The Long Decline

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Over Easter weekend, Sarah and the kids and I drove four hours to visit my parents. I always enjoy these visits because, well, I like my parents, not only because I respect and value how they raised me, but for the people that they are.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice, though, is how my dad is starting to age. He spent most of the afternoon doing his annual spring trimming of the bushes along the edge of my parents’ driveway. In years’ past, this would have taken him between an hour and an hour and a half of nonstop work. This year, though, he spent most of the afternoon going at it, stopping for breaks about every fifteen minutes or so.

My father is one of the most active people I’ve ever met and he’s slowing down.

This realization – and the realization of the impact that his decline and eventual passing will have on my mother – has made me spend the last few days thinking deeply about how to handle this situation. It’s a situation that many people face as they reach their thirties and forties and fifties: how do I take care of mom and dad after they spent twenty years of their life taking care of me?

Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about.

Part of me would like to live near them so I can help. One advantage of having a “work at home” career like I have is that I can live pretty much anywhere I want. If we so chose, we could easily move to the area where they live. If that happened, I would love to be able to stop in each day, see what help they needed, take care of some errands for them, and so on. An additional advantage is that it would let our children get to know their grandparents well before they pass on.

Another part of me doesn’t want to because of the culture. At the same time, I don’t want to move back there. The cultural opportunities and beliefs are, in some ways, very different than the values and beliefs I want my own children to have. Perhaps worst of all would be the general cultural rejection there of reading, learning, and growing as a person. My parents (and Sarah’s) are really exceptions to this rule, but the culture of the school district and community was such that I spent most of my school years firmly believing that I was going nowhere in life. I want my children to feel the opposite of that. I want them to feel that the world is enormous and filled with opportunity and that they can take ahold of those opportunities, and the culture outside of our home there would not encourage that, I’m afraid.

Their estate planning is vague (at best) and they resist efforts to get it in good shape. After our child is born (at this point, my wife is not up for further traveling until after the baby arrives), I’m going to plan a weekend with my parents where we get all of their estate planning in shape. This will probably involve my siblings and anyone else who needs to have a voice in the process. Doing this will certainly alleviate my own worries (and probably theirs, too, if they actually face the process).

What will they do when one of them passes? I’m not merely talking about the divesting of their assets, I’m talking instead about how much they rely on each other. They have the most symbiotic marriage I have ever witnessed, with each person carrying certain tasks so well that the other person simply has never had to function in that capacity. While this is great in some ways, it will be very difficult when one of them passes on.

This results in a “to-do” list of sorts.

First, I’d like to increase the frequency with which we visit my parents in the next few years. We usually visit them once every two months or so (on average). I’d like to increase that frequency as best I can.

Second, I need to help them organize their estate planning this summer. This is perhaps the most direct action I need to take. I’ve already got a notebook started with notes and thoughts about how to carry this off, along with some potential dates picked out.

Finally, I need to have some heartfelt conversations with each of them about what to do if the other one passes. What type of support will they really need in that situation? Will they be able to survive on what income is still coming in? Will they need additional support? I know that if they do, I’ll probably be the child that provides it, so I’d like to be able to hash this out now so I can prepare a bit for it.

To put it simply, helping one’s parents as they get older involves a lot of challenging issues, and it’s important to work through the issues and deal with them now while you still easily can.

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50 thoughts on “The Long Decline

  1. I suppose it is not a good option for your parents to live with you or move to your area? You seem especially worried about how your mother would cope without your father- maybe you should think about opening up your home to her in the future.

  2. Trent,
    Can your Mom and Dad stay with you for 2 week Periods at a time?(Provided they are not working)

    My Mother-in-law lives 3 hours from where we are, we usually bring her to our place, she stays with us 3 weeks at a time and then we drop her off at the end of 3 weeks(we do this every other month). This way, she gets to spend time with my Daughter(Grand-Daughter), My wife is less worried.

    One of the biggest benefit is that my daughter bonds with her and vice-versa. I also think that this instills a sense of taking care of one’s Parents(I know, it is different here in America, I am originally from South Asia), what better way than to teach your children by example.

  3. This one really hits home because all the same problems are in place for me. PLUS my parents (70 and 72) are likely to need help or care long before I am able/willing to just drop whatever I’m doing. I expect to be working well into my sixties, possibly up to age 70, and I’m only 44 now. PLUS I live 3000 miles away from them with no desire (or financial incentive) to go “back East.”

