My Dad Just Moved Into Assisted Living

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On Friday, February 3rd, my Dad spent his first night in an Assisted Living faciity.

He was ecstatic.

I was proud of him (yet again).

My Dad Just Moved Into Assisted Living

Last summer, my Dad started having serious thoughts about “simplifying life”.  At Age 83, he was doing well physically and mentally, but was just getting tired of all of the details required to manage a home.  He didn’t like the reality of living in a multi-story home (laundry on one level, bedroom on the other, etc). Bottom Line:  He didn’t want the hassle in the fourth quarter of life, and started thinking about how he could take some steps toward…

Simplifying Life

After my Mom died in 2000, my Dad eventually remarried, sold the childhood home with too many memories, and moved into a beautiful house on a small a lake in my hometown in Michigan:

My Dad’s Michigan lakeside house, recently sold after being home for 15 years.

After a summer spent thinking about how he could simplify life, he made the decision to sell the house last October.  He decided to downsize.  He decided to simplify life.   My wife and I took a trip to Michigan last October, and worked with my Dad and my Sister (who, thankfully, lives in the same town and has been a Saint in caring for my Dad the past few years – “Thanks, Sis!”) to get the house listed with a local realtor.

The house sold quickly, Good News.

The Bad News? He didn’t have a place to go.

The past few months have been a bit stressful, as my small hometown has limited inventory of unsold homes, and none of them suited their needs.  As their “move out date” approached, they continued to work with a realtor to monitor new “for sale” options to no avail.

In January, that all changed.  In one day, two wonderful options opened up.

  1. A small ranch home, which would allow for “single level” living and some downsizing.
  2. A wonderful apartment in a “private pay” Assisted Living facility.

After thinking about it, my Dad and his wife decided on Option 2, Assisted Living.  The main considerations:

  • If they chose the ranch house, they’d likely have to move again within a few years, as they realized they were near the point of needing assistance in the not-too-distant future.
  • The assisted living option best met his goal of simplifying life.  No longer would they have to worry about getting their meds right, or preparing meals, or maintaining a home, or facing a medical issue while home alone.
  • The assisted living is really “independent living”, in that they retain the same freedom they’ve always had to come and to go, to meet his friends for breakfast, go to church, etc.
  • The assisted living presented a new social opportunity, with many folks in the facility with whom they could interact.
  • My Dad has managed his money well, which provided the financial means to choose a “pampered” approach, even though it was more expensive than the ranch home.

The maturity of my Dad’s thought process is clear.  He’s thinking responsibly, and he’s planning several moves ahead in his life’s game of chess.  He’s being responsible, and he’s doing the right things.

He’s an inspiration to me.

He always has been.

Doing It Right

My Dad has always done the right things, the right way.  He’s taught me lessons my entire life (see 18 Lessons I Learned From My Dad:  A Tribute), and he’s continuing to teach me how to be responsible in the final chapters of life.  A few years ago, he updated all of his estate details, and discussed his plans with me. He “did it right”. Last Fall, he knew he was approaching the point of needing a higher level of care, and he “did it right”.  He knew his wife was soon to most probably need more care than he was able to provide, and he “did it right”.

My Dad's Done A Lot Of Things Right. We Should All Learn From Him. Click To Tweet

He knew he wanted to simplify his life, and he “did it right”.

 

Life In The Assisted Living Apartment

My Dad’s been in the assisted living apartment for 6 days as I write these words.

It’s only been 6 days, but he is loving life.  He’s got a smile on his face, and he’s happy.  The attitude we choose has a huge impact on how much we enjoy life.  Choose to have a positive attitude.  My Dad has made that choice, and he’s enjoying his life as a result.  We should all learn from that.

My Dad has chosen to have a positive attitude, and life is better as a result. Click To Tweet
My Dad, Day 1 in the study of his new apartment.

