Steps That Kids and Parents Can Take to Prep and Plan for Independent and Assisted Living

“Good night Mary Ellen.” “Good night John Boy.” “Good night Momma.” “Good night Elizabeth.”

Memories of a family who lived together in one home, with a Grandpa and a Grandma, on Walton Mountain. “The Waltons” was a popular TV show that ran for 10 years on CBS in the 70’s-80’s.  It was based on the series creator Earl Hamner Jr.’s real life family members. Hamner based the characters of The Waltons’ grandparents on composites of both sides of his Grandfathers and Grandmothers. The show competed against “The Mod Squad” and “Flip”, which were two very popular series at the time, and most critics believed “The Waltons” didn’t have a chance to score in the ratings. It not only scored, it beat out the competition and ended each episode with the much loved and famous ending, “Good-night John Boy.”

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Most families today do not live with their grandparents, nor do they live on their own mountain. But the sense of love and community and care for one’s family persists, and was and remains one of the reasons, “The Waltons,” was such a popular show. Caring for our loved ones is a primary concern and need. So, what can you do to prepare for the time when your parent or grandparent should no longer live alone? Worrying about when the time comes is not the best plan. As Grandma Walton famously said, “You fear a thing enough, you’re asking for it.” The better plan would be to prepare and make arrangements now, so there is no need to worry. Knowing your loved one has a place to live, when and if the time comes is one of the most loving things you can do for them.

John Boy Walton: “Between two people in a good marriage there develops a kind of silent communication.”

Communication. No one wants to think about the time when their parents are at the end of their days, nor do they want to talk about what arrangements should be made. According to a study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, nearly 75% of adults have had NO discussion – what so ever – with their parents about long-term care, living arrangements, inheritance, and funeral wishes. It’s the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ and no one wants to bring it up. But who does this help, and when would it be best to discuss this? After your parents can no longer drive? After your grandmother has fallen and needs assisted care? Waiting is not the answer. What better time to make arrangements with your parents or grandparents then when they do not need the care; when they are mentally and physically able and well to let you know their wishes and concerns.

Communication! It’s the key to insuring their wishes are taken care of, when the time comes.

Olivia Walton: I don’t think you should call Grandma “Old Woman.”

‘Grandpa’ Zebulon Walton:  Well, why not? She’ll be 68 on her birthday coming up this Saturday.

Olivia Walton: That’s why not.

How to bring it up. No one wants to start a conversation with their parents about the fact they are getting older and it’s a good time to discuss ‘arrangements’ for the future. That conversation can be awkward, excruciating, and if not handled correctly, it can ultimately hurt your relationship. Exactly how does someone begin the conversation? Waiting for a holiday gathering isn’t a great plan since most holidays are steeped in chaos and a lot of stress. Plus, you don’t want to have the discussion in a setting where it’s not the focal point, and try to ‘slip it into the conversation.’ Calling your parent and talking about it over the phone isn’t a good idea either, since there are many things to discuss and cover. A better plan is to arrange a family meeting with your siblings (if you have them) and parents. Perhaps a way to start the conversation is to simply state you want to discuss future plans and arrangements for Mom and Dad for their long-term care, for when they need it. You know everyone will want them to have the best care possible and that by planning and discussing it now, before they need it, you’ll be able to make that happen for them. Ultimately, that is the goal and with everyone on board you’ll be able to achieve it by starting the discussion when they are still in good health. Your parents taught you to plan ahead, remind them of this and they’ll understand.

John Boy Walton: “Many times when I have tripped across those events in one’s life called milestones, I have thought about how they so often catch us unaware. There was, for instance, that unforgettable spring many years ago when Grandma had to face growing old.”

 Tour Senior Care and Assisted Living Communities.  There is an assumption that all care facilities are the same. This assumption is furthest from the truth. By taking the time to tour a few facilities, you’ll be able to determine which one is best suited for your parent. ‘Nursing Homes’ have had a negative connotation for a long time, but that is no longer the case. Senior Living Communities have stepped into the new generation with much to offer and Assisted Living Communities are a wonderful alternative for loved ones who don’t need long term care but can no longer live alone in their own home. Seniors are finding that living in these communities have given them new beginnings with social events planned and new friends found. By taking the time and touring the places with your parents, you can make a sound and formed decision ahead of time and know that you have a place they’ll be able to call home.

John Boy Walton: “There is a special niche in memory where a child places his parents, a place in time where they are never younger, never older, a time when they are changeless. For me, that memory is of many years ago, and no matter what came after, they are forever young.”

Thinking of our parents as growing old or older, and taking on the role of ‘adult’ for them, is never easy. However, putting off the planning and decision making now will only make it harder on everyone when the time comes and decisions need to be made. Plan ahead now so you can rest assured your parent will be cared for as they wish and deserve to be.

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