This is really the piece that can make or break any possible plans. It can undo logical decisions in a single moment and have families who normally get along quite nicely looking at each other as if they have never met.
You see we are not always talking about the emotions of just your aging parents here – we are also often talking about the emotions of the siblings as well, because sometimes you’re not just having to convince mom its probably time to make this decision, but there may be a sibling involved who has their own emotional agenda.
Sometimes the emotional side of this is just a straight forward and easy to understand attachment to someone’s home. They bought this house with their spouse, they raised their children here, and they feel safe here. These are all very big deals and deserve to be acknowledged and respected.
The very thought of moving out of their homes can cause an overwhelming sense of loss – especially if they have already lost a spouse. It can feel like giving up control over his or her own lives, and it can just be straight-out fear of the unknown.
One of the more difficult conversations I’ve ever had was with a client who knew it was time to move and was doing her best to get through the process. She told me that her husband who had passed about two years prior really not only did much of the decorating, but had also personally built many of the features of the house. She stood in the living room, tired from a session we had spent sorting what to keep and what to let go of, looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “I’m leaving him. He’s already gone but I’m leaving him.”
Try to take a minute when the frustration builds from having the same conversations repeatedly, when mom has changed her mind for the umpteenth time about whether she wants to move or not, and the process feels like three steps back to take a half a step forward, that these are the levels of emotions involved.
So how do you decide and what do you do?
If you have already my book, Talking About the End is Only the Beginning
, or some of my other blog posts and definitely if you’ve seen me present, you may remember one of my most strongly advocated ideas is to plan rather than react. All too many times I see conversations such as the one involving whether or not an aging parent should move out of the family home completely avoided because of how difficult it is. Then something happens and, BOOM!, you are in instant decision making mode – under emotional duress and with limited options.
You see I don’t view this type of decision as giving up control – I view it as maintaining control. Having the conversation early and while dad is healthy and capable means that his wishes are more likely to be met.Also, know that there are resources available to you. There are financial planners who specialize in retirement planning. There are companies such as mine that can help your family physically get through the process. There are SRES designated realtors who have been specifically trained to appreciate the potentially added intricacies of working with senior clients. And there are social workers that specialize in working with seniors and families who are in the middle of these transitions. There are even geriatric care managers who can help you make the decision that is right for your family and if moving is not the right decision, then there are architects and home designers who specialize in barrier-free design and modifications that will allow your parents to stay home longer.So have some conversations with your aging parents. Help them stay in control of their own lives and circumstances. Steel yourself for what can often be an unfortunately stressful process but most of all know that there is help at every turn.
People often associate talking about the future of aging parents to mean what should final arrangement be…and of course that is involved. But there is a whole lot of living that needs to happen first so let’s plan for it!