The House Is Gone

So, the house is gone, and a new family will soon call the beautiful place on the lake their home.  The new owner is a college professor, just like my Dad was.  How cool is that?

My sister, her husband, my wife and I spent last weekend moving desired items from the house to the apartment. We did the “U-Haul Thing”, and moved couches, beds, dressers, clothes, etc.  It was hard work, but rewarding at the same time.

We were helping my Dad achieve what he wanted in life.

We were helping him downsize, we were simplifying his life.  I’m back in Georgia now, but my Sister is continuing to work on getting the house emptied out for the new resident.  Fortunately, the new owner wanted quite a bit of the furniture that remained in the house, so we’re down to getting rid of “the junk”.

The lovely year-round sun porch, ready for the new owners.

How A Reader Is “Doing It Right”

A reader, and friend, was aware of my Dad’s situation.  The reader is facing a problematic and “less willing” parent.
They’ve decided to “Do It Right” in their own planning, in large part due to the challenges they’re facing with their Dad.  To get a wider view on aging parents, I asked if they’d be willing to write a few words to compliment my dad’s story.  Below is the result.
Note the similarities in what they’re doing, as compared to what my Dad has done.  They wrote the section below without reading the story of my Dad, but the thinking is very much aligned with the approach my Dad has taken. Unfortunately, their’s was motivated by a difficult situation with their Dad.

Compassion    (A Reader’s Contribution)

Compassion – for oneself and for those closest to you.  Sometimes, a tough mix.

Aging parents and their aging children find themselves in a very painful position when it comes time to address the parent’s need for a more stable living situation.   Understandably, the parent does not want to leave their own home, stating that they will leave their own home only by “going out feet-first.”  Understandably, the children can no longer meet the needs for the parent’s care.

Done compassionately, the aging parent has made the requisite arrangements for their care at home, or gracefully transitions to some level of assisted living, many even looking forward to the new lifestyle and what it has to offer them in terms of care, meals, socialization.  If this is not the case, there becomes a painful struggle between parent and child.

Learning from the elders around us and the way they have approached their later years, we have taken the following steps to ensure that we show compassion for ourselves in having the proper care available to us and compassion for our children that they might enjoy a happy and healthy relationship with us in our final years.

  • In our early 50’s, we bought a Long-Term Care Insurance Policy.  Lucky us, as we were young enough to have low premiums and in the sweet spot of that industry to have very good benefits and an annual cost-of-living increase in those benefits.
  • We also delayed gratification and lived below our financial means while raising our family and seeing our children through college and their independence.   Lucky us, again, that our children are healthy, happy, and secure.
  • Working for a big corporation is not always fun, but we persevered and now enjoy the benefits that come with a big company.  The company had a very generous 401K savings plan, supported contributions to an IRA, had a pension plan, and adopted an HSA plan to which, after retirement, we still contribute.  While the company no longer contributes to the HSA with us, we still have the tax deduction and the comfort of having a nice health-care nest egg.
  • As well, we have downsized our material goods, so as not to be a burden to our children after our passing.  In addition, we have developed a notebook that contains information on all of our financial, real estate, insurance, utilities, health care, etc. details.  Leaving these things undone would present a huge burden to our children.

For those who do not plan, plans must be made.  Eventually, an aging parent without the financial means for in-home care, will be forced to leave their home against their will.  This is extremely hard for the parent and equally as hard for the children who have to be the bad guy and force the situation.  Sometimes, a social agency will step in and demand that the parent no longer live alone.  That is not a pleasant situation, either.

Plan now.  Show yourself the respect and compassion of being independent in your later years.

Plan now.  Show your children the respect and compassion of maintaining a healthy parent/child relationship to the end.  It is the greatest gift of all.


Conclusion

Whether motivated by a parent who has “done it right” (My Dad), or by a parent who is being “difficult” (The Reader), take responsibility for planning for the latter phase of your life.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Don’t be difficult about the realities you’re facing.

