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Supporting Aging Parents from Afar

There are empty nests. And there are empty nests. Sometimes those little birdies fly the coop and make their own nests nearby. Sometimes their wings take them to relationships or job opportunities out of state, or even across the country.

Yes, in this metaphor, those birdies are you.

Living out of town makes it challenging to help elderly parents downsize. You want to support them in the best way possible but you can’t be physically there as often as you’d like. As they face milestones like selling the house and considering senior living apartments, you want to be an integral part of the decision-making process. You believe it is time for them to move forward and enjoy this new chapter of life in a welcoming, active adult community. But, it’s