Tuesday’s segment in the series “Family Matters” on NPR’s Morning Edition touched on a very important aspect of caring for an older adult: the process families must go through to manage the financial side of finding the right care solution. The Christian family made the decision to sell the family home in order to use the proceeds to pay for their mother’s care. For some families, selling the home may be the best decision financially, but it can be the toughest emotionally.
Just as a parent may be struggling to consider moving from a home they have been in for 30, 40 or more years, their children can find it just as emotionally upsetting. The house can represent so many memories and significant moments for a family. At the same time, not all siblings may have the same emotional tie to the homestead. In the case of the Christian family, Ida’s son Frank co-owned the home with his mother so the decision to sell meant his family would need to relocate. A real estate agent himself, he knew home values and the difficulty of selling in a down market, but he needed to get through his own emotions over leaving the home. Families need to validate these feelings in their conversations. Having worked with so many families over the years, even the most loving of families can find this to be extremely difficult to do.
Our family relationships have been built on a foundation of both joyous and troubling times. I have come to believe that the most difficult part of aging, of this life transition period, is having honest yet honoring conversations. I lead workshops, “Having Difficult Conversations” several times a year. At these I meet families who are often frustrated and stuck in some situation – that of a parent who refuses to talk about their living situation or adult children who cannot seem to agree on what to do.
In discussing a parent’s living situation, adult children are acting out of love and concern. Their parents are undergoing a transition in life that can be emotional and challenging and they want to help them. When that parent is suffering from Alzheimer’s, the fact that he or she may not be able to fully participate in the process is painful. For some adult children, the primary difficulty they face is feeling uncomfortable with changing roles. We really do not become the parents of our parents; we will always be their children. Yet, here we are making decisions for our parents. If we are honest with ourselves, we are in transition as well. We want our parents to remain the healthy, vigorous and in-charge person we’ve always known. Unfortunately that’s not always possible.
Many families are not aware of the many resources that exist that can help them through the process of determining the right care option for their loved one. NPR’s report most likely introduced the idea of a geriatric care manager to millions of Americans who know nothing about the profession. Geriatric care managers are professionals who specialize in assisting older adults and their families in making long-term care arrangements. Generally these professionals are paid privately and can be of great help to adult children managing care for a parent from a distance.
Senior living consultants, like myself can offer expert guidance and explain all the services that are part of an assisted care facility. I have been able to help many families sort through care options and identify state and federal benefits for which an individual may be eligible. No stranger to managing family dynamics, I facilitate family meetings to help siblings reach a consensus as a prelude to addressing their parents living situation. If you and your family are struggling and are in need of assistance, give me a call at 262-832-7113. I am happy to be a resource. I have posted several articles on the topic of managing Difficult Conversations. You may find these helpful, too.