Don’t be a burden to your children.

While you’re at it, choose to have a good attitude.

Your life will be better as a result.

 

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25 comments

  1. Congratulations to your dad on the move! It sounds like a great fit for him and I hope he continues to enjoy the amenities at the apartment! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this post, Fritz!

    Unfortunately, I’ve been witnessing, first hand, the difficult side of this equation. My grandmother will soon be 88 and is still living in her own home. Though she is okay, financially speaking, she isn’t independent at all – and her cognitive and physical health are declining. My parents take care of everything (and I mean, everything). They are in the process of helping her try to see the many benefits of assisted living (transportation, social, dining, no maintenance, etc), but she’s fighting them all the way. The the “idea” of leaving her home is the most difficult thing for her (she lived there with my grandfather before he died 1 1/2 years ago). But, honestly, I think everyone, including her, would be much happier with alternate arrangements.

    1. Amanda, thanks for sharing your story. I feel so badly for folks dealing with aging parents who are “fighting them all the way”. A terrible situation for all involved, and I feel for your parents and your grandmother. Tough situation, and a perfect example of why I’m so proud of my Dad for “doing it right”!

  2. Great to read that your dad found a perfect solution. He looks really happy in his study!

    Making sure that the finances are ok and well documented is indeed a must do. that is why I think over time, i might switch to a robo advisor for a part of pur money. It makes things easier… The options trading is a whole different story. I have no clue how to deal with that.

    1. He DOES look happy in his study, doesn’t he! He’s even happier now that my sisters and I bought him a nice new office chair for his desk (It came in after this picture had been taken!).

      My wife and I are also planning on switching to a “robo advisor” when we reach our mid-70’s. At this point, we’ll likely use Vanguard’s Personal Advisory Service, at only 0.3% it’s a great service, at a great price!

  3. Good for your Dad! He looks great in that new setup! No reason to not go about life with a positive attitude, it really can make the difference. I’ve always tried to be an optimistic, glass half-full type of guy myself.

    My parents are in their late 50s / early 60s and are very healthy for their age. While it may be some time before we ever cross this bridge, they are the type of people that will “do it right”. They can be fairly stubborn (leave it to their kid to say that…) but would never put themselves as a burden on others and, most importantly, they have the resources.

    That is an important part of retirement planning for me too, making sure I won’t ever be a burden. I haven’t quite decided if I want to buy LTC insurance or “self-insure” with significant cushion in my retirement accounts to cover it one day. I lean towards “self-insure” though. Either way, I will do it right. Plus, I kind of like the idea of having a butler and maid service… 🙂

    1. Swan, thanks for bringing up LTC, an important consideration. My Dad “self insured”, and I’ve chosen to do the same after a deep analysis last year. Costs of LTC have increased dramatically, and I found it impossible to justify. We’ll hope market returns allow sufficient asset growth to protect the “worst case” scenario!

  4. I’m glad the transition turned out well for your dad. I’ve seen the difficulties that can come of this if someone is unwilling, specifically with my grandparents and my wife’s grandparents. I agree with the overall theory of your post. Plan ahead and don’t leave the burden of cost or having to make a decision up to your children. Planning for long-term care is another aspect we need to consider when stocking away money for retirement.