    I’ve already told my Mom that if the help/support issue arises, they are going to need to come to me, because I can’t give up my entire life to them. It sounds cold, but it’s the truth. They have the freedom to live wherever they want – I don’t.

    I would be interesting in reading more of how you (Trent) deal with the estate-planning and care conversations. My father (a former financial professional!) stubbornly insists he does not need a will. Which undoubtedly means he doesn’t have a healthcare directive, either. SIGH.

  4. I am thinking about the same thing myself. My parents live 2 hours away. The cost of living is much too high for us to move near them. We will end up paying double for a home half the size of ours. I hate the idea of uprooting my remaining parent. But I will probably end up doing what Venkat does and have the parent stay with us for weeks at a time for as long as our parents can live independently. After that, the parent is going to have to move in with us.

  5. Okay, Trent. Based on what I think your age is (early-30s) my husband and I are probably the age your parents are (late-50s/early 60s). I’m officially depressed that you find your parents on a long decline. Sigh.

  6. Trent – since you have siblings, this should go smoothly unless you and your siblings can’t agree on who does what. Make sure everyone understands your parents’ wishes and expectations.

  7. This is definitely an issue that’s close to home. I’m a diplomat, and we are currently trying to wrangle with these issues- but from 7000 miles away (literally).

  8. I have been recently dealing with these issues. My parents are 75 and 72. My husband’s parents are 72 and 67. It has been a very difficult year for my mother. She believed she was in great health, but had undiagnosed high blood pressure. She almost had a stroke. The high blood pressure has caused trouble with her kidneys, bleeding behind the eyes and congestive heart failure. She is so tired now. The doctor has trouble finding medicines that help the blood pressure without putting too much stress on the kidneys. The problem I have is, who gives information out. My oldest sister is very controlling and stubborn. She won’t tell us what the doctor said. I ask my mom, but she will be evasive. I am the last of 7 children. I was taking my mother to the doctor. My sister was taking care of other things. But over time my mother has just had my sister take her to the doctor. My mother seems to prefer her kids not knowing everything. My sister won’t tell us because mom doesn’t want us to know. My mother is a very positive person. She will not say ANYTHING negative. So if the doctor says her blood pressure is high and her kidneys are worse, she won’t tell us. It really bothers me. There seems to be nothing I can do about it. I talk to my mother almost everyday. This has been very difficult for all my family. I never thought my parents aging would be so difficult. I know all my brothers and sisters love my parents, but we all have different views. We all live within 15 minutes to them, with three living basically next door. It is hard. I would not wish this on anyone, but it happens to everyone.

  9. I am 46 this year and my husband is 47. We’ve already had the “talk” about everything including end of life issues. My dad died at a young age (50) so i know what that was like for my mother (nightmare).
    My husband’s family has a significant estate (cash and property).
    He’s the executor and the eldest of 4 siblings and we want to be absolutely sure that they all understand what his parents wishes are so it doesn’t cause a fissure in a very close family, It can happen.
    Put as much as possible in writing, make sure everyone involved is clear,

  10. Trent, the detailed anecdotes you use to lead into posts like this one are always interesting, but sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re zooming in on one piece of a larger pattern (i.e., you’ve noticed your father “slowing down” in other ways as well) or whether you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

    There’s any number of reasons why your father might have taken longer to trim the bushes than in previous years that don’t imply that he has one foot in the grave. Maybe he didn’t sleep well the night before and was tired. Maybe he was distracted by something. Maybe he had eaten something that didn’t agree with him and wasn’t feeling well. Or maybe, if the weather last weekend was as unseasonably hot where you were as it was here, it was because of that.

  11. Something about this post rubs me the wrong way. I appreciate your wanting to help your parents, but (to me, at least) you seem controlling in a way that disrespects their right to run their own lives. You can’t MAKE them get their estate planning in order, and they don’t have to do it your way or on your timetable. That said, I agree that it is appropriate to try to start the conversation with them, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t make you the parent and them the children. Perhaps you’ve already thought of this, in which case I apologize for sounding so critical, but as an estate planning attorney I deal with these kind of family issues all the time, and I think I’ve seen every possible way to make a difficult situation worse. It’s very easy to have an “I know what’s best for you” attitude, which is often seen as offensive. It’s hard enough getting older without being treated as incompetent. Remember, they were around long before you were!

