Sorry if this has been posted in the past! My parents recently visited two senior care facilities outside of Boston and ruled them "too expensive" and "too small," so they want to stay put in the ranch house. Mom upset that the bedroom furniture would not fit, in addition to having no room for a large DR table, hutch, etc. They don't seem to understand "downsizing." They constantly say "we'll deal with it" (making a decision) when we "have to". I told them we don't want to decide when someone is in the hospital and can't return home. Clearly there is fear, procrastination, and even a little laziness (dad would sell house to developer potentially rather than stage the house!) going on. My parents don't seem to understand that their lack of planning, or purging, or considering options, means that very likely it will fall on their children (I'm the oldest and executor) to decide. It stresses us all so much. I envision having to take weeks off from work to fly back to Boston to deal with a major crisis that might mean selling the house, selling the stuff, finding a new place, etc. I understand they'd like to stay in place as long as possible, but they won't make any effort to clean out the attic or closets or even have a plan b. Any advice to persuade them to let us do some purging and to consider some options, otherwise there is a chance everything will happen all at once and choices will be limited.

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Before you judge me too harshly, a little information. I am a senior citizen myself. For over 16 years I have been caring for a husband with dementia, and now my own health is failing rapidly. It's been hard to go through and purge and organize things while caring for him, but I've been working on it. Now that I'm getting sicker, I need to work on it more intensely, but sometimes don't have the energy. Nevertheless, I try to do a little bit every day, and even that little bit does make a difference.
I'm not unsympathetic to the parents who don't want to move. I'd really like to keep all my favorite things and live where I want to live. It hurts to give things up. For over a decade and a half I've lived watching my husband lose a little more ground each day. Getting rid of our things feels like dismantling our lives while we're still alive. Did I mention that it hurts? But...
At some point someone might need to say to aging parents: "I can't take enough time off from work to do everything that would be needed if there is a crisis. So the options will be that we can call a charitable organization which will clean out your house and take everything off to sell. Or... you can start going through things now, maybe giving things to family or friends if they would like to have them. Let me know what you decide." I don't think that's heartless. It's realistic. What seems heartless and unrealistic is people who refuse to act on their own behalf. I just don't think someone's desire to keep their life just the way they want it entitles them to dump such a huge responsibility on other people. In my own case, I feel that as a grown-up person, it's my responsibility to do as much as I can. Even if it hurts.
Helpful Answer (23)

When we think of letting go of the trappings of a life time it's an emotional minefield. For you, it's a simple matter of them choosing to downsize so that your life can be easier later on. It's logical but logic has no strength against feelings.

For them, it's likely feeling more like THE END to their life. Besides being physically painful work it's likely also a reminder that the life they have spent a life-time building is now gone, forever. In general I find adults at this point often feel that there's nothing left to do but die.

It's my opinion that they need something to look forward to, something to remind them that they're still alive and new adventures are ahead. They need to feel that getting rid of the stuff will set them free for the next step in their adventures. Without hope, without distraction, without a reason for moving on. Without those... maybe the abyss they're looking in to is just too much for them to face with right now?

I'm in process of getting rid of the trappings of my life in order to spend a few years traveling before I get down to the business of dying. Which for me is the final adventure. Each box I haul to the curb, take to the donation drop off or sell in a yard sale is another nail in the coffin of what was once my life. I don't want to leave this to my kids to do, but I understand the reason so many others may want to avoid the inevitable pain all these dusty corners stirs up. I'm not even the personality type that attaches to things, yet, the memories can be painful when jostled. Good luck, I know that what's ahead for you is a huge transition. I hope you find a way to make it feel more like an adventure and less like a dream-funeral.
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I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here. I have 2 children who I am sure think my disabled and bedridden husband should immediately be placed in a nursing home and that I should move into an apartment. On some level, I’m sure they’re right. However, in my favor, I ask nothing of them. My son says he will help, but doesn’t really deliver very often and my daughter is busy with her career and family.

