Sharon and Mike
Mike was adamant that the home in which he and his wife, Sharon, had raised their two sons was becoming too much to care for. He was motivated to move—after all, he told Sharon, he did the lion’s share of the home maintenance. Why not live in a smaller home somewhere closer to the boys and their families? It just doesn’t make sense, reasoned Mike, to keep putting money into this big house—and paying these property taxes. “I want more time to enjoy life, Sharon! I’m tired of putting all my energy into upkeep on a property we don’t need any more.”
Unlike Mike, Sharon has an emotional connection to the family home. Flooded with memories, she can’t even discuss living anywhere else. “We raised our boys in this house. And I cared for my parents during their last days in this house. Mike, how can you be so heartless?”
We Just Can’t Agree
What to do when a long-married couple can’t agree on where their future home should be? And if they can’t agree, how can they possibly start a conversation with their children or other trusted loved ones? According to the American Senior Housing Association, as difficult and uncomfortable as it may seem, having a conversation early rather than later is the best approach for easing communication and finding amicable solutions.
What the Experts Say
Senior living advisors say there are ways to facilitate these discussions:
- Gather information and be prepared for conversations
- Educate yourself about care needs and living options
- Empathize with others and their feelings
- Consider other viewpoints
- Make a list of concerns and ideas
- Keep a positive, upbeat, and caring tone
- Time conversations to accommodate schedules and preferences
- Include all family members
- Listen to others’ concerns and suggestions
- Have conversations in person if possible
Experts also say to think of these discussions as ongoing, inclusive, and evolving conversations without pressure or deadlines. Beginning the conversations before there is a pressing need for care or situation necessitating immediate action is preferable.
If conflict and miscommunication seem overwhelming—and discussions are turning into arguments—seek help from eldercare specialists, counselors, or lawyers.
A Family Meeting
Sharon and Mike agreed to put off any discussions about the future until a get-together with their sons and their families. In the meantime, each started a “wish list” of what is important to them about future living accommodations. Their sons and their family members also made lists of their concerns about and hopes for the future.
Brad, Sharon and Mike’s older son, thought it might be helpful to meet on “neutral ground,” and suggested that the family gather at a rental cabin on a lake for a few days. The extended time together would allow for both discussions and enjoyable family time boating, hiking, and fishing.
Sharon’s “Aha” Moment
Like her mother and grandmother, Sharon loves to cook. And nothing delights her more than the fact that her seven-year-old granddaughter, Addie, enjoys cooking right along side her. The second morning at the cabin, Sharon and Addie were making blueberry pancakes. As Sharon gently guided the measuring cup of batter Addie poured onto the hot griddle, Addie said, “Grammy, I love being with you. I wish you didn’t live so far away.”
In that moment, Sharon realized that in holding onto the past, she was missing out on the present—the present with her children and grandchildren. She had been so preoccupied with the memories associated with the family home that she was limiting her opportunities for spending time with her family now.
The insights Sharon gained from her interaction with Addie enabled her to better empathize with Mike’s concerns about remaining in the family home: she, too, began to see the home as something holding them both back from spending more precious time with their children and grandchildren.
The couple is now looking into senior living options, including a Life Plan Community with beautiful patio homes—and no maintenance, says Mike! — within less than an hour’s drive of their sons’ homes. Exploring and planning together for this next chapter in their lives has rekindled a sense of unity and purpose for Sharon and Mike. They have also learned that Life Plan Community living can also be FUN. Communities like The Heritage of Green Hills offer abundant opportunities to keep living an active life while finding new friends and interests! And Addie? She’s gathering recipes she can’t wait to share with Grammy!