My family has gone through some interesting changes in the last few weeks with one of my grandmothers moving into an assisted living home here in Winnipeg. My siblings and I are very fortunate in that both of our grandmothers are still alive and kicking at 93 years old (the same age as the Queen) and for the most part are reasonably healthy. But, more recently, one of them has had a little more trouble with the day to day activities of every day life and so my family decided that it was time that she moved into a place that had the resources to help take care of her needs and ensure she was safe. Throughout my career I have witnessed and even advised many clients on how to approach this subject with their parents, but this was the first time that my family has personally gone through this life stage with one of our relatives. Again, I feel fortunate for that but the reality that we all must face at some point or another is that as our parents age (and people are living much longer now) that there is a greater likelihood that we will face this moment ourselves, the moment where we may need to decide that it’s time for our parents to move into a new home as well which is better able to serve them while also allowing us to continue to live our lives. The situation will no doubt come with a mix of emotions including guilt, regret and sense of relief. The question becomes, how do you remain sensitive to your parent’s feelings while moving ahead with what you know must be done?
As a first step I think it is important to recognize that moving someone into an assisted living home has become a very common thing, so you are not alone. Over the coming decade it is likely that millions of Canadians will be in this same position if not already and so you can take some comfort in knowing that there are many other people making this exact same decision for their family. It also means that there is a great deal of resources available which can help you with this life transition as well. I also have some suggestions which may help you in making this decision.
When is it time? What are the signs?
Knowing when to put mom or dad into a home isn’t always a straightforward question. Many seniors have chronic health conditions that impact their daily lives slowly over time. This can ultimately make it more difficult to recognize when they will need more care and support. The unfortunate reality is that many people wait too long to make a decision and something tragic happens which forces the issue. This can also mean that you have limited options at your disposal so it’s best to start the conversation earlier and recognize the signs that mom or dad may need more help. These signs can include the following:
Your parent has fallen down multiple times
Your parent frequently needs to visit the emergency room
Your parent is losing their ability to perform daily necessary tasks because of mental or physical impairment
Your parent has gotten lost or confused while away from their home
Your parent suffers from severe bladder or bowel incontinence
Your parent is more socially withdrawn
Caregiving is taking a toll on your own mental or physical health
Caregiving consumes your mind and makes it difficult to focus on your responsibilities
You don’t have enough financial support or help from other family members to continue caregiving on your own
How can you plan ahead?
First and foremost, this is one of the areas where it pays to be proactive and plan with your family. As is the case with any major life changing decision you do not want decisions to be made rashly. By planning ahead and having the necessary conversations up front you may be able to avoid delays in getting your parents the service they need and also limit the shock that inevitable change can cause. I suggest you start your planning by looking at the following items:
Learn about the differences between assisted living and nursing home care – to go even further, understand all of the options available
Talk to your parents about what they would like to have happen when the time comes
Don’t make a promise you cannot keep – When your parents are young and healthy it’s easy to say that you will never place them in a home. I suggest that you have real conversations with your parents while you are able to
Bring your siblings into the conversation
Get outside advice – There are specialist which can help you in making your decision
Talk to your parents about the benefits of assisted living including better safety, better care, fewer responsibilities, greater social network and more.
Visit and evaluate a number of different locations – different places will offer different benefits and amenities
Get your parent on a waiting list or multiple lists as it can take time for space to open up
Don’t rush the process and allow your family the time to adjust to the decision that is being made
Review your plan regularly
My final advice relates to dealing with your own emotions which come with making this difficult decision. In working with clients who have made this same decision, I have seen many people feel guilt, anxiety and even a sense of loss. Guilt is especially common if you are dealing with your mother or father and they are criticizing and berating you for “breaking a promise” to them. Regardless of why you may feel these emotions, I have some suggestions which can help you to deal with them:
Remember that you have made the decision that is in your parents’ best interest
Give yourself permission to “grieve” over the making the decision – take the time to reflect on it and come to terms with it on your own
Seek reconciliation with your parent and take the time to speak with them about it if there is a bit of hostility
Remind yourself that your parent is safer than they would be on their own
Establish healthy boundaries and steer conversations away from attempts to make you feel guilty
Make each visit with your parent meaningful
As mentioned, there are many resources out there that can help you to make this decision and to prepare for it. If you need any help, please reach out to us and we will be happy to assist you. Remember, these decisions are often inevitable, so it is best to face reality and make it from a position with the most options available to you and your parents.
-Grant White, CIM, CFP®
Grant White is an award-winning Portfolio Manager/Investment Advisor at Endeavour Wealth Management with Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. Together with his partners he provides comprehensive wealth management planning for business owners, professionals and individual families.
This information has been prepared by Grant White who is a Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (iA Securities) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of iA Securities. The information contained in this newsletter comes from sources we believe reliable, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy or reliability. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned. The information contained herein may not apply to all types of investors. The Portfolio Manager can open accounts only in the provinces in which they are registered.