Working with aged 50 and older clients to meet their housing needs requires an expert understanding of their lifestyle and financial needs, and my SRES® designation means I take that understanding seriously. But it’s more than that.
My personal experience with my folks, who are both well into their 90s, was filled with anxiety, confusion, frustration, uncertainty and exhaustive energy surrounding a decision to move them into a new residence for optimal safety and health. It was a profound but necessary endeavor that was literally years in the making because they didn’t want to face their eventual reality…they were getting older…much older. Their refusal to seriously consider better options ended with our biggest concern.
My mother had another, very serious fall when she was home alone for a brief period of time. She hit her head on the furniture after losing her balance and then smashed her cheek on the hardwood floor. She lay face down bleeding profusely, unable to move let alone get up. We were all shaken to the core. Coupled with her rapidly devolving dementia, she’d passed the point of no return and could no longer be cared for safely in her own home.
Even in the face of such catastrophic circumstances, my father continued to stall for several months. I decided to build a 12-month spreadsheet showing their income, regular household expenses, home maintenance needs as well as the astronomical costs for 24-hour home care. My father was a businessman before retirement and continued to keep meticulous financial records, budgets and projections. This spreadsheet was a factual black and white study for him to fully understand their situation, if not from a health perspective, then from a financial standpoint. I knew he would be able to see that home health care, regular daily maintenance and the ongoing expenses associated with their home far exceeded their current annual income. They had planned very well for a very comfortable retirement, yet their income could only support them in regular circumstances; it could not support well over $17,000 per month in expenses when intensive health and care were needed.
That spreadsheet, with all its undeniable facts, was the instrument that paved the way for my father to see that they only had a few short months before using up all of their available cash. After that, they would have to begin liquidating investments and it wouldn’t take long to deplete those either.
Sitting with my father, talking through the numbers, was one of the most intimate moments I’ll remember with him. He was awash with a spectrum of emotions – resignation, sadness, grief, anger and self-blame for not having done “enough” to financially provide for them to stay in their home until death. He’d done extremely well, but with the cost of home care at unimaginable levels, their investments couldn’t generate enough to keep up. Aside from the financial realization that he was coming to grips with, he finally understood that my mother’s well being was dependent on an appropriate residence where household assistance, nursing, feeding, bathing and mental stimulation could be provided at all hours.
While my mother took a couple of days to adjust to the inevitable move, she made a positive turn toward the new chapter ahead. I believe it was easier for her because the house she lived in – my childhood home – was no longer familiar. In her dementia, she didn’t often know how she got there and she frequently wanted to “go home.” She grieved the loss of her faculties and ability to be super-active unlike my father, who showed his grief by expressing anger at the thought of leaving their things behind.
We decided to keep the home unoccupied once they moved to their new place because it provided a sense of security during a transitional period. But once my parents were settled, we began the process of going through the closets, sifting through the attic, combing the garage and pulling out everything from under the furniture. We unpacked every drawer, box and envelope. It called forth an even different set of emotions from tears to laughter to wonder to relief. A full 2 weeks later, ceaselessly organizing some 70 years of married life, it was time to interview and hire an estate sale professional who would respect years of collecting beautiful things and building a lovely home.
Any stress or uncertainty I felt when considering the sale of their home was alleviated once I was unexpectedly referred to a friend of the family who was a realtor. Because he was a generational peer and understood the delicate circumstances, I felt I could trust him to help me every step of the way. For both professionals, trust was the thing I was looking for and they each delivered exactly that.
The facts are these. It took catastrophic events for my parents to get fully organized legally by putting updated, appropriate powers of attorney in place as well as creating new wills. When we thought my mother was on the edge of death a full 3 years before moving from their home, I insisted on purchasing cemetery plots so that such decisions wouldn’t have to be made in the middle of agonizing emotions. As their financial power of attorney, I simplified and organized every aspect of their financial lives so that I could manage their day-to-day affairs easily. I made several visits to different assisted living and continuous care residences so that, when the time came, I could present preferred choices according to environment and cost.
As organized and prepared as I became over 3 years, when the day arrived to make the decision to move, it was still extraordinarily stressful, painful and emotionally draining for all of us. The ensuing process created angst, confusion and intense sadness while demanding long periods of time away from my own life and family. I can only imagine how a family moves through such a process when not so organized or because of an unexpected life event that forces immediate changes in living circumstances for a parent or a spouse.
Boomers and their parents are facing these transitions now. Some will be proactive, most will be reactive to changing conditions. It’s my own unrelenting experience alongside my parents, brothers and family members that caused me to secure my SRES® credential. As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist®, I consider it a privilege to pay it forward by navigating, in part, such difficult transitions for other elders and their families while establishing trust in facilitating their current and most important needs. Let’s travel this journey together…you’ll need trusted professionals in your corner.
Put our knowledge™ on your side through Coldwell Banker Bain.
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | firstname.lastname@example.org | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com