Q&A: Let’s Talk About Housing Transitions

Q: My kids are talking to me about getting more help at home or making a move into a retirement home. I’m doing fine, so how can I get them to back off?

A: There is a great quote from the book The Art of War by Sun Tzu: “When in difficult country, do not encamp. In country where high roads intersect, join hands with your allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions”. Some of the greatest life changes take place after retirement and the best allies can be your adult children. Sometimes, those around us see things that we don’t. Whether it is a decline in health or cognitive abilities, or just noticing how difficult it is to keep up a large home, our family members are usually the first to notice that things are slipping. Don’t be afraid to have an honest conversation with your children and ask them to share with you their specific concerns. Be willing to listen and express what is important to you. You will find yourself in a better situation if you tackle these hurdles early on rather than waiting to be forced into making choices from a hospital bed.  Having children that care enough to speak up now reflects that they are willing to stay by your side as you age and will continue to be your allies. Join the allies to win the battle.

Q: My 84 year old mom is adamant about staying in her home. We notice that she is having a hard time keeping up the house, she has fallen several times, and is not getting out much.  She is becoming more and more isolated. I feel like our family is her only social circle now and I’m worried. I have tried talking to her about looking at retirement places, but she wants nothing to do with it…Help!

A:  One of the biggest challenges in aging is that we lose control of life little by little.  Health challenges can take away our mobility, our mental capacity, and can leave us isolated. To combat this life thievery, we take control of whatever is left.  Your mother is faced with diminishing control and is fighting to keep it.  She may have negative preconceptions of what life would be like in a retirement community.  Ask her to go to lunch with you at several places, just to prepare for the future. If you can have her visit during a social event that reflects her interests, even better. Tell her that you want to respect her wishes by having a plan in place. Afterward, compare the costs vs. benefits of each, ask the hard questions, and come up with a plan together.

Q: We have been living in Seattle the bulk of our lives and just retired five years ago. Last month, we had a friend end up in a nursing home and is paying over $12,000 a month for care. This has taken us by surprise and we would like to make plans for the future. We are in our mid 70’s…is it too early to make plans? We don’t want to be in the same tight spot if something happens in the future to us.

A: Benjamin Franklin said “there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes”. But I’d like to add a third certainty: long-term care.  According to statistics, almost 70% of people turning age 65 will need long-term care at some point in their lives so it is never too soon to start planning.  If you have ample resources you may qualify for a Life Plan Community where, while you live independently, there are assisted and skilled nursing services available and included when the need arises. A substantial investment is required up front, but it gives you that peace of mind you are looking for and frees up your family from the burden of care later on. For others, as health needs change, a month-to-month retirement community option works best. It is still expensive, but frees up your assets for other investments and does not require a hefty outlay. There is a great resource to help you evaluate and prepare for the costs of retirement by the U.S. Department of Labor called “Taking the Mystery out of Retirement Planning”  You can access it FREE on line at the link below or request an alternate format: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/nearretirement.pdf

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