I know that when “things” happen it will be a big inconvenience for you and your sibs and your busy lives. So, take a leave of absence. Please don’t descend on your parents en masse and insist that they leave their long-time home for some cookie cutter apartment or condo. I can almost guarantee they’ll be miserable. Make plans behind the scenes. Plan for the inevitable and organize your own lives so that if there is an emergency, it won’t be such a traumatic event for you all. Kindly and gently suggest that they “rehome” things they don’t use. Gift Dad with a landscaping service so he can stop cutting grass if he still does. Offer a grocery delivery service for Mom if she’d like. Think about things that would make their lives easier without insisting they move.

I know you’re going to write that I don’t understand your situation and I admit that I probably don’t. But I understand how I’d feel if my kids were “on” me about giving up my home. I went through emergency placement and clearing out my mom’s home 3 years ago and I know it wasn’t fun. But I’m glad I didn’t force her into a facility until there was absolutely no other option.
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jkm999 Jun 2019
Exactly what I was trying to say but much less eloquently.
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Logan, much empathy and support for you!

My mother, 91 and fragile, refuses to leave the house where she has lived since 1960. Two stories, basement laundry, huge yard, Snow Belt location more than 500 miles from any relation.
Any suggestion of any modification to the house, never mind a relocation (either closer to a daughter or into an IL or AL facility) elicits a literal tantrum. While the volatility of her response may be exacerbated by age, it is her lifelong usual MO.
After several years of being the Evil Daughter Who Wants to Rip Her Out of Her Home, not to mention getting my head bitten off, I have given up. My only words on the subject now: “You can either have a plan or you will have an emergency.”

She seems to want an emergency. That would create a fuss & stir,
make her the subject of handwringing and the center of attention, and absolve her of all the work of moving — PLUS ensure that, because she would not participate in decisions, she would be positioned to complain about decisions that were made for her (not many nuanced options when an emergency strikes). Does this sound bitter? It’s not — she has a pretty strong streak of narcissism. I finally came to understand that there is nothing about a sensible, low-drama resituation that would appeal to her. Of course, what she says is,
”Maybe God will be good to me, and take me in my sleep.”

I am the only daughter in the Western hemisphere, employed in a field where there are no leaves of absence. When,
inevitably, the big emergency comes, it very well may not be possible to get to her. I may need to make decisions long-distance, as the demands of my work permit. She simply does not accept this reality. But I live with that reality every day, and it is a HEAVY psychological burden. If I loved her less, it would be an easier stress to bear.

Please know that there are many, many folks with similar stories & anxieties, and that this community of supportive empathy — including strangers like me — surrounds you with positive thoughts and wishes you strength and peace.
Helpful Answer (16)
lkdrymom Jun 2019
Well said
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Apologies in advance for this downer response, but I went through this with both parents and in-laws. We did everything: frequent visits, organizing specific clean-out projects, researching and visiting different options, you name it. Nothing changed.

As long as they are of sound mind, there's nothing you can make happen. It's more than possible they will die alone at home, and it will then take many days of time away from your responsibilities over potentially elapsed years, plus dollars and dollars and dollars, to clean up what's left behind. It is very sad that whatever motivation they have blinds them to the costs to you, and how those costs may color your memories of them forever.
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Beekee Jun 2019
Or, even worse, they don't die at home--they are injured at home and lose the ability to walk; or they lie on the floor for days after a fall and develop kidney damage and skin sores as well brain damage; or they develop a life-threatening illness that they never noticed or didn't tell anyone about and they have to be hospitalized and treated; or they develop complications from taking too many pills from too many doctors; or they collapse from malnutrition because they don't have an appetite anymore. They you're not talking about hours and days--more like months and years.
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I would say that there is zero you can do about this. You are either a downsizer or you are not. My brother and I were raised by parents that downsized and moved to "make ourselves safe and you kids not having to handle it all when we go". So we follow how we were raised. Bro at 85 downsized to a small historic old trailer in a historic park, organizing everything picture perfect and now in assisted living with me as his POA. Made easy for me in every way. I at 76 have downsized everything enormously and left detailed instructions, putting everything in order. In fact I have a booklet for my executor describing everything, where to call, what to do, and it is called "I have put my house in order". ALL THAT SAID I have a friend much more disabled, crippled really, with a ton of animals and a house chock FULL of stuff, another house her Mom left her with a rental on property, and she will not let go of a thing. As you can see, we are both of sound mind (somewhat, anyway, hee hee) and are living our lives differently. Yes, you will have to go, as executor to take care of everything. Best you can do now is try to know what the finances are because soon things will be out of Mom and Dad's hands due to aging changes. You will need to act for them while living and when dead. Everyone thinks that because we are "all grown up" we feel competent to do this, and we DO NOT. I will only tell you that things DO get done, a day at a time, that you can hire people to help, and get advice when the time comes. Meanwhile try not to torment yourself before those TIMES do come. Remember that old Shakespeare things about the coward dying many deaths; because the truth is that the worry is the worst of it. Once it happens you kind of sink in your teeth and hold on day by day. Try to enjoy the problem free time while you can. My heart goes out to you.
Helpful Answer (11)

