18 Replies Latest reply on Nov 29, 2013 9:20 PM by jkom51

    Retirees with living parents

      We are struggling with our retirement plans, particularly around housing since my parents in their eighties wish to remain in their own home. I'd love to hear how working aging baby boomers, who need to work for health insurance reasons of their own, deal with daily care for senior parents who are not in assisted living or nursing facilities.are beginning to show decline.
        • Re: Retirees with living parents
          My mother who lived by herself for 20 years after my father's death finally could not keep up with the responsibilities of maintaining a house so I had it sold & moved her into a retirement community five miles from our house located in another state. She is 85 & is very dependent upon me for shopping & taking care of most routine matters. She recently went through a bout of pneumonia & after a week in the hospital spent two weeks in a rehab center. Talk about a downer - those places are loaded with many very senior individuals who just vegitate.  My wife & I spent time every day looking after my mother's needs & frankly it becomes very tiring after awhile. Added to the fact that my mother is not the easiest person to help as she dislikes most everyone & is paranoid about people stealing from them. One of the things I'd recommend is to seek out a support group to discuss the senior parent as it gives you a perspective of what others are faced with, & the social worker type person who runs the group can provide some excellent recommendations on how to deal with the issues.
            • Re: Retirees with living parents
              Thanks! I wonder when and how to broach the subject of moving the parent closer to their support people and when it's time to take away the license when they refuse to acknowledge the time is right.

                • Re: Retirees with living parents

                  This is a really difficult issue.

                  For 5 yrs my mother lived with us, but I asked her to apply for senior housing (she was poor so eligible for reduced rates) in both where I live and my brother lives. She was accepted in a development near my brother, so she moved near him. This freed up our front bedroom - we have a modest 2 bd/2ba cottage - for my MIL, who was widowed and living alone in a big house.

                  Her house was expensive and beautiful, but an disability nightmare. Although she is in fine shape, one fall and she'd be really stuck - steep concrete stairs to get in or out. We had a choice - move into her house, or urge her to sell hers and move in with us.

                  We finally convinced her to sell her home and move into ours. In certain ways this is stressful, but selling her home gave her the cash she needs for assisted living/nursing care in her extreme old age, which she is genetically and medically very likely to experience. She was the classic house-rich, cash poor. Had we moved in with her, it would not have solved the basic financial issue that she had insufficient funds to support a decline in health.

                  Now, it took eight years to convince her to sell. And she still misses her home of 38 yrs and her friendly neighbors. But we discovered that the weekly visits we paid her were insufficient to show us she is mentally declining from dementia. She has no idea of nutrition, and although some of her diet was fine, half of it was transfat-laden, empty carbohydrate junk food.

                  Even when she moved in with us, it was difficult to get her to change doctors, etc. (we're 25 miles away from her old home - not insurmountable, but commute traffic here is a nightmare 2x/daily, even on weekends). I finally 'laid down the law' and changed her doctor and dentist to excellent professionals only 10 minutes away.

                  The other thing we did was make sure not only her, but our own legal affairs were brought up to date when she came to live with us. An excellent estate attorney brought her trust up to date and established our RLT, along with the critical Powers of Attorney for both financial and healthcare.

                  Parents can be VERY resistant to both change and the need for discussion. Be firm but not nagging, and keep your message consistent, especially if you've got a partner who's also involved in the situation. It can be in everyone's best interests to help them realize as they enter a more restricted phase of physical activity, that life can still be good, and living where people can help more easily because they're nearby, is a positive, not a negative.

                  Sometimes you can't have that one big conversation - you have to break it up into little conversations, to get your point across and start them thinking about it.

