I always think I’ll say the perfect thing so that someone hears what he/she needs. The magic of my words will break through the grid lock, lift the fog, provide that moment of clarity. Then, the right decision can be made. Rather arrogant on my part, don’t you think?

What I’ve come to realize is that moving from your home, where you’ve raised your kids, celebrated graduations, engagements, weddings, grandchildren, mourned loss and lows, collected memories is HARD. Leaving a community where you’ve made contribution and have dear friends is hard. Even when the move makes good sense, even when it is necessary, it’s still hard. Hard for husbands, wives, children and friends. We don’t like saying good bye.

When the move makes good sense and there’s no immediate need, usually nothing happens. So, we as a culture wait. I suggest that’s the time to do some exploring. Then, should the need arise, you’ve done your homework and have outlined some options.

When the move is necessary, the need is immediate and dictates action. There has often been an escalation in health issues, cognitive decline and/or an accident. Sometimes all of it. This does not make it any easier. In fact, it exerts its own emotional toll.

So, what I’ve seen is that we don’t always clear the hurdle. Sometimes we just bust through. Courage and necessity propel us. We may end up battered and bruised, but we get there.

This piece is dedicated with love to A and L.

You’re thinking about moving, your kids have been talking to you about it.  You don’t want to move, but maybe you should.  You’re looking for that clear sign. Please don’t let it be a broken hip.

Here are some things to think about.

 

What is important if you stay put?

Does the location of your home work?

How close are your neighbors?

How close are emergency services?

Will the size and layout of your current home meet your future needs and capabilities?

Do you have to climb stairs?

Are your bathrooms, kitchen and bedroom easily accessible?  Are they all on the ground floor?

Do you have plenty of lower cabinetry?

How wide are your hallways and door jams?  Can they accommodate a wheelchair?

Do you need a riding mower to mow your lawn?

Will care such as personal assistance, private duty, home health and housekeeping come to you?  Can you afford it?

Can family get to you easily?

Are you close to shopping, medical care, your hairdresser?

Do you have the financial resources to maintain your home?

 

What is important if you move?

Is it being close to family?

Or is it being close to the old neighborhood, friends and that which is familiar?

Are you looking for a smaller home with a smaller yard and less upkeep?

Are you considering some type of Senior Community with virtually no upkeep?

Are you looking for services such as prepared meals, housekeeping, transportation, social activities?

Do you need help with medication management?

What will your financial resources allow?

 

You have decided to move – what to do with your things?

You will likely move to a smaller space.  What of your furniture and belongings will fit in your new home?

What will you take?  What will you give away?

To whom will you give it?

How will you get it to them?  Will they want it?

What can you sell?  That beautiful piece of art may not command the same price you paid twenty years ago.

What will you donate?

What will you discard?  Will you need a dumpster-type-container or professional hauling service?

Who will pack, how long will that take?

Who will unpack and organize the kitchen, bathrooms and closets?  Who will make the beds and hang your art work?

Your kids?  How long will that take?  Do they have time?

 

These questions offer points to consider.  They cover the nuts and bolts and I hope they help in your decision-making process.  What they don’t cover is the emotions involved in this situation.  That will be the topic for June’s piece.

 

 

For purposes of this piece, we’re looking at those in their 70’s and 80’s who are entertaining the Big Question about moving to a Senior Community.  And aren’t quite ready.

How do you know when it’s time to move?

You look good, you feel good, you’re healthy, you’re active, you travel.  You have a few aches and pains but only a few.  You move a tiny bit slower, but only a tiny bit.  You enjoy your home and all that encompasses, your friends, your community.  You and your spouse have each other.  You manage just fine.  You don’t need to move now.

And that’s just it, you don’t need to move.

My question is why wait until you need to.

We move for a myriad of reasons and we’re excited about a lot of them – first home, new job, new love, promotion, retirement.  Even if we’re not full blown excited, we recognize that the move is important and will further our goals in life.

As we age, the reasons to move morph and our excitement often wanes.  We don’t see the move as promoting our goals but rather as an admission of our mortality.  We loathe to admit that our bodies change, our needs change, our appetites change.

Let me suggest that a move just might make life easier, a little more convenient and offer a little piece of mind.  Yes, living in a rural setting is quiet and beautiful.  It is also far from neighbors, grocery markets, shopping and restaurants.  That beautiful four-bedroom, four-bath home was perfect in the day, but holy moly, those are a lot of bathrooms to clean!  The three-story town home was the perfect empty nest, but three stories!   You get the idea.

If you are entertaining a move to a senior community because of concerns related to aging, let me suggest the best time to move is before you need to.  Move while you are healthy and hearty.  Move while your active.  Move while you travel.  Move while the decision is fully yours – as opposed to a reaction to a qualifying event (stroke, heart attack, falling.)  Most of all, move while you can still make a life in your new home.

Start with baby steps.  Visit a senior community. Visit as many as you can so you can compare. Meet the residents.  Try the food.  Stay the weekend.  Learn what the community has to offer and the costs.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

And lastly, speaking as a daughter, you will do your children a great service if you move closer to family.  Life happens, and when it does, a 30 minute, or even a two-hour car drive is much easier and less stressful than a plane ride to get to you.

When Jon and I moved to Austin from Houston, my parents came too with an open mind and without complaint.  The move was a little harder on my dad, my mom was up for the new adventure.  They both knew that at some point they would need us and their move would make it easier for us.  They were right.  That need came all too quickly.  Because of their courage and grace, Jon and I were able to care for them while making our new home, home.  We were not commuting back and forth to Houston.  My parents gave us a great gift.  I am grateful for it.