At 83 and in OK health and living in a ranch style home I just don't see your rush to get this done. You didn't mention any dementia either so basically they are doing fine, just getting old. Yes, eventually they will probably need to downsize and move but you seem to have some time before this needs to happen.

Since they won't work on a Plan B you need to. 1) I would start with knowing what retirement apartments/ assisted living are available in the area and visiting them- not with your parents but by yourself. Find out about waiting lists, financial arrangements, what's actually provided etc. Just tuck all this info into your own file. 2) Then start by helping your mother clean out some of the spare bedroom closets and drawers, or the linen closet, small things. Don't act like it is in anticipation of a move but more a Marie Kondo exercise - like do you still have a twin bed that needs these twin bed sheets. This won't be stuff that they are using or really attached to but it does get a lot of the general stuff cleaned out so that when there is a move that's one less clean-out. It may also help your mom see that there really is more house and stuff that she needs or wants to deal with. Yes, when the actual move happens it will be a nightmare if it comes now or later but if she sees how little she actually uses on a routine basis she'll be more likely to realize she won't need to take everything when she moves to a smaller place. 3) Make certain all the paperwork is in place for Power of Attorney, etc. and get a good handle on their finances so you know what you have to work with when the time comes. Making the move too early could mean the money runs out too soon.

My dad was going strong at 83 and enjoying his home and not ready to move. He did move to assisted living at age 95, he probably should have moved about age 90 or 92. And no, he didn't move willingly, but I was prepared to just swoop in and get it done and you will be too.
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I am almost 70. I will have been in this 4 bedroom split level for 38 years. I have cleaned out a lot of the odd stuff. You know that flea market stuff you pick up. Things the girls left behind. But, I have 8 rooms full of stuff. And when I think of downsizing to a 2 bedroom apart, its overwhelming. Just think about how it must feel to an 80+year old.

If your parents are doing OK and in a rancher, don't push it now. But maybe all the kids can sit down with Mom and Dad and calmly discuss the future. Do they have POAs in place? Is their will up to date? Are there things they would like to make sure people get when they pass. If so a codicil can be made to the will. Then suggest they start to downsize. Getting rid of things they never use. Like that wedding china that no one is going to want. That junk in the garage that Dad was keeping just in case it could be fixed.

My Mom owned a big old Farm house. It had a huge attic. We cleaned that out. She never went up there again but used an extra bedroom for storage. (My sister had died and she had brought some of her stuff to her house) I sat her down in a chair. Had two piles. The things she needed and the things to throw out or give away. Went very fast.

Then put a little seed in their heads. There are independent livings. They would have their own apart. but take meals in the dining room. Activities, outings and transportation if they didn't feel like driving. They could keep a lot of their belongings. No mowing the lawn, no upkeep on the house. Just pay rent and utilities and enjoy.
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Oh Logan; I feel for you!

So many of us here have been in your shoes. I assume that you've explained to mom and dad (who probably have some cognitive issues going on?) that doing this in an emergency situation is going to cost you a great deal in terms of inconvenience, money and possibly career choices?