  12. So, Trent, if you are in your 30′s and your parents are in their 60′s to 70′s, I don’t think you need to worry too much. Keep an eye on them, call on the phone often. Do try to encourage them to get their estates in order, at least so there is a written memorandum of where their assets are.

    Here’s where I’m coming from: I’m 62 trying to deal with my 95yo mother’s business. Only in the last 3 or 4 years has she not been able to handle it herself. Each person (and parent) is different. I’m also dealing with a mid-20′s daughter who is still not able to manage her own life without leaning on her parents. We’re helping her, not vice versa.

  13. Most men in their 50s are not as limber or resilient as they used to be. It’s a normal part of the aging process, aches and pains from over-exertion take longer to recover from. Taking longer to do such tasks makes the ‘recovery’ much easier.

    Be extremely careful with the estate planning agenda. Such intrusions tend to backfire, your timeline is not their priority.

  14. Having recently lost a parent (and I’m about Trent’s age), I can attest to the importance of at least discussing estate planning with one’s parents. It’s not even really about the money – it’s about making sure that things turn out the way your parents intend them to be. My well-educated parents thought that they had crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s in regards to ‘estate planning’. (In reality, they had a poorly drafted will and living will documents, and their attorney did not explain the legal implications of one ‘cookie cutter’ paragraph.) My dad would be rolling in his grave if he knew the amount of hassle my mom has gone through just to be able to have access to her own not-all-that-much money. That’s really the worst part of it – she is mourning the loss of the person in the world she was closest to, and she’s had to spend hours on the phone with banks and brokerage firms. It’s made his death even harder on her.

    I think the potential impact on the surviving spouse is a good place to start these kinds of conversations. One can speak generally about these things without eliciting hard numbers. But there are questions that should be considered:
    What is the impact of one’s person’s death on the surviving spouse’s insurance? Do pensions or access to employer-sponsored insurance plans pass with the decedent? Have you checked the ownership or beneficiary information for all accounts? Do you have wills or living wills in place? Do you want any assets to transfer to the next generation before both spouses die? and so forth.

    Also, I recently found out that people still harbor some very old-fashioned notions of what it means to be a widow! Ostensibly well-meaning busy-bodies, who were never privy to my parent’s affairs, have made it a point to tell my mother what she should or should not do. Yeah, it is their own problem that they are rude like that, but my mom is already digesting a lot of information – I think it would be easier for her if she could say to herself, “My affairs are all in order, I don’t need to listen to this jerk.”

    Also, don’t always assume that it’s the wife who survives the husband!

  15. I’m with Skywind & Cheryl. Yes, you need to keep the discussions open about estate planning, medical power of attorney, what-if scenarios, etc., but ultimately this is their decision to make. The main thing the kids need to know is where the info is so it can be accessed when the time comes. As Sarah @18 says, maybe you & the sibs can focus the first discussion on just where your parents are on these issues at this point, and the potential impact on the surviving spouse if they don’t have their ducks in a row.

    I also agree with the other posters that if your parents are in their 60′s, unless they have some major medical issues going on, you’re overreacting. I am another of your readers in my mid 50′s with a 28 year old, not ready to pack it in just yet!

    I do rest easier knowing my mother (at 90+) does have all her paperwork in order. As does my FIL & his wife.

    Ditto with the others that suggest maybe your parents could visit you? There will come a time they won’t be interested in doing that or able.

  16. Your parents should establish, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a Living Will/Advance Directive while they are still of sound mind. And they should update their wills and look into long term care insurance if they don’t have it. No one really knows when these documents will be needed.

    My father just passed of Alzheimer’s and having these documents made a horrible situation a little easier. He didn’t have LTC and to say I stressed about the money was an understatment. Even average care is very expensive.

  17. One more thing-serious illness can strike at any age. My Dad was 74 when he passed and suffered with Alzheimer’s for almost 10 years. Most folks don’t make it to 90. The average life expectancy in this country is in the late 70s.

  18. Don’t have much to worry about? Yeah, so my boyfriend’s father died of a heart attack while watching the Dolphins playoff game in 2009. He was 66. My grandfather had the flu and died of heart failure at 55. Neither was diagnosed with any serious condition leading up to their deaths. It DOES happen, and it’s best to be prepared. You don’t know if you’ll have time later.