                  • Re: Retirees with living parents
                    We took my wife's parents in- the Mom died of Alzheimers 2 years later and was incredibly advanced when we got her (unsuspected by Dad or us of course). Dad lost his driving privleges when he ran head on into someone and fortunately did not hurt anyone. He is like a perpetual middle schooler, and conflicts with my wife constantly. It gets wearing. And as is typical- the three other siblings are minimally involved in helping out.
                    • Re: Retirees with living parents
                      Taking a parent's keys away is an extremely difficult action and should be avoided by the children, if possible.  My mother was becoming reckless and forgetful but still had her license to drive.  I took her to the neurologist to see what the issues were and if there was anything that could be done.  The neurologist was very good in asking her questions and eliciting information from her in a very nice manner.  Afterwards, he told me that she was getting dementia and prescribed some medicine.
                      Later in the month, my mother received a letter from the motor vehicle department telling her that her driver's license was revoked due to medical conditions.  She, of course, was furious at the doctor and I was able to help her through this.  This led to her agreeing to move closer to us so we could help her more.  The doctor was the "bad guy" and I was the "good guy" in this situation.  If I had taken her car away, it would have been ugly.
                      My advice, use your doctor to take the keys away.  If your doctor won't help with this, get a new doctor before someone is injured or  killed.  
                        • Re: Retirees with living parents
                          good advice----
                          my parents'  insurance company totaled their car for the second time and this second time i let the car go. even though they were upset---it was time, and , as with your experience, in our case it was the insurance company that was the " bad " guy.
                          the first time the car was totaled, i negotiated with the ins co and had the car fixed for them---but, this time was the time to let go---
                          i can see i have a rough road ahead with them, but i try to remember that they have a tougher time navigating the journey
                        • Re: Retirees with living parents
                          I strongly urge everyone with elderly parents to read this June 2011 article in the NYTimes, from its wonderful The New Old Age blog. Although the NYTimes is on a subscription basis, visitors to the website can access up to 20 articles/mo. without fee.
                          This aricle discusses how to determine whether assisted living or a nursing home is appropriate. I was also surprised to learn that the average stay in asst. living is only two years; the elderly continue to decline and need to move into licensed facility care that can offer more help.
                          • Re: Retirees with living parents
                            My mother is nearing 80 and still living in her two-story house and doing fine, mostly. I have tried to broach the subject of what she would like to do once she becomes unable to live in her home--live with me, go to assisted living, something else...she won't discuss it with me and becomes angry. We don't live in the same state nor do we have a good relationship. I guess I hope someone will call me one day and say my mother was found dead in her home. This way she's had her preferred way of living into old age and dying in the home she's lived in for 55 years...I hope it will be that easy. 
                              • Re: Retirees with living parents
                                Don't count on it being easy. My mother is 84 and Dad 89. Neither will make out living wills or move into a more suitable place for them.  They want to die in their home.  They get angry at almost anything these days.  I realize they are angry because they can't do what they used to or want to, because of health limitations. Never the less it doesn't make it any easier on me.  I live and 1.5 hr (one way) and my only sister is 11 hrs away.   It's a difficult situation for most of us as we reach 65 ourselves.
                                  • Re: Retirees with living parents
                                    Yes, unfortunately many parents are extremely resistant to changes proposed by their kids. It's as if they see it as almost a betrayal. Also, dementia aggravates a stubborn attitude, and the anger level jumps proportionately.
                                    It's hard to remind ourselves that our parents come from a generation where the legal complexities of disability and death weren't so important as they are now. Sometimes, there is just nothing one can do but watch in agony as the train wrecks itself on the tracks.
                                    In such a situation, you need to make sure that you have some money set aside to specifically deal with the legal fall-out when something bad finally happens. Going to court, as our excellent estate attorney told us, is a minimum $3K in CA for her time, and much more if medical professionals have to be called to give opinion, etc., before a judge, so you can be appointed legal agent.
                                    We have to remember not to dwell on what we CAN'T do, and concentrate on being prepared for what the options are when we CAN step in.
                                    As their children, it's up to us to be aware of the many federal/state rules and aid processes that are applicable to our parents' individual situations. The Net is essential for this kind of information gathering: agency contact info, aid guidelines and restrictions, etc.
                            • Re: Retirees with living parents
                              We found with both our parents a dire situation had to occur before they could except the reality of their situation.
                              My mother was widowed when she was diagnosed with dementia.  It was difficult to convince her it was in her best interest to go into assisted living.  My brother was unwilling to challenge her legally and we were told it was very hard to declare someone incompetent in her state.  Finally she got so bad we moved her into an assisted living place where she really didn't fit in.  I would tell people to be realistic about the parent's conditions when looking for AL or other group living solutions.  While she was still at home we knew she was a danger driving.  When she passed out from a bladder infection she believed she had a stroke and couldn't drive anymore.  My brother quickly sold her car the next day and everyone in her county was safe once more.
