*This story was originally posted on LinkedIn, here.
My husband and I have invested part of our time and business focus in Aging in Place, and we started working on this focus about a year ago. The more we learned, the more I realized how important it was to have a conversation with my mom - my only living parent - about finding her a suitable living space that was safe and closer to me. Mom had some health issues, and her home, my childhood home, was not at all suited to her physical needs.
It's hard to talk to our parents about aging at home, about making changes to their lives and downsizing. It was hard for me. Mom cherished her home and all the memories in it with my dad and me and all the family and friends in between. She didn't want to leave it. But when I finally got up the nerve to talk to her about it, she surprised me by saying she knew she was going to have to move, and I promised I would help her. She had a couple of different areas in mind, and I had my eye on a house close to ours that would have been perfect for her. I loved the idea of having her nearby and being able to send my daughter out to visit her whenever, and of being able to see her more often, easily.
I got the guts up to talk to Mom about moving and aging in place after Kevin and I did a presentation for one of Mom's retiree groups about what it meant to age at home, independently, and some of the changes that made sense to start considering. I remember very vividly saying in front of all the retirees -- her friends -- how important it was to me to make sure my mom was safe and comfortable and could continue to live the super active, independent lifestyle that was so much a part of her. I remember looking at my mom and seeing that though she was a tad embarrassed by the attention, she was also pleased, and teared up a little at my words.
But I really, really wish I'd talked to her sooner, and managed to convince her to move closer to me. Maybe then I would have noticed the multiple doctor appointments she went to with no resolution, and how she regularly had a 'stomach virus' that never seemed to go away.
Your takeaway here should be this: if you're the retiree, start talking with your family now about where you're going to live, or what changes you're going to make to your home, and get them involved and engaged. If you're the family -- like me -- then visit our website or AARP's or Next Avenue's and find some talking points and get the conversation started.
You've probably guessed by now that my mom died, only a few months ago in April of this year, at the age of 66. She died very unexpectedly after a week-long stay in intensive care. At the time of her death, I was 30 weeks pregnant, so our son will never know her. As her only living beneficiary and sole survivor of her estate, I made all of her healthcare decisions, right up to turning her ventilator off. It was heartbreaking. I am now dealing with her estate, her home, and I can't help but wish desperately I'd had her closer to me, that I'd convinced her to make a transition sooner to a smaller, truly accessible space.
There is no point to dwelling on the past, to wishing things had been different, but I hope that if you're reading this, maybe you'll be able to find the courage to think ahead to aging in place, to aging at home, and make plans accordingly.