guilt
While this transition may be tough emotionally on your parent and you, know that you are doing what is best for everyone in the long run. Your parent will begin to realize, as they settle into their new home, that they don’t really miss all that “stuff” and they didn’t really use all the space in their home anyway. They will begin to develop new friendships and enjoy doing new things as well as things they haven’t been able to in a while. You may even hear them say to you “I haven’t been this happy in years”.
This article was written by Kelley Rogers. Kelley is a Senior Living Advisor with Senior One Source. She provides guidance for Senior’s and their families who are in need of advice during transitions as one becomes more dependent on others. For more information on Senior One Source or to contact Kelley Rogers visit www.SeniorOneSource.net, Email: KelleyR@SeniorOneSource.net.