Happy Monday to you! I'm sorry for the delay in posting this article - I've had my hands full with my son's first birthday and my grandfathers' 85th birthday. Family is so important, leaving us juggling our responsibilities and trying to decide what really matters and what is absolutely critical to get done.
Our topic today is helping your parents to downsize and age gracefully.
I understand that this can be a difficult topic - aging parents really isn't something that anyone wants to think about; unfortunately it is a reality that many of us are facing as the sandwich generation. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember that it's all about your parents; put their needs ahead of your own and give them loving care. If you remember only that, the process of downsizing (or right-sizing as it is rapidly becoming known) goes much smoother.
Ideally, you've broached the topic of aging with your parents and you have an idea of what they would like. Although it is a difficult discussion, if you can talk about these things with a clear mind in advance of actually needing to have the conversation, that will help you. Entering into the downsizing process with a plan and knowledge of options will help you navigate the process and help to ensure that the right conclusions drawn.
I've touched on a few of these, but there are 4 main areas you want to focus on when helping your parents right-size...
1. As I mentioned, start having the difficult conversations. This can be started as innocuously as asking where they see themselves in 5-, 10-, 20- years. Once the discussion has started it becomes easier to ask about things like wills and personal directives, advance care planning, organ and tissue donation, care homes, and retirement plans.
2. Make sure that your parents are the priority through this. Don't let the process take top spot and try not to let your opinions and desires for your parents override what they really want. It can be hard, especially when we think we know what's best, but try to really listen to them.
3. Watch for how you can help them. My father is notoriously stubborn and won't ask for help unless it's absolutely critical ... even though half the time he needs help. If your parents are anything like that, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. But this also extends to things that they may not know that they need help with - something that's happened so slowly that they don't notice it. Are they becoming less steady on their feet? Perhaps they need someone to make sure that there are no throw rugs in their house and that their flooring is flat and secure so that they won't trip. Maybe they need a walk-in tub rather than a traditional tub.
4. Finally, start building a team to help support your parents through their golden years. Each member of the team should have experience and specialized skills, references, and a willingness to work as a team member with the rest of the professionals supporting your parents. Although the professions composing your team will depend on your unique family circumstances, a few suggestions of good professions to bring on board would be: an accountant, a lawyer, a financial planner, and a real estate agent
Watching your parents age can be a sad process and it's something no one wants to think about. However, the best decisions are made with a clear head and a sound mind and that will alleviate many headaches further down the line.