“Aging Together” With Your Parents

Q. My husband and I are in our mid 60’s. Our kids are married with their own children, and we are ready to retire. Fortunately, my mother is still doing well at the age of 85, but she needs assistance with certain things and gets lonely easily. She was living with us, but we are now ready to sell our large home, and to downsize. After 40 years of working, we want to have fun in retirement and travel, but still be there for my mother. Do you know of a good compromise for a family in our situation?

A. Americans are living longer than ever before and there are consequently a growing number of older Americans facing your exact situation – a senior with a living parent – which means retirement years now often include  years of parental caregiving. How can you be there for an aging parent while still enjoying your own retirement and balancing your own life?

What was once coined as the “sandwich generation” is different than it used to be in many situations. It used to be that people were squeezed between aging parents and young children. Those folks still exist, but now an older population exists of children who are on the verge of retirement or who have retired and are still have responsibility for taking care of older parents.

A New Plan of Action

Seniors who are caring for aging parents might have a new plan of action to consider. Some seniors actually move into assisted living facilities, independent living communities, or Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs, which encompass both independent and assisted living, and usually nursing care also), alongside their parents. It can work out well for people in situations similar to yours, because they are reveling in the newfound ease of caregiving in such an environment and reaping the benefits of the facilities themselves, if they need them.

“It’s remarkably common for adult children to make big adjustments to take care of an aging parent,” says Philip Sloane, co-director of the program on aging, disability and long-term care at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Therefore, living in the same “elder” community represents “a new but logical aging services model.”

Let’s take Allen Geitwitz, for example. He is a 71-year-old retired computer programmer who moved into a nonprofit CCRC in suburban Baltimore just months after his mother entered the same facility. Geitwitz now lives in a separate one-bedroom independent living apartment down the hall from his mother, a starkly different living situation from the three to four days a week he had previously spent at his parents’ place and the home maintenance he managed on his own. “Either I was going to have to start paying people to do those things, or I’d have to sell the house and move into an apartment,” he said. “I thought, I’ll jump past that interim place.”

The Benefits of Co-Residence

When accessible, the benefits of co-residence are substantial. Here are some of them:

·         It’s a real comfort for an aging parent to know that a child is nearby when needed.

·         It can bring great peace of mind for the child knowing you’re there for your parent.

·         You can keep an eye on your parent and don’t have to travel a distance to see her. You can just walk over to visit.

·         There likely are activities available that you and your parent will enjoy.

·         You can be a companion to your parent when needed, and do activities you both enjoy together to combat loneliness.

·         You can escape from the worries, costs, and maintenance associated with a larger home.

·         You can still travel and do the things you want to do, knowing your parent has the care needed at the community.

Are you considering moving to the same CCRC as your parent?

CCRCs generally feature a combination of independent living apartments and/or cottages, assisted living, and nursing care, and many offer memory care and other specialty care arrangements. They also provide residents with 24-hour security, social and recreational activities, attractive dining options, housekeeping, transportation, and wellness and fitness programs. They are designed to allow residents to age-in-place, just not in their own homes. As residents progress from independent living to assisted living to nursing care within a CCRC, they can ideally continue their existing relationships with their spouse and friends, avoid the stress of multiple moves, and receive the long-term care they need, should it be needed, in an environment they know and trust.

However, there are significant financial risks associated with CCRC’s. One major drawback of moving into a CCRC is that you almost always sign away your right to do asset protection in connection with obtaining Medicaid and or Veterans pension benefits, so you must complete your asset protection planning before moving to a CCRC. Read more about this in our blog post, here.

I hope you find a living arrangement that suits your needs and your mother’s needs, and that you have a chance to relax during your retirement. You’ve worked long and hard for it, and you deserve to enjoy this time. You also deserve to protect the assets that you have worked so hard to earn all these years. if you and/or your mother have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years) or if you and/or your mother are considering moving to a CCRC, please call us today to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law Attorney: 202-587-2797

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