Has their doctor told the that it's time to move someplace more manageable? Have you looked into a service (a geriatric care manager) who can help them manage a purge of their "stuff". Most seniors are overwhelmed by the very thought of moving.

Have you used any therapeutic fibs, such as "if you don't help us decide, the state will decide for you and take your money"?

Recently, my ex has been through this with his mom; it took her more than a year, but after 3 surgeries in the last 6 months and having three out of 4 of her sons diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer, something finally clicked and she's going to AL. She's not happy, but she's going. Talking about your own health challenges (and that of your spouse) may get you some traction.

Another thing; YOU go and look at both ALs and NHs, so that when the time comes, you'll know what choices are acceptable.
Helpful Answer (8)

"Sorry if this has been posted in the past."


About once a week, I'd say!

But not about your parents, your family and your stress from trying to get a grip on it, I know. It's different every time for every person, and I'm only being flippant because if we didn't laugh we'd burst into tears.

To reduce your stress in the immediate term, assume that your parents are not going to lift a finger, that some crisis will force one or both of them into to move in a hurry, and that you will have a major clearing project on your hands in due course.

Then, any developments that do alleviate the problem will be an agreeable surprise. But even that worst case scenario, even though it isn't what you want to happen, would be survivable. Expensive, wasteful, not the ideal you'd like for your parents, and stressful at the time; but stressful at the time is better than *useless*, unproductive stress for months and years beforehand. Assume that nothing will happen until they encounter their force majeure, and then at least for the time being you can relax and let them be.

Does any child of your parents live closer to them and have more time available? Has anyone been appointed their health proxy, or been given a specific health POA?

There is also the frustration that your parents, as you say, don't seem to understand that their lack of planning will become your emergency, to borrow from the epigram. Don't understand? It's more complicated than that. The effort involved in their making and executing a sensible plan looks, to them, enormous. The consequences of not doing so are distant elephants. I don't want to say they don't care - they care - but compared to the daunting prospect of moving, to a place they'll at best have mixed feelings about; they don't care nearly as much as they don't want to do all that.

Tactics that have been known to work, ever:

Choice. Choose now, walk in, and enjoy a new phase of life; or wait, get wheeled into the nearest place where they know nobody, and have to start again when ill, bereaved or both.

Pull rather than push. This takes research - find a facility or community that is so perfect they really can see themselves living there. Just narrowing my eyes at the "too expensive" one they rejected: was it? Terribly expensive? Or was that only an excuse, do you think?

Good examples. Do they have any peers who have successfully made the leap and are now having a nice time? Visits to such people might yield results, you never know.

The purging you are going to have to do, come what may. WHEN (let's be optimistic) your parents do move, you take pictures of the new place and populate it with selected possessions. That way, the focus is on what they're taking (exciting) and not what they have to leave behind (depressing at best, and can be a deal-breaker). This gives you time to move in after, with all family hands to the pumps or professional services.
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lindabf Jun 2019
Another thought: Devote one hour of “visit” time to purging a shelf or drawer or closet together rather than leaving them alone to do it. Why? As I age, it gets harder and harder to do everything associated with purging/downsizing alone — find boxes, fill boxes, carry boxes to garage, take boxes to donation center. I’ve started trying to fill a box or two a week for now. Or sometimes a shelf or two a day. As long as there is continuing forward motion that doesn’t overwhelm me. When my husband or sister or others are willing to help me as we visit over the task, it goes faster, we share memories, and it is something I look forward to rather than dreading. Most of my children and grandchildren live too far away for this to be a regular occurrence, but my sister and my husband (even with dementia) are a meaningful part of the process and I feel less isolated and more in charge. My goal: empty attic, orderly closets and drawers, efficiently stocked kitchen, and orderly garage by the time I die. The more I do before then, the more I get to enjoy the order. And by the way, I’m only early 70’s, so I’ve probably got 20-30 years to complete the project. I’ve told my kids to take what they want now or after I die, and feel free to trash the rest. What’s precious to me will often be junk to them and by that time, I truly won’t care.
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