by Gary Lewis
“Where am I going to live?” one elderly gentleman recently asked. He said that he and his wife were getting older and that the stresses involved in maintaining their large home were starting to get to him. “The children have told us we should sell the house and move into an assisted-living facility,” he added. “But my wife won’t even consider this.”
For the children, moving on is the obvious choice. Assisted-living provides a maintainance-free setting with regular meals, round-the-clock nursing care and lots of friends and activities. Maintaining a home requires lots of energy for cleaning and lots of extra money to pay ever-increasing property taxes and utility bills. Houses often require unexpected major expenses, such as new plumbing, a new roof, a new furnace and the like. To the children, the choice is a “no-brainer.”
But for the parents, the advantages of assisted living are greatly overshadowed by the significance that the home has in their lives. The home may be the repository for many, if not all, of their happy moments. To walk away from all of it would be simply impossible.
There can be a happy resolution but it takes some effort on your part (the children) to make it happen. If you have raised the moving scenario to your parents and it has been rejected, remember that the most important thing that you can do is to allow your parents to maintain as much control over their own lives as possible. You have planted the idea as a seed and that is the best that you can do for the moment. Respond in such a way, “we know how important the home is to you, please take all of the time you need. Let us know if you wish to talk about it later.”
Then, bring the house “to life!” Ask your parents open-ended questions about the home, get them talking about it often. Ask them what led them to purchase this home instead of others? What are the important memories that happened in each of the different rooms. What are the stories behind the artwork decorating the home?
Bring up your memories of events at the home. Tell them stories about what you were doing. Did your parents know what you were up to? Don’t feel afraid to talk to them about some of the mischief you might have gotten into. Your relationship now is no longer that of a child-parent, at best, it is the relationship of a close friend, a confidant.
Listen carefully to their stories, even the ones you’ve heard twenty times already. Be interested and ask leading questions. As your parents have the opportunity to recall all of the memories associated with the house, their attachment will fade and they will be ready to move on.
Don’t let this be the end of your memory-evoking conversations with them though. One of the most important missions of seniors is to figure out ‘what it’s been all about.’ They can only do that by remembering back on all of the important events in their life. They need your help and support.
Gary Lewis, CFP®, CASL®, has worked in various areas of
financial services since receiving his MBA from Northwestern University
in 1988. He specializes in providing services to the mature market and helping seniors age-in-place. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.