How do you broach the subject of your parents moving when they are completely resistant?

Gently and confidently, and with good information in hand.

Sometimes parents don’t recognize the need to move.  Sometimes they don’t want to move because they have a picture of what life will be like after the move, missing friends and what’s familiar.  They believe it will be expensive.  They’ll be lonely, forgotten.  Sometimes they are scared.

For the purpose of this piece, your parents’ needs require more than a Garden Community or 55+ Community offer.  They are in decline though they don’t see it and you are worried.  It is your love that drives your concern.

So you do a little leg work.  You take a look at what’s available.  Visit Independent Living, Assisted Living and Residential Care Communities.  Your research provides a good idea of what each has to offer, meals, snacks, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, activities.  Is there a hair salon on premise?  Are pets allowed?

What levels of care are offered?  Can staff administer medication?  Is there a nurse on duty? 24/7?  What is the staff to resident ratio?

Is it better that your parents are near you so you have easier access?  Is it better they are near where they live now, near friends and what they know?

Regarding pricing, is it inclusive?  Are there additional fees for additional services or is there block pricing?  Needs can escalate and accidents happen.  Does the community provide the additional care or does an outside agency?  Who sets that up?

On the subject of pricing, the numbers can be scary.  Remind your parents that they’ll never have to replace a roof or water heater, or repair an A/C or sprinkler system.  They won’t pay for yard work or utilities and their grocery bill will go down.  There is some trade off.

I know this is a lot to take on.  Just think of it from your parents’ perspective.  Think of what we ask of our parents when we ask them to make this move.

When I reflect on my life, there are moments that make me really happy and proud, and there are some that make me cringe.  There is time I wasted and there is time well spent.  There are things I wish I had done and things I regret doing.  I’m going to share some of the moments with you that had profound impact on me.

 

First, I didn’t complete college.  From the vantage point of my early 20’s, I didn’t appreciate the opportunity it would afford me in my later 20’s, 30’s, 40’s.  It never occurred to me that I would be the first cut from a job opportunity because I didn’t have a degree, that my resume would get “filed” and I’d never get the interview.  While, I’ve been able to obtain employment, and I’ve had some fabulous jobs, it may have been easier if I had completed my degree.

 

Second, I smoked.  Please don’t ever, ever do that.  I know it’s not fashionable now like it once was.  But still, please don’t ever do it.  It is an expensive habit that threatens your health and the health of those you love.  It’s stinky.  It creates wealth for people you’ll never meet, who don’t love you and won’t care if you get sick.

 

Third, I carried credit card debt.  If you can’t pay for it in full, you can’t afford it.  Rather than buy now and pay it off in two or three months, save for two or three months then buy.  You get what you want without driving debt.  The credit card companies would love for you to carry debt; that creates wealth for them.  And they are unforgiving if you are ever in a bind.

 

Fourth, I didn’t take advantage of the time I had at an early age to move my life forward.  I didn’t start really working until my mid 30’s.  If I had started in earnest in my 20’s as you have now, some of the storms life threw at me would have been easier to navigate.

 

I share this with you because I want so much for you.  I love seeing the woman you are becoming.  I’m so proud of you!  You’ve completed college, you have a great job making great money and you don’t smoke!  You are privileged to have a strong start to create and stake the future you want for yourself.

 

I know that the future seems far off in the distance, but I promise you that in the blink of an eye, you’ll be walking down the aisle, buying your first home, celebrating your first child.

 

Living with financial discipline now, saving and investing, will only make your future brighter.

 

Much love,

Leah

As many of you know, my family was blindsided by my dad’s needs, specifically their scope and cost.  His decline had been slow, over ten years.  It was so gradual that we got used to it as if that’s how life were and would be, never imagining it would worsen, or how much so.  Once we moved, his failing condition accelerated to the point it demanded significant attention.  I was a deer in the headlights.

Daddy ended up needing help with everything.  He needed assistance getting in and out of bed, getting in and out of a chair, his personal grooming.  As my dad’s decline progressed, he could not go from lying to sitting without support.  This man, who used to jog around Rice University, ride horses, perform puppet shows, magic acts and walk on stilts, could no longer walk, even with help.  He required aid for the most intimate of activities.

I share this because I believe we need a shift in our cultural conversation about aging, its needs and its costs. I want us to talk about getting older and plan for it.  My dad’s care was $5,000 per month.  We can never plan for everything; life will make sure of that. But we can and must do better.

Like it or not, life requires financial resources.  We need to plan and save.  Starting early is better than starting late.  Starting any time is better than never starting.   Saving and planning require discipline and courage.  There are so many distractions.  Some are unavoidable (accidents and illness).  Some we should just say no to (that really cute dress, the awesome seats for the game, the extra $22 a month for the leather seats).  I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself or ever indulge.  I’m saying think long term as well.  Then start preparing with long term care insurance or other insurance products and saving, saving, saving.

For most of my dad’s life, he lived for and genuinely delighted in the pleasure the moment brought.  We remodeled our home, added a swimming pool, always had dogs, eventually horses.  My father enjoyed every bit of it.  We all did. We wanted for nothing and had a gorgeous growing up.   What my dad didn’t do and what we didn’t do as a family was plan.  Hence, the deer in the headlights where this chapter begins.

How we save, prepare and spend now can have profound impact on how we live later.  And later always comes. So please, please plan now.