Cleaning Out My Elderly Parents’ Soon-to-be-sold Home

Sorting

Sorting

Going Through 80+ Years of Meaningful Moments

Then VP Richard Nixon–campaigning in Medford, Oregon and a vintage photo of boys playing marbles?

 

It’s tedious. Making decisions–what goes (and to whom); what stays; what we think we can sell, and what gets shredded on the (I think) first-generation shredder in my parents’ home. Tackling the many boxes’ contents can feel like a newbie’s climb up Mt. Everest. I’ve hated and loved every minute.

My grandfather was a fine-looking man, but died when I was in grade school.

Almost done

Almost done. The last box I hated going through bank statements–beginning with 1952.

I hated going through the bank statements with cancelled checks–going as far back as 1952. Equally bad, needing to shred every Medicare Summary sheet– social security # prominently displayed at top right. And there were the legal documents–read carefully one last time before going to the shredder.

I wondered about a stranger creating a false identity with a dead person’s once carefully-guarded information. Shred, shred, shred. Let’s not forget my parents’ passports. Shred, shred….except for the passport I saved belonging to a midget wrestler, Fuzzy Cupid (professional name), who’s in the World Wrestling Hall of Fame. Checked him out on Wikipedia. I know more about him then they. No photo in those days–just “Distinguishing Marks“….he had a birthmark in an unusual place

Dad was in the hotel business. You’d be surprised at the items left in the hotel’s safety deposit boxes in the old days. Some were saved in Dad’s file cabinet and desk drawer.

I was transported. Childhood memories were clarified by letters with new information and, of course, photos–formal pictures, snapshots, and Polaroids, along with very tiny shapshots from the ’30’s

In silver frames with intricate decorations, family members from the past filled the card table–2 columns separated by lineage, plus one column for my brother’s and my baby and growing-up photos. My grandfather, a handsome man, commanded the largest frame and was unceremoniously placed on the carpeted floor. He would have taken up too much of the card table space.

I’m still sorting the old photos–keeping too many, sending some to friends, throwing away others. Through this exercise our adult selves are able to step back into the past for a brief time. We view things from a different vantage point. And we gain closure.

 

 

Aging Parents–Older People: Moving for Better or for Worse-continued

continued from yesterday’s post…….

We know when people are mentally capable of making decisions affecting their life, they do much better when they make the decisions vs. when decisions are made for them.

The problem is, so often we–as adult children with aging parents–are busy, on fast-forward, think we know best, and act on those thoughts without thinking through the possible consequences: unhappy parents and their guilty, sad-feeling kids….a condition/situation that doesn’t go away.

3.  Riding with someone to a board meeting two days ago, “older dads” was a topic of conversation. Neither of us have fathers who are living but, it seems, both of our fathers aged well throughout their 80’s; both were accustomed to being in charge. After seeing the movie, “Driving Miss Daisy,” for example, my dad told me he would stop driving on his own, when the time came. And he did.

Her father had early dementia in his early 90’s. At that time she gently discussed whether or not he thought a different living situation would make sense. It was too soon for him, but the idea was planted. A few years later she again broached the subject. His response: “I don’t want to give up being the boss yet.”  That’s it, isn’t it? Pure and simple.

She took her cue and began looking for a suitable live-in caregiver. That way he would still feel like the boss.  But her dad lived in a small town and caregivers were few or nonexistent, a fact she discussed with him when he was able to understand. While not happy about it, he understood it had come to the point where he needed more care than he could manage alone at home and agreed on a nursing home. This was very difficult for his daughter but the only solution under the circumstances.  The good part: he was involved in the decision-making….something that can only be accomplished when an aging parent has the mental capacity.

So we move for many reasons to different living situations and environments. As with everything in life (but especially change), when we are involved in the decision-making–or initiate it, it’s easier. Moving is clearly change. It can be stimulating and help parents age well or it can be a medical necessity to prevent aging poorly. In the latter case the best we can do is look for that window of opportunity then take advantage of it to involve competent and somewhat competent parents in the decision-making process.

We’re Not Aging Parents but We’re in the Middle of Moving

Moving Truck

I don’t know why I thought moving was a one-day undertaking. At minimum it takes one day to pack and one day for the mover to move what we’ve packet (or had someone pack for us). And countless days beforehand are spent in preparation.

As we experience this process I’m trying to look at it with two perspectives….

…. 1. ours. 2. that of an older person–unable to lift, walk back and forth a million times to move things to a place where they can easily be transported elsewhere–an older person perhaps with diminished eyesight and/or hearing.

