Your mother loves her home. She made her life in it. She raised you and your siblings within those walls, shared a life with your father and takes care of her grandchildren there. It only makes sense that she wants to stay in it forever.
Unfortunately, her home may not always be the best place for her to stay from an accessibility, safety, or healthcare perspective. As our parents age, we have to be ready to have the difficult conversations with them related to the aging process. This includes staying current with their diagnoses, health care needs, estate planning documents and ultimately, helping them make choices on important issues like where they can safely live or when it is time to stop driving. We have to be ready to protect them when it is necessary while simultaneously being proactive about looking out for them.
Answering the question of whether or not to remain at home can be one of the biggest challenges for you and your parent to face. It is a discussion that should not be started without planning and serious consideration on your part. Before you start the conversation, prepare yourself with these three discussion points.
First, why do you believe the conversation is necessary? Is it based on your own independent evaluation of your parent’s home? Is the home still secure from break-ins? Are the utilities in working order? Are they paid and current? How is the condition of the roof? Are there stairs your parent is having a hard time negotiating? Is the home still neat and tidy, or are things messy and dusty? What about the exterior? Is it neat and trim just like it always has been?
Second, when possible, do not make a decision like this alone. Make your own assessment of the situation but, after that, talk to your spouse and your siblings to help you have this conversation with your parent. Where it is appropriate, this may also be the time to talk to your parent’s doctor or therapist to get a realistic assessment on why these changes are occurring and whether or not the home truly is a safe environment.
Third, commit to helping your parent. If this conversation is overwhelming to your parent, you can imagine how overwhelming the idea of facing these challenges alone will be. Ask yourself, how can you help out? Is it as simple as light housekeeping or mowing the lawn once a month? What about picking up the groceries or a daily check-in call? If you’re not local, are there local services you can hire to do these things for your parent such as a food delivery, housekeeping or lawn maintenance service? If your parent can’t set these things up, do you have the authority under valid estate planning documents such as a trust or a power of attorney to take action?
Arming yourself with the answers to these three topics can help you explain to your parent why you think the discussion is important. It can also assist your parent in understanding why you are concerned. Ultimately, preparing for this conversation can also prevent the fears of change, isolation and overwhelm, all of which your parent may feel simultaneously during this conversation, but can be diminished when you show your commitment to supporting your aging parent.
Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an estate planning attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He is passionate about educating others about estate planning and how it can be used to protect what matters most. Subscribe to this blog or register for an upcoming FREE workshop to learn more.