                              My in-laws are in their mid-90s and last year had a major crisis in FL (12 hours from us).  They have always been very secretive but we quickly realized he had dementia.  The next month she had a nervous breakdown while trying to "cure" him.  We finally convinced them they could no longer live alone and moved them into AL near us.  Their other son is a no show and my husband shoulders all the issues.  His mother is hell on wheels not only showing some dementia but also various psychiatric issues we always thought were "quirks".  We could never have them living with us and are lucky they have the money to stay in care.
                              Their story also brings up another issue.  We used to visit them twice a year after we retired to check on them because we knew she was filtering conversations, etc.  He fell and broke a hip 2 weeks before our last visit.  We were shocked to see his condition - she had been starving him to "control" various problems he had.  Since being in AL he has gained over 20 lbs.  My point is - pay attention to small clues so you are aware of what is going on.  Face up to reality about dementia and other serious conditions of the elderly.  I found with my mother people with dementia can be very sly covering up their impairment on the surface.  It has made me wonder how often this situation happens when a couple are "getting along" but surely the impairment of the "stronger" one has serious affects on the partner. 
                                • Re: Retirees with living parents
                                  The best time to talk to parents about these things is before dementia hits. I started this conversation when the recession hit and I saw my retirement savings cut in half. Before that I had hoped to retire early and return to California to help my mother out in her last years. Now that didn't seem possible. So I had a heart to heart conversation with my mother who was just short of 80. I pointed out to her that when I reached 65 she would be 89 and if I had to postpone retirement until I was 70 she would be 93. I said, "You can't live alone at that point." She reminded me she had long term care insurance. I said, "that's fine but someone still needs to supervise the care you are getting. I can't promise you that I would never put you in a nursing home, but if I did it needs to be some place I can visit every day." At that point we decided to remodel my downstairs bathroom putting in a walk-in shower, and all the things and elderly lady might need. She still insists that she would be kicking and screaming if I brought her out to Mississippi, but she spends longer and longer periods of the time here. Last year it was nearly six months. Fortunately, my retirement funds have since fully recovered and I may be able to go forward with my earlier plans to retire when she needs me. But it is good to know we have already worked out our options. 
                                    • Re: Retirees with living parents
                                      An update for our personal situation: my 85-yr-old MIL has continued to decline (mild dementia) and yes, is still in denial. We fortunately are retired and spent quite a bit of time visiting all the senior facilities around us that had Memory Care units, since she will eventually/inevitably need such care.
                                      We have picked a facility near us, and although she is resistant, have told her this is necessary. My husband is very stressed dealing with her, and has had one serious stroke already. I don't want him to have another one! Our situation is a fortunate one--spouse is an only child so no sibling issues; MIL is a very sweet, passive Asian immigrant (so in her culture, men "rule the roost").
                                      As mentioned, we had previously convinced her to sell her house so she has sufficient assets to afford this care. Asst. Living, where they will probably place her, seems to cost about the same everywhere. Memory Care, however, varies widely between the non-profit and for-profit places. Both types of facilities we saw were excellent, but they do differ in "personality" and that's the key to placing a relative happily in one.
                                      But we have learned that you can only debate issues with her up to a point, and after that....well, we've had to "lay down the law", and tell her "Look, this is the way it's going to be. Like it or not, this is where you need to go. We'll be with you often; we're NOT abandoning you. But it isn't good for you to stay here any longer."
                                      Dementia makes a person unable to imagine hypothetical situations any longer. The only things that are "real" are what's right in front of them. And yes, it's a terrifying thought to us that someday Spouse and I may be in the same situation his mother is in....
                                  • Re: Retirees with living parents
                                    Being retired & age 70 & trying to care for parents in their 90s is really tough, depressing, & confronts my husband & me with serious quality of life questions--as in what's the point of living far beyond physical, mental, & emotional viability. Thanks to the miracles of modern medical technology, extending life beyond viability has become a cultural default. The alternative seems chilling but the ravages of old age can be pretty horrific even after one has become mostly bionic, as in the case of my mother & to a more limited extent myself. It's clear to me that my once very bright & viable Mom is numb from repeated medical crises that are attributable to an aging body rather than to any catastrophic illness. Meanwhile, we hold onto her because we love her and want "just one more day." I struggle with the thought that evading death to the extent that we now can goes against what is natural & right. Whether we have the courage to take it on or not, we all are confronted by this major ethical dilemma. Death is natural & comes eventually, but I think the timing of it is what has become unnatural. Is this because we live in a culture that values perpetual youth & undervalues maturity? If so, does that make us a pretty immature culture? Do we have the maturity & wisdom to behold the inevitability of death any differently?
                                    • Re: Retirees with living parents
                                      My mom and dad are both living, 82 years old, and still in their home.  The biggest concerns have been making their home safe and determining where they need help.

