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…
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:
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.
- A small ranch home, which would allow for “single level” living and some downsizing.
- 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
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”.
How A Reader Is “Doing It Right”
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.
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.