  5. great article on a subject that everyone our age is going to confront soon, has already confronted or is confronting right now. From my personal experience I think it is possible to make it so that you can stay in your own home as long as possible if you purchase your home with an eye for the future. My wife and I purchased recently our “dream” home. After raising our boys in a 3 story tudor with a laundry in the basement and the master BR on the 2nd floor, we got smart and bought our current home. While it is quite a bit larger, it is what I refer to as “scaleable”. We have the space for the boys to come home, and hopefully bring their own families (future grandchildren), but allows us to limit ourselves to living on a single floor. Much of the flooring is hardwood so as we age and are more prone to shuffling, we are not as at risk of tripping over carpet. the bathrooms are large enough to accomodate rails and hand holds. We will possibly need to add ramps and railings to make access from the outside easier, and there is some acreage that I may eventually find unmanageable, but landscape maintenance can be contracted for. My own parents sold their place in the country much earlier than I thought they would, but they had reached the point where they could see that their ability to maintain all that they had built there was approaching it’s end and they had concerns with being so far from their doctors and urban health care facilities. They started having discussions about moving to assisted living in their 70’s (they are both 84 this year), and I can remember being shocked by that. They ultimately settled on selling the country place and moving into a condo villa in town which removed their property maintenance responsibilities while allowing them to retain ownership. Looking back on it I am amazed that they were so cognizant of the situation when it was not right on top of them. But they have always lived their lives in a way that sought to reduce the burden they would place on others, probably a lesson learned from their parents who, despite having the means to have planned better, did not do so and when they were finally unable to live in their own homes, pushed all the responsibility for making decisions onto their children.

    1. Brian, I like your concept of having a home that will “age well” with you. We’ve taken a similar approach with our cabin. It has a master bed and bath on the main level (as is laundry), so we know we can move to living on a “single level” if the future requires us to do that.

      Also, your folks took a different approach than my Dad, but they demonstrated the same attribute of choosing early, and not being a burden for their kids. Kudo’s to them, sounds like they’re doing it right!

  6. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone: my friends, my parents, or my kids. That’s why I’m working hard to build an investment portfolio made up of real estate, some equities, and trying to diversify my income streams.

    Very glad your dad was able to get into a place he will enjoy for the rest of his life. There is something to be said for simplification.

    Would you have bought your dad’s house? I’m guessing Michigan summers are similar to Minnesota summers, so you could have used it as a vacation home?

    1. ‘Would you have bought your dad’s house?” Interesting question, Erik. Given that we live 11 hours away, and are planning to travel extensively via 5th wheel after we retire, it didn’t really make sense for us to buy it. MI summers are, indeed similar to Minnesota, and something I miss (a lot) now that I live in the South. However, we’ll escape the heat with our 5th wheel, and have the flexibility to travel to different destinations for a few years vs. being “fixed” in MI had we purchased his house. For that reason, we didn’t consider purchasing it, tho we will be spending more time in MI (with our 5th wheel!) after I retire.

  7. Unfortunately this hits close to home, but on the bad side of things. My dad is a hoarder and my mom has Alzheimer’s. It took a lot for my dad to family move my mom into a memory unit, but now he has pretty much holed himself up except he has a path to get around the house. He spends a lot of my time with my mom. We don’t live in the area and have spent two different vacations trying to help clean up, but really it is impossible. I have two older brothers and my dad’s brother have also spent time there. My mom’s sister and husband do live in the same town, but he doesn’t let them help either.

    My son goes to college in the area and now it is causing some tension with him because he believes we should do more. There is only so much you can do when someone doesn’t want help. I’m glad your dad and wife made it easy on you and glad your friends will be making it easy for their children. I guess that is the lesson we can learn. Don’t do to our children what my dad is doing to us.

    Honestly, I try to have a good attitude about and enjoy the time I am able to spend with him. Fighting about things just doesn’t do any good.

    1. Chris, unfortunately, your story is not unique. Many folks our age are facing real challenges with aging parents. That’s why I chose to write this story about my Dad. I’m proud of him for “doing it right”, and I think we can learn from him to insure we don’t do to our kids what your parents are doing to you.

      It sounds like a very difficult situation, hope you can find a way to navigate the difficult waters with your Dad. No matter what, never forget what he did for you during your childhood, and find a way, whatever it may be, to not let the current situation hurt your relationship with him. Good luck.

  8. I’m already looking ahead to it. My mother left it too late, and struggled to cope with a 2 storey house latterly. My in-laws moved at 65, to a small 2 bedroom apartment, and then finally my widowed mother-in-law given her health issues, recognised aged about 76 that it was time to go for a residential home. She did most of the clearing herself, but we all lent a hand.