There’s also the energy factor, mentioned in a previous post.  I don’t tire quickly; many older people would. Indeed some nights I feel like I’m pulling all-nighters like I did in college. It’s rather like peeling layers of an onion.  First the obvious, the macro: getting rid of unwanted stuff. And ultimately the fine tuning which may involve getting rid of wanted stuff that there’s no room for and/or has emotion tied to it.

Of course our move is planned, wanted, and exciting. Each day at least one person questions whether or not we’re sad to leave. I never like to answer honestly and say “no.” I guess that’s the counselor part of me not wanting to say anything that could make someone feel he or she is not that important to our relationship. But I feel wonderful adventures are ahead and I’m looking forward.

Aging parents may not have this feeling and clearly won’t if the move has been forced upon them….usually due to some failing body part or overanxious children. It must be difficult to look forward under circumstances that are out of their control.

Since I’m right in the middle of this move, I probably can’t completely, objectively process the situation and better understand my feelings until I’m a bit more removed–time-wise. But any way you look at it, it’s a strenuous undertaking requiring much thinking and prioritizing in addition to the physical part.

Understanding as much about what parents must go through–in this case what a move really involves–adds another dimension as we try to help parents age well.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

Moving From Home Leads to a Holiday Gift Idea

Charlotte Moving Company-Moving Simplified-#1 ...

Our moving day is fast approaching. There’s always so much more to do than one anticipates. Thinking about aging parents and elderly people going through this process makes me wonder how they do it.

Yes, adult children help.  And when aging parents are mentally–but not physically–able and must get help, I’ve become sensitive to the fact that many mourn the loss of meaningful things accidentally discarded by “helpers.”

For example, one person I know often refers to the fact that her “Birthday Book” got lost in her move. She blames her helpful children.  She continually apologizes for forgetting to remember her friends’ and relatives’ birthdays. I know she’s sincere.

I also know that doing the work required to put together a new book would be overwhelming at her age.  I’m thinking when we’re once again settled, I’ll sit down with her and we’ll work together and attempt to create a replacement Birthday Book. And that will be my holiday gift– something I know she’ll truly appreciate.

Hmmmm. Perhaps a generic holiday gift: replacing something that aging parents have loved using and/or treasured but have lost, misplaced, or used so often it needs repairing, cleaning, or replacing.  You get the idea.

Of course since we’re controlling and doing all of our moving, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves for regrets about things lost or discarded during downsizing. Then, of course, there are treasures we make a special point of moving safely…..

"You can say any fool thing to a dog, and...…….No matter what.

When Aging Parents Should Move From Their Homes

Do you know the optimum age at which aging parents should move?
Clue: It’s a wake-up call for us.

I’ve previously written several posts about downsizing, as well as whether big city apartments are a good place to grow old (after reading a NY Times article about big cities’ efforts to become more senior friendly). As we prepare for our move, we’re hearing a lot about other people’s experiences and receiving a lot of advice.

Of course one size doesn’t fit all and generalizations are just that–not age specific. Yet according to a tiny sample (1 realtor plus older sellers) ideally people in their 60’s should be thinking about and planning to move before they’re into their 70’s.  Translated: We shouldn’t be too old when we move. When we’re old enough to qualify for those senior early-bird dinner specials or other senior discounts, we should begin thinking (just thinking, mind you) ahead.

Reasons include the fact that: people begin to slow down; it gets harder to move with each passing year; no one wants to move because they’re pressured to move; and how many times have we heard older people lamenting the fact they didn’t move earlier.

A good way to address this issue (as well as most other issues) is to ask ourselves What the goal? for aging parents and for ourselves (if we’re in the age group). By keeping the goal foremost in mind we separate the extraneous from the necessary and can stay on course.

And the goal may be to keep aging parents–who are happy and doing reasonably well–in place. Two of our senior advisors, now in their 90’s, both having recovered from falls in their homes resulting in broken hips, are now happily back in their homes without caregivers.

In addition Aging In Place options have been springing up in towns and cities throughout the country, ever since the Beacon Hill project in Boston was conceived at the end of the 1900’s.

Bottom line: there is no doubt a time when moving is easier for older people–a time before they slow down, probably around 70–although clearly the age varies depending on the individual. But then, perhaps, aging in place options will make it possible for older people to remain in their homes long after they have slowed down and no one will need to think about moving unless cognitive or other impairments necessitate it.

 

Unintended Consequences as We Try to Help Aging Parents

When Aging Parents Move and We Try to Help–Telephones! 

Will Our Telephone # Move Too?

Unlike cell numbers, hard-wired telephone numbers don’t necessarily follow to a new residence–even when it’s not far from the previous residence. For aging parents, telephone numbers need to follow from the “get-go.” Obvious? Perhaps. Under stressful conditions–perhaps not.Unintended consequences, are just that. We don’t think about them until we’re left with the damage control. And if we’re responsible as we try to help aging parents, it’s easy to become angry with ourselves for creating additional problems that disappoint parents and can unnecessarily involve siblings.

