All to often we look at the situation and begin to formulate solutions that seem all to permanent. We live in a very fluid environment — things can change in an instant, both for the better or the worse. Rather than proposing that mom or dad move in with you forever, consider a temporary solution. Hey mom, let’s try living together for the summer or for 3 months and see how it works. After that, we can both take a look at it and decide what to do next — try 3 more months or something different altogether.
For our elders, highly independent and possessing a strong sense of autonomy their entire adult lives, the idea of selling everything and moving in with their kids is not typically appealing. This is especially true if things have happened suddenly or unexpectedly, like the loss of a spouse, an illness, or an accident. Most of us have not had a conversation about the “what-if’s” beforehand and it is the equivalent of asking an 18-year-old to choose a college and a vocation on the day of their graduation when it has never even been discussed their entire lives to this point. Parents begin preparing kids for this day from elementary school, making the transition less overwhelming and more manageable.
None of us like to be told what to do. As a matter of fact, there are those of us who, when told what to do, go with the exact opposite choice. It’s natural for kids and it’s natural for adults. Despite the fact that what we are being told we should do is likely good advice, if framed as a “should,” it is 9 times out of 10 going to be perceived negatively. Presented as a choice, however, it is frequently received and processed more positively.
Consider this example conversation:
Mom, I know that you love this house and you have been doing a great job at maintaining it since dad died. There is little doubt that it hasn’t been easy. Lately you seem to be having some challenges with getting to and from the store for groceries and to the doctor, as well as getting around the house with all the stairs and furniture (fill in the blanks here with your observations about challenges). I know that you have some help from my brother, but I’m not sure it is enough, or will be going forward. Could we discuss a couple of temporary options that might help keep you healthy and safe, and selfishly make me feel better when I can’t be here?
Idea 1: I would like for you to consider the idea of moving. I know that you would prefer to stay here, and all I am asking is that you consider it. Ultimately it’s your choice. I have visited a couple of apartments nearby that have services like transportation, meals, and activities that you may like. We could go and see them together as you are considering your options.
Idea 2: Another idea is to move in with us. We would love to have you and could create a space so that you have your privacy when you want it.
Idea 3: Another thing you might consider is better equipping this house. We could have someone come and tell us what we need to do so that you can get around better and not be so concerned with falling or accidents. Also, we can arrange for you to have a person help with shopping, cooking, and cleaning so that you aren’t doing it all yourself. You may even like having the company during the day.
As I said, I just want you to consider these as options. I would also like to ask if we can revisit your decision about every 2 or 3 months so we can insure you are feeling good about things. Is that ok with you? Ultimately, I feel a sense of responsibility to insure your safety. You took care of us when we were kids and were always making sure we were safe and had our needs met. It is my turn to do the same for you. I feel this responsibility, as you did, because I love you and care about you. Can you understand how I feel?
Thank you for taking some time to consider these ideas that I shared. When can we talk about them again? Is a week long enough for you to think them through and revisit them? We don’t have to make a decision in a week, but just revisit your thoughts and see where you are with it.
Ultimately, as long as your parent is not suffering from cognitive impairment or incompetence, the decision about where they live is theirs. You may or may not like it and it may freak you out to think they could have a fall or other accident, but at the end of the day, it’s their choice.
Are you dealing with issues like the ones discussed in this article?
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