    Thankfully boyfriend’s father had things well taken care of, but it took forever to find anything because we didn’t know where it was. No one had talked with him about it. A year later, we just found out about another life insurance policy that he had out on his life.

    Oh, and my uncle went for his morning run, came back and had a heart attack while he was untying his shoes. Turned out his arteries were 90% clogged. He was 37. He’ll have been gone for 10 years this year. DON’T PRESUME!

  19. Your wife is set to give birth to your third kid, and you are going to take off this summer and leave her with the newborn and the others?

    Yes, your parents should get their stuff together, but they need to do it on their timeline. They are adults and should be treated as such. You might want to suggest a quick family meeting at an upcoming holiday, when everyone is together –but you have a lot on your plate right now!

    If they have the will, power of attorney, etc together they are likely in decent shape. But then again, pretty much anyone should have that stuff, anyway.

  20. We faced this when my MIL was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 5 years ago at age 79…up until then she was doing great, taking care of everything, just a little forgetful now and then. My MIL is now 84 (and completely out of it) and my FIL (82) is taking care of her at home. My sister in law lives nearby and helps out almost every day.
    My husband and his siblings had ‘the talk’ with my FIL about their wishes, advanced directives, wills and trusts as well as funeral arrangements a couple of years ago and it’s all arranged and paid for because my FIL is one of those who are prepared for the future.
    My dad died from a random brain cancer at age 56 1 year after retiring, but because he and my mom also were planners, everything was (and still is) taken care of- including long term care, funeral arrangements and the family trust. That was 15 years ago.
    It’s made my husband and me very aware of how short or long life can be and we have advanced directives, long term care and the family trust all in place. We still have funeral arrangements to arrange and pay for- but part of the reason we have not yet done that part is because we moved to another state for retirement and we aren’t quite sure where we want to ‘end up’.
    Good post, Trent. I don’t think you are controlling or out of line at all for thinking of the inevitable- but if they don’t want to do anything, that’s OK too. We all have to face our mortality on our own terms unless we are not able to- but seriously, how freakin’ old are your parents? We are in our 50s with a 28 year old and a 23 year old and still ski, play hockey and walk 4 miles every day :) We aren’t doddering yet-and neither are our parents in their mid 70s and 80′s!! :)

  21. Stop presuming, people. Many people have parents who are younger or older than the average (myself included, my parents didn’t have kids until 10 years into their marriage). Stop taking it as some sort of personal slight if he’s concerned about his parents aging, because they could very well be older than the average, its really none of anyone’s business. Kudos to him for addressing the aging/estate issues instead of avoiding them in fear. Furthermore, one never knows what the future holds. I almost lost both of my parents when I was 18, and lost them both by the time I was 35. They never got past 66.

  22. I don’t believe that Trent is suggesting that his father is on the verge of collapse. I think it’s more that it suddenly struck him that his parents are not as young as they once were, which then caused him to think down the road a ways.

    I can sympathize. I see this with my own parents (in their early 60′s). I have observed this same thing in some other friends’ families. I have a neighbor who’s son was gone for several years. When the son moved back, he talked to us about concern over his dad’s slow down. His dad (my neighbor) used to chop and haul wood for hours, and then come back to the house and get right to the yard work or whatever. Now, the wood chopping is shorter, and he takes naps once he’s done, before he gets back out to more work. He’s still a very healthy man. He can still out-work men half his age. But he’s also getting older.

    When you’re away from people for extended periods of time, you don’t gradually get used to the changes. They seem sudden, and I think that’s what is hitting home for Trent, and for many of the rest of us with aging family. You just realize that people age. And, typically, the conclusion of getting older is death.

  23. I’ve already gone through this myself with my folks (my father died of cancer at age 52 and my mother died 9 years ago at 79) and we’re now going through it with my hubby’s folks (one with congestive heart problems, the other with cancer). It’s hard. Very, very hard.

    For one thing, you can only do what your folks (and sometimes other family members) will let you do. My mother downsized after my dad died and then utterly refused to consider moving from her condo even when she was very incapacitated. As long as they’re still competent there’s nothing you can do about it. One or another of my teenage kids lived with her for over *5* years (they all took turns) because that was the most she was willing to accept.