    I am de-cluttering with a vengeance. I already have the ‘file’ with wills, power of attorney, bank accounts etc. These steps alone will simplify everything, when we decide to go smaller /assisted living. Just now, I want and use my workshop, so I am not ready to move yet. It will probably be in about 10 years.

    A friends’ mother, did as your Dad has just done. Aged 83, she went for a small, easily kept, assisted living apartment, about 2 years ago, and hasn’t looked back. In fact she has got younger, because her worries have halved. She definitely did it at the right time.

  9. How lovely that your father is growing older with such grace and accepting, no embracing, this new phase of his life.

    I worry about the future when my parents get old. Both Mr. BITA’s parents and my own have set themselves up to be comfortable financially as they age. My problem is the distance. My parents, my sister and I live on three different continents and I don’t yet have a plan for how all this is going to work once they get old. They have no interest in moving to a new country at this time of their lives (plus their medical needs are completely covered in India – my father served in the Indian army and the medical coverage they have as a result is fantastic). We will be financially independent by that time though (if all goes according to plan) and so should have the flexibility to move to India for a few years at the time if we need to.

    1. ‘My parents, my sister and I live on three different continents” – Yes, that will certainly complicate things, Mrs BITA! I feel challenged, and I’m “only” an 11 hour drive away. Definitely something you’ll have to think through as that time approaches. Even if it means moving back to India, there are certain times in our lives when we must prioritize different aspects of life. I hope things work out well for you!

  10. I’m so glad things worked out well for your dad and his wife (and ultimately for you and your sister). You are very fortunate that he planned well and still has his mental health and a positive attitude.

    My brother and I went through a very painful situation getting my mother into assisted living. She was no longer a candidate for living alone, or for independent living. She did not want to go but even with a home health aide, her situation was getting too dangerous.

    The wedding we just returned from was for one of the “Fab Five” nieces and nephews. Hopefully one of them will step up to help us if and when we need to make these decisions.

    1. Hey Mrs Groovy!! We are, indeed, fortunate that my Dad is a planner! I guess the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree!

      You are in an interesting position without children, and I would expect several of the “Fab Five” will step up if and when that time comes. Love ’em like your children, and have “the talk” with them when the time is right! Then, do you planning, and don’t be a burden!! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Thanks for this wonderful post, Fritz. I salute your dad and his deep regard for planning. Before reading this post, I thought I had most things covered. But now I realize that that notion was terribly naive. I love the idea of having a notebook that lays out everything. Getting that together will make our transition back to some form of dependency much easier for ourselves and the Fab Five. Glad things worked out for your dad. He looks very happy. And his erstwhile house looks fabulous. Cheers.

  12. Congratulations to your dad, Fritz! You’re so lucky to have a dad who understands how long term care facilities like assisted living facility works and has done his assignment, by planning for his care needs early.

    This is actually one of the problems among seniors today. Most of them rely on their loved ones to take care of them in the future, which is not a healthy practice. I commend your dad for planning for this and for choosing the most practical solution.

    I still have lots of years ahead of me before I retire but I will definitely use some of your dad’s pointers on long term care settings.

  13. Your dad did a pretty good job of planning ahead. I mean, he managed to move to an assisted living facility by self-insuring. I’m actually having doubts if it’s possible to face the future without a policy like long-term care insurance or hybrid policy before reading your post since the cost of ltc continues to rise.

    I’m still weighing my options whether to insure or not. But one thing is for sure, I am deeply inspired by your dad’s story.

  14. Thank you for sharing this post. I hope your dad has a great experience and receives the care he might need as time goes by. My job is working in HR for a not-for-profit healthcare organization. We offer nursing care, assisted living, and home care. I might not be a nurse, but sleep well at night knowing that I am working to help seniors who need assistance.

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