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.

My mom will celebrate her 87th birthday this month. Eighty-seven years is a long time to be alive. It’s a long time to inhabit a body. It represents roughly 762,626.34 hours, 45,757,580 minutes. And I am grateful for all of them.

 

I‘m grateful for every moment that has made and makes my mom. I’m thankful for her successes and failures, her great loves and her heartaches, the mountains she’s climbed and the molehills she’s let be. I admire her steadfast work ethic (she retired at 83 from her full-time job of 45 years) and her sense of adventure (she moved to Austin at 83 after half a century in Houston). I’m awed by her calm courage during crises. I am humbled by her unwavering devotion to her daughters. She has a trusting nature and a sweet naiveté that I envy.

 

My mother was born during the depression and grew up poor. Her father left the family when she was 10 and never looked back. He offered no help or assistance, no birthday cards or Christmas presents, no child support until he was ordered by the court.

 

My mom and her brother lived with their grandparents during the war (WWII) while their mother, my grandmother, Mimi, worked in Houston. Mimi worked to send money home to provide for her children and help her parents. Every six months, Mimi would take a Greyhound Bus from Houston to Corsicana, then catch a cab to her parent’s home. One Christmas, it had been raining cats and dogs. The cab could get close to the house but the last mile was too muddy to drive. My grandmother walked that mile in the rain and mud carrying suitcases of presents for her children. She set an impressive example.

 

Their farm was near the tiny town of Eureka about 10 miles outside of Corsicana. There my mom developed a love for horses and a dislike for picking cotton and milking cows. She learned to back up a team of mules while driving a wagon. She learned to herd cattle on her neighbor’s farm. She could fell a tree in the direction she chose and sharpen the ax on a whetstone. She learned to use leverage when lifting a heavy object. When my mom was not outside, she was frequently behind a book. She credits her first grade teacher, Miss Parry of Miss Parry’s School, for her love of reading. To this day, she is a voracious reader.

 

At school, my mother was painfully shy and teased unmercifully for being smart. She graduated Valedictorian from high school. My mom was part of the first class to attend Navarro Jr. College, now part of Texas Tech. Her class mates were veterans home from the war.   She did not graduate; her generosity got the best of her. Her brother needed a final project to graduate high school and my mom gave him her final project that would have allowed her to graduate college. She has always put her family’s needs and wants before hers, even when it’s to her detriment.

 

These moments and countless others have helped shape and make my mom. And me by extension. There is no person living or dead who has had more impact on who I am. The best of me springs from her. She is, to steal from Beethoven, my Immortal Beloved.

 

Happy Birthday, Mother! I wish you good health, a good night’s sleep every night, good food, great books and many more wonderfully happy, decidedly delicious moments!

We started Essential Next Steps after working with our parents.

My mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly after complications from surgery.  She had done a beautiful job and given the great gift to her children of having her affairs in order.  She provided a clear roadmap of how her estate was to be settled.  My husband and sister-in-law were co-trustees of her estate and executed her wishes beautifully.  My mother-in-law represents one end of the spectrum.

My father went to the hospital suddenly and was discharged in to skilled nursing for rehab.  While at the skilled nursing facility, his decline became strikingly evident as well as the cost it was exacting on my mom.  He became a full-time resident.  It happened so fast and my family was not prepared.  We had talked about it only lightly in that someday-far-off-in-the-future kind of way.  We certainly had not planned for it.  And now we were in full blown transition going full throttle and we were overwhelmed.  There were countless details to manage, finding the right facility for my dad, paying for it and not bankrupting my mom, taking care of my mom, what to do with my parent’s stuff.  My parents represented the opposite end of the spectrum.

We got lucky.  We chose a nursing home for my dad that has a wonderful and dedicated staff and loads of support from the community.  We met a highly skilled and incredibly kind elder law attorney who helped my parents get their affairs in order.  We got my dad taken care of.

For my mom, we converted a 750 square foot workshop into a mother-in-law cottage.  We used Universal Design Principles which include zero step entry ways, wide doorways, smooth floors and a roll in shower to offer a few examples.  We gifted, donated and consigned her furnishings so that her smaller home would be pleasing and feel spacious as her larger home had been for her.

We learned a lot working with our parents.  There was benefit to working both sides of the spectrum.  Jon and his sister honored their mother’s wishes.  We found the right place for my dad and created a safe and lovely home for my mom.  We met so many good people along the way, I am proud they are part of our network and life.

We appreciate and recognize the heightened emotion in dealing with the challenges that life can throw our way. Life comes at us quickly. It can be hard to catch our breath. With planning and preparation, please know there are untold resources available to help make life’s transitions a little easier.

living will austin

It’s important that you know what is important to you.  It is important that you communicate that clearly to your family, close friends and close associates.  It is important that if you can’t speak for yourself, you designate someone to speak for you.  It is important that the person you designate understands and honors your wishes.  It is important that the person you designate understands honoring your wishes is important.

Most of us spend more time planning for vacation than preparing for what would happen if we were struck by sudden life changing, life threatening illness or accident.  We do plan to take care of it someday; we’re just too darn busy – planning vacations.

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Senior Transitions Austin

When is the best time to make major change?

The answer is simple though not necessarily easy.  When you are in control is the best time to make change.  To maintain our best self, it is essential that we author our own narrative.  We say when we will do what.

Life will challenge that no doubt.  There are things we can control and things we can’t.  I don’t minimize that at all.  This piece is about what we can control.  This is about moving proactively.  This is about responding to life’s challenges so we maintain our authority. 

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