    Thinking about what needs to be done is good and spending more time with them is probably the best thing you can do because you’ll be in a position to see just how much they can still do and where the problems are.

    Just don’t expect them to follow your timetable. I had to laugh at chacha1′s comment about her father, the financial professional, who refuses to have a will. It’s because having a will means that he has to believe he’ll eventually die, of course! Don’t be surprised if your parents have similar hangups about completing these kinds of preparations.

  24. Tread lightly. Suggest ditching your timeline; it is likely not important to them. What’s important to them is that you respect them and their wishes.

    Understand that their parents (your grandparents) may never have had this type of conversation with their parents, so this topic (to them) is perhaps uncharted territory. It can be done, but on their timeline (not yours) and in their way (not yours). This makes it frustrating; however, lots of love, patience, diplomacy, and understanding on your part will help them move in that direction.

    Suggest you visit your parents without your family in tow. This makes for a quieter house, less stress on your parents, and maybe you can introduce the subject one-on-one (plant the seed) and let them talk privately vs ‘scheduling a meeting’ with what is likely a heavy agenda.

    Trent, you seem like a very organized, patient and loving son. I’m sure you’ll do well. Your parents are lucky people. Best of luck.

  25. I would go about this in a totally different way – if you don’t have a written will at this point, it’s time to have one – otherwise, there could be a question as to where your children would go in the event that something happened to you and your wife, G-d forbid. When you’ve done that, then talk about it with your parents – how you think it’s important to have a will, just in case, to make sure everything’s taken care of. Then you’re talking about it as something that everyone does, not just old people who are in their decline.

    (Which reminds me that I never got an answer from my brother and his wife regarding whether they would assume responsibility for our children in the event that…I actually asked him when he came to visit me in the hospital the day after my first daughter was born 2.5 years ago.)

  26. Trent, when did your father last have a physical? Maybe he’s got some curable problem which is currently undiagnosed. A visit to the doctor with you for company, in the exam room with him and listening to the doctor with him ought to tell you a lot. It can be something minor which is easily remedied. Also, what makes you so sure your Mother is ging to be the survivior? Life plays sad jokes on people, look at the children who predecease their parents. You can plan this all you want, and maybe your plans will work out, maybe no. You sound a trifle domineering and pompous about how you are going to engineer them and their estate planning because you know best. You may think it’s a good idea, I think it’s a good idea, but it is difficult for some people to face their own mortality this way and a well meaning child giving advice like this to a parent often comes off as a gold digger, to the parents. It’s not easy, requires tact, and some times can’t be done.

  27. Trent, more than that. You need to spend time sitting with them and saying “tell me again about the time Aunt Sally went up the tree after her cat when she was 79 years old” and then get home and write it down. These family stories are so precious and so many don’t think of doing this. Do it now while they are lucid and can still tell a great story. Have a micro tape recorder in your pocket, it often stymies people to be recorded if you tell them. OK, I know it’s illegal but they are your parents and they are family stories. Will be good too, if you can down load those to the computer so the kids can hear Grandma’s voice telling the story, too.

  28. It’s too bad the fear of dying trumps our love for those we will leave behind. There are too many horror stories of unanswered questions, unresolved issues, and the state taking over custody of care because there are no legal documents. Anyone, at any age can “get hit by a truck.” Let’s all, no matter how old/young we are, get our affairs in order. Just in case. It’s a love letter.

  29. My mom had the same “talking about death” will somehow make it come to pass notion.

    What worked for me is that when I had my first child, we redid all our wills, proxy’s etc and told her I negotiated a 2 for 1 deal with my lawyer. Since she’s frugal, she decided to take advantage and get her affairs in order at the same time. Plus, since I was doing it at 30, she felt silly not doing it at 70.

    My mom did agree to move to the town I live and it’s been great. I wasn’t sure she’d do it but when I offered, she said “why not”.

    She still surprises me from time to time.

  30. This was a really well-written and thoughtful article. It caused me to pause and consider my own situation, although I suspect I have several more years before I’m faced with the decisions it looks like you’re going to have to make.

    Welcome to the Sandwich Generation, Trent. Burdened with caring for aging parents who haven’t adequately prepare financially for their own old age, while simultaneously trying to raise your own children.

    And don’t forget to save up for your OWN retirement during all this, lest you repeat the cycle and find yourself burdening your own children (although admittedly, for some people, that’s their entire retirement plan, and the very reason they have children).

