One of the hardest decisions a child will have to make is the decision to place their parent into assisted living, memory care, or a nursing home. Our family recently went through this with my grandpa before he passed away in March.
“Call me when you can,” was a recent text I received from my mom.
When I returned the call, my mom was on the line, crying. “We have to put grandpa in a nursing home.” Amidst sobs, she told me that she and dad could no longer lift or move him from room to room. “What do I need to do?” was her next question.
This situation is happening all over America and will continue to happen indefinitely. When it comes to moving elderly parents, and bringing up the “nursing home” or “assisted living” conversation, experts say it is probably one of the hardest decisions a child will ever have to make. Many children will have parents move in with them, but there may come a point where taking care of them is no longer an option.
Living in a Fantasy World
Many seniors unrealistically believe they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. This is where children or other family members can be the catalysts in identifying the problem and prompting change. No matter what the age of your parent, now is the time to begin communicating about the future. If you open the lines of communication early on, words like “nursing home” lose their sting later.
Managing Stubborn Parents
My grandpa was from New Hampshire. If you think that talking to your parent is difficult, try talking with a stubborn New Englander whose modus operandi is “Resist change no matter what.”
Unfortunately, there are no magic strategies or tricks for convincing an elder to move. Placed under duress to change, we typically resist, regardless of the other person’s arguments. Often, we will dig our heels in further, if it feels like the other party is threatening us. If you say “you have to do this, or do that,” you won’t get very far. Instead try, “Dad, I’m concerned about you; it makes me worried to see you like this.”
When a parent continually refuses to entertain the idea of moving, the child may need to back off for the time being. This doesn’t mean you have to give up but look for other conversation openings to raise the issue again.
Unfortunately, sometimes things must get worse before they get better. Often, it is little things that add up until one incident causes a tipping point in the situation. For my parents, it was the time when they realized they could no longer lift and move my grandpa from one room to another. For others it may take a parent falling or having the water turned off because he forgot to pay the bills, or the realization that a parent can no longer safely reside in the home.
If there is a willingness on the parent’s part to visit a senior housing facility, the child should proceed quickly to set up visits at local facilities. You may also want to see if these facilities will allow an aged individual to try living in them for a week or a month before the person has to decide whether to sell his house and stay in the facility or return home.
The Importance of Regular Family Communication
The problem is we procrastinate and don’t want to face our biggest fears. Most of the time, children only talk about the situation when they are in crisis mode. It’s a recipe for potential chaos as you mix confused elders, disorganized yet well-meaning children, and a crisis situation.
Avoid the crisis situations by having regular conversations with your parent about what the future holds. Most parents don’t want to burden their children. Often, parents will hide things from their adult children because they don’t want to surprise or scare them. However, if you show them compassion and that you are their advocate, it can make all the difference.
At Intelligent Investing, one of our key tenets is to unify families on communication. We attempt to bridge the communication gap between husbands and wives, and multiple generations and would love to help you bridge the gap between you, your siblings, and parents. Our financial planning software provides tools for children and parents to know questions such as: What may mom and dad be able to afford? How will I preserve the proceeds if I sell a parent’s home? How will moving into a nursing home integrate into an overall financial plan?At Intelligent Investing, we strive to bridge the communication gap between family members. Click To Tweet
In part 2, we’ll talk about how to make sure your siblings are unified, how to deal with the guilt, and how to form a care-giving team.