                                      My sister and I have divided the tasks.  She grocery shops with them every week,  inventories their refrigerator and freezer, and makes a list for the meals for the week.  I am collecting their bills, keeping up with their finances, and organizing their accounts.  The tasks have given us a forum for engaging them in the activities that directly affect them and deepened the bonds of our youth.  We are hoping that they see the love and joy still present in their lives.
                                      • Re: Retirees with living parents
                                        My mother will be 93 in November. She was diagnosed with untreatable colon cancer. Since she lives in NY and I live in Albany, it was inevitable that I was going to have to be her caregiver. She was still driving, so I asked her primary care physician to tell her she couldn't drive any longer. That worked fine. Hospice came to her home because her oncologist recommended that she get hospice care. She refuses to leave and hospice told me that she could no longer be safe home alone. I'm living with here in her house in NY, and watching her die slowly and painfully. I hope I never DO this to my children. She has the money to go into a hospice facility or care facility, but she wants to die home. She won't let me hire a private-duty nurse and has demanded that I care for her. I love her, and, once again, I have learned a valuable lesson from her about what not to do to my children.
                                        • Re: Retirees with living parents

                                          I'm happy to report that so far, moving my MIL into a retirement care facility (see my above posts scattered through this thread) has worked out to everybody's satisfaction. There have been a number of minor issues with the facility in getting her settled, but nothing major.


                                          It is a non-profit facility with asst. living that offers three levels of supplementary care, critical care (short-stay; when residents are recovering from outside surgery, for example), and memory care. The staff is excellent. The facility has one of the lowest rates of turnover in the entire state, and floor staff knew her name within minutes of her moving in.


                                          MIL resisted (passively) right up to the last minute, but we got her moved out of our house without incident. This move gave us the chance to go through her clothes and toss any ragged, worn, torn clothing (yes, she argued about that, but we were firm). We purchased new furniture for her one-room unit and bought her several nice new articles of clothing, such as pajamas and slippers and shoes, that she was in real need of but had been unwilling to buy.


                                          Although it has only been a couple of weeks, she immediately responded to the friendly and caring atmosphere at the facility. The staff loves her (we knew they would; she is a very sweet lady). It has been a huge relief to us that she has responded so positively. Her initial reluctance to move has gone. She confessed that although she misses us (we are only 8 minutes away and visit her numerous times during the week), she loves how friendly everyone is. It is very reassuring to her that there is 24/7 staff if she needs help.


                                          MIL is a very social person who loves to chat with anybody. Although very passive about doing activities by herself, she is happy to join anyone who invites her and "shows her the ropes". It is wonderful to see her always smiling. We haven't seen her in such good spirits in years!