  31. “although admittedly, for some people, that’s their entire retirement plan, and the very reason they have children”
    Really? I’ve never met such a person that thought that way, or at least not someone who admitted it. Most people I know are actively trying to avoid that scenario. Of course, people often say that they want children so that someone will take care of them when they are older, but I hope that most people mean that they want to have people in their lives who will care for them emotionally when they are older and visit them in their old age. I don’t think they mean that financially. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask of your children to take on a caregiver role of some sort when you are older. It bothers me that any child would see that as an unfair burden. I rather think it’s a privilege to care for your parents when they can no longer do so for themselves. Of course, I have parents who saved and put themselves in a position where my siblings and I will have plenty of money to provide good care for them. I guess I might feel differently if they weren’t so responsible.

  32. I think you are wise to initiate these conversations now while your parents are still basically healthy and of sound mind. I had a hard time getting my father to get his will and directives in order. Finally I asked him what would happen if he dropped dead the next day. He admitted things would be a mess for Mom. I then asked “And who will clean up the mess?” He laughed and said “You!” Once he realized his lack of action could potentially make my life harder he got busy.

  33. Jane (4/7@7:43am) — So you think a caregiver role is NOT a financial role? When people say they want someone to take care of them when they’re older you can hope they mean emotionally; but it can mean in any way.

    Perhaps the best way to approach one’s parents as they age is to ask them for the information someone will need if they die. “Who will I need to call?” Within the context of conversation of couse … for instance, with a new baby on the way, Trent can mention that he’s having to update his will . . . do his parents have one? When talking about somean obituary . . . you can ask “if you died, would you want to donate body parts/be cremated or buried/have this song or that at the services?” If you get the answer of “None of your business”, you can always say, “I don’t want to argue with my siblings – we need to know what you want.”

  34. @reulte
    I probably wasn’t clear in my first post. I consider my father to have been a “caregiver” to his parents before they died, but that meant scheduling round the clock care for my grandmother and doing shopping on the week-end for food and supplies. This certainly took a lot of his time, but none of his money. I certainly realize that there are circumstances when family spend a lot of money to care for their elderly relatives. I’ve also seen this happen up close.

    I really don’t see a problem with parents expecting some degree of care later in life from their children. Like I said, I would consider it a privilege to care for my parents. That’s not to say it won’t be hard or a strain on my own family, but they have cared for me in so many ways over the years that it makes me WANT to do the same for them some day.

  35. Ditto what #28 Joseph said, especially
    “Tread lightly. Suggest ditching your timeline; it is likely not important to them. What’s important to them is that you respect them and their wishes.”

    Sometimes the best of intentions can be misinterpreted if you come on too strong.

    I’m sure this is something your father has thought about, and probably is going through some level of avoidance about as well, and may not be eager to have you force his hand. That doesn’t mean forget it, just be very cautious in the early stages.

  36. OK. I’ve just seen situations where the caregiving relative is not recompensed suitably for the work they have done. My father took care of his mother for a decade after her stroke; even after she entered a nursing home (which he paid for). He visited constantly, running errands for her and making sure she was included in all family holidays. He did it for love of her and expected nothing in return. Which is what he got when her will was read. There wasn’t much remaining — but it all went to his siblings who hadn’t visited her more than twice in the entire time.

    Alternately, you always read about situations where the caregiver takes advantage of the elder person.

  37. Caregiver arrangements are actually a whole ‘nother bag of worms and need to be considered separately from estate planning and directives. Sometimes (often?) the person who’s well equipped to help in legal capacities (executor, power of attorney, healthcare directive, trustee) is NOT the person well suited to handle personal care.

    In my observation, people who delay estate planning (perhaps, as some have noted, because they don’t want to think about their inevitable death) are even more likely to stick their fingers in their ears and go “la la la” when someone tries to talk about long-term care.

    I’m going to take the approach that some above have recommended, which is: get my OWN affairs in order, present the plans to my dilatory parents, and hope this prompts them to finally address their own situation.

  38. I’m a social worker who works with the elderly. One of my recent CEU programs I attended suggested the 40/70 rule…that is, when a child is 40 OR when a parent turns 70, that’s a great time to have the conversations about these things.
    My mother died at 61, but my father is still around at 72, and every time we visit, he takes me to a drawer, and shows me a thick envelope that has all pertinent info already written up…who to call after his death (pension,legal, etc..)and the house info, will, etc… That will make things easier when the eventual time comes.

