How To Talk To Parents About Future-Proofing Their Home
Is it time to have a discussion with someone close to you about their retirement or future living arrangements? Maybe you’re putting it off as you’re not sure how to approach the subject. It may feel awkward to bring up, but it is an important conversation to have.
I was recently commissioned by Premier Care in Bathing to give my thoughts on this topic. Premier Care in Bathing is one of the first ever companies to specialise in the installation of bathrooms specifically designed for customers with mobility needs. They are on a mission to encourage families to talk more openly about how to make our homes safe for older family members.
I’ve been having these discussions recently with my own mum, who is considering moving to a bungalow. Like any family, we just want to look at all the possible options when it comes to ensuring her safety and wellbeing in the future.
Future-proofing plans can include things like whether moving into a more manageable property, assisted living or a care home would be best. It could mean going to live with family eventually, or staying put but making adaptations to the home that will allow continued independence. For example, a stair lift could help someone with mobility issues. Or as mentioned earlier, installing a walk-in shower, bath or wet room is another top home improvement for the older age group.
Talking things through
Timing an initial chat depends on things like how old your parents are and their state of health. It doesn’t have to be a heavy conversation, it could be a simple question over a cup of tea; Have you ever thought about where you will be living when you get older?
Even if your parents seem young and fit, you could always ask where they see themselves in 10 years from now. The best thing is not to leave the discussion too late, so as to give a person time to think about their future options, without feeling panicked or pressured to make a decision.
If you have brothers or sisters, you should speak together first and decide how and when to raise the subject. You know your parents best and can judge how they may react. If you or your siblings are in regular contact with your parents and get along well, the chat may be fairly easy to have. For those who don’t have this sort of relationship, or live far apart, it can be trickier to bring up. Perhaps start by asking how they are finding things in general, getting around and managing everyday life. You may start to tease out that they’re struggling or lonely and would benefit from some extra help or home improvements or company.
Wanting to stay put
If someone is adamant they want to stay in their current home, they’ve usually lived there for many years and have many memories tied up with the property. The thought of leaving can be too overwhelming, or a lifetime of ‘stuff’ too hard to go through and declutter. This is the time to chat about what might be the most challenging aspect about staying home as they get older.
Mobility can often become an issue, so you could ask if they have ever considered making home improvements, such as incorporating safety measures or home adaptations to enable them to stay where they are. What would motivate them to make improvements to their home – and do they even know much about what kind of home adaptations are available, such as grab handles or wearing a fall alarm? Maybe some hired help in the home or garden could enable them to happily stay put.
Making the move
Sometimes moving on can seem like a scary prospect, but it can also be viewed as a fresh start. A community to become a part of at a retirement village, or somewhere smaller to manage -perhaps a newer build that’s well insulated and needs less maintenance will be very appealing. It’s a good idea to look at brochures and websites together to get an idea about the alternatives. I know for my mum, the prospect of living all on one level appeals to her and it also reassures me, as there would be less trip hazards, and moving around the house would be nice and easy.
If your relative would consider moving in the future, what would their main criteria be? Have they ever looked into it? It may be that they’ve already considered it and know where they’d like to live when the time comes. You could maybe ask a few questions like these: Would you consider moving from your place (e.g. sheltered housing, assisted living, living with family)? How do you feel about having this discussion – would you rather us have this conversation or not have it? Is it something we can discuss in the future?
Hopefully once the conversation gets started, both parties will feel reassured, after all it’s about having their best interests at heart and if we understand our loved ones’ thoughts about the future, we can plan out a roadmap in terms of options and support.
Personally speaking, once my mum and I started to discuss her various options, it felt positive as it meant I understood her wishes for the future and I could support her accordingly. I think we had the chat at the right time and I’m glad we talked it through because it also opened up other topics, such as power of attorney, which is something I wouldn’t have brought up on its own. I feel like the thought of having these conversations can be worse than the actual chat, so my advice would be don’t put it off. Maybe it’s something you’ve pushed to the back of your mind, or it’s a thing you never thought you’d have to discuss, but it is certainly worth addressing for everyone’s peace of mind.