Background

An 85-year-old relative recently moved from her condo to assisted living–not a move she initiated. Several months of worsening mobility problems and a series of hospitalizations jeopardized living alone.

The last several years she and her 3 grown children had discussed the wisdom of moving. Friends in her condo complex had died or moved. And there was an attractive independent-living place nearby, making it easy to maintain her routines.

My relative is smart, organized, active, loved her condo of 40+ years and hung on to her independence–through many serious health events.  But last month her doctors advised she needed assisted–not independent–living. She gave in and asked her children to arrange for the move while she recovered in a hospital.

What’s a telephone got to do with it?

To reiterate from past posts, connections to others is one of the 3 most important factors in healthy aging. And telephones provide a major way of connecting with others. Indeed older people may have their friends’ numbers on automatic dial as memories fade.

My relative’s caring, efficient children notified the phone company to close her account immediately.  It was an easy thing to cross off a long list. But suddenly they realized friends couldn’t contact her.  She had a completely new phone number at the assisted-living facility, which used another provider.

Think about new phone numbers being a problem for aging parents and grandparents who downsize (and for their aging/old friends).  If they remain in the same area of their city/town and stay with the same phone company it’s more likely that the phone number won’t change. Simply tell the phone company that although the address is changing, your parents want to keep the same #.

1.  However, do not notify the phone company to stop an aging/old parent’s existing phone service before asking if they can transfer the old telephone number to the new address. Otherwise the existing phone number can be given away.

2.  Check out–ahead– the phone system/provider at the new place. When an institution has its own system or a different phone provider, it may be best to ask the person in charge to take care of having your parents’ old phone number transferred immediately if it’s doable. This eliminates having aging parents in a new living situation feel even more isolated because friends can’t phone them.

My relative’s children report it was a hassle to get the old phone number back–took 3 weeks to accomplish.  “We were just lucky,” they added.  (It may not be this difficult everywhere.)

It was simpler back in the day, when “Reach out and touch someone” was part of a well-known telephone ad; when accessing a live human being on the other end of a business’s line was the norm. Never-the-less we can prevent unintended consequences and, in the case of telephones, maintain that connectedness so important for older people’s aging well. It doesn’t take too much effort…when we have a “heads up.” Otherwise, it pays (to use an old Revlon nail polish ad) to “Make haste slowly.”

 

Help Aging Parents: Partnering With Parents in Healthcare

Do we help aging parents by becoming parents to our parents, especially when they are of sound mind?  Are we supporting feelings of control and independence–feelings that help parents age well? In Tuesday’s post family members basically took over–either to persuade or make a unilateral decision regarding very serious health care for aging parents.  That made me pause.

In the first example, the stroke victim was not able to advocate for herself initially.  Someone had to step in if the outcome was to be any better than the ultimate nursing home option her doctor envisioned.  She was never left out of the loop.  She knew the reason for each action, presented in a way that offered hope….an attempt to empower so she wouldn’t lose the will to regain as much normalcy as possible….Happy ending.

In the second example, family members put pressure on the colon cancer relative. While not feeling well, and do doubt having countless thoughts about well-being, comfort, life and death (to name a few), the relative was of sound mind and realized  the merits of getting a second opinion….even if it meant a long plane ride…..happy ending.

As we impart information and try to help older and aging parents accept our advice and recommendations, we have a better chance of success when we pull mentally- capable elders in psychologically to work with us. And even when they don’t seem mentally capable, doesn’t keeping them in the loop show (at the least) respect? And at the most could it possibly activate something positive from within.

With that in mind, having called attention to best hospitals and best specialty departments, it’s still likely not everyone will/can take advantage.  As a fall-back position–or even a front-line position–it would seem an advantageous to know which are the best hospitals in aging parents’ and grandparents’ hometowns.

Check out the Hospital Quality Alliance’s website: http://data.medicare.gov/ run  by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. According to AARP’s June 2010 bulletin, it measures and records patients’ outcomes at local hospitals.

The site links to sections that compare hospitals, tell you how patients with certain conditions fared after hospital care, whether they had to be readmitted within 30 days, and the death rates in certain cases.  The quality of care they received during a recent stay is also provided from answers to a survey.  Only hospitals that agreed to release this information to the public are included in this government data site.

In answer to: “I just moved to a new area.  How can I find out which hospitals are considered the best in town?” for example, the AARP Bulletin’s “Ask the Experts” section provided the information.  When aging parents are making decisions to move, it could even figure into a decision about where to move.

Having and sharing objective (not emotionally-loaded) information is important for so may reasons as we try to help parents age well.