  39. Hi, Trent – I’d appreicate more on this as you proceed. I’m 45. My widowed mom lives with me, and we each struggle with one thing. I have to remember I’m not her parent, and she has to remember that I am old enough to make my own choices. It’s a delicate balancing act.

    It might help if you could start having your parents come to you more often so they can acclimate to stores, etc.. You are young and still making choices about your life, and you should continue to have that opportunity. It’s probably better for your family if you can get a surving parent to come live with you rather than vice versa. But if Alzheimers becomes an issue, you may not have the choice.

    I used to think that having siblings would make this easier but after seeing the fights my friends have within their families over these issues, I’m relieved that I’m an only child!

    Good luck!

  40. This is not an easy situation for your Trent. Apparently, your parents resist efforts to get the estate planning in shape.
    You are a take-charge guy. Is it wise to take charge of your parents estate planning if they don’t wish it? will you not be seen as pushy ?
    (and yes, I lived through that very situation and was brushed off indignantly by my mom – enough said!)

  41. I am thankful that my mom is so realistic about these things!

    When she turned 75, she set up all the Power of Attorney documents, naming me and my 2 sisters and stipulating that ANY decision made regarding her medical care, financial situation, or whatever, MUST be agreed upon in writing by at least two of us. She’s also made sure we each have copies of every document we could ever need, and shown us where she keeps all the originals.

    Of course, considering the shape she’s in, she could very well outlive us all :-)

  42. The caregiving issue is very important. Life does indeed play tricks. Your children could become disabled long before the parents do, and then what?

    Moving elderly parents to the home of the child can backfire. As people leave their entire support system and friends and familiar places, they often deteriorate much faster than they would have if they had stayed in familiar surroundings. This doesn’t mean it is automatically a mistake, but that has to be taken into consideration. If they have loyal friends who can do some of the caregiving, it might be a better solution than moving to the child’s location. If this looks like it might be an issue, moving sooner while the parent is able to make friends and get involved in the community is a good solution.

    The expenses of caregiving are significant. About 20 years ago at at aging conference, I learned that caregiving costs the average woman over $600,000 due to quitting work, or reducing their hours, foregone pension and investment income and medical expenses for themselves, as they lost their health insurance when they lost or quit their jobs. This figure, as I recall, did NOT include expenses for the person cared for!

    Many parents and children will swear that they do not want a nursing home involved, ever. Sadly, what ends up happening is the caregiver ends her/his life in poverty and destroys their health during the process. Really, what parent would want to have their child end up this way?

    Sometimes nursing homes are actually the best available option, and I find it difficult to think that once the parent died a child who is impoverished and injured and ill really thinks all that fondly of the parent that caused this current lifestyle due to selfishness.

    People need to think the whole thing through, including the impact on the caregiver. And on the family. When the caregiver ends up with nothing from the estate while siblings who did little or nothing get it all, that can’t be good for family feelings!

  43. I had this conversation with my parents when I was 20 and my best friend’s parents were killed in a car accident. My friend was 19 and her siblings were 7, 10 and 11. Her parents had no will or anything and she was trying to deal with settling their affairs including a nasty custody battle while at university. The finances and siblings were such a mess that she had to drop out mid semester, take a full year off to deal with the mess, transfer to a local school and lost the house to foreclosure because she could not access accounts, etc.
    I flat out told my parents that if they left us that sort of disaster then I would dig them up and kill them myself all over again.
    They had all the paperwork already and I have always known exactly where it is and and their wishes.
    Parents are not always old when they die and healthy people die all the time. Have that conversation and have it NOW.

  44. I am stressed about this. My father is 86 and sits in a chair all day taking oxygen through his trach. Cannot talk. He needs help getting up with his walker and cannot travel except to other parts of house. He wished he had died 10 years ago when he got cancer but stays alive due to my mom having no source of income. I attend/help when my mom calls so she can leave the house. So there they sit in a house with about 60 years of stuff they never throw out. I retired at 50 due to good planning but now am torpedoed with my parents plan that I will take over my mom’s care when my dad dies as my siblings are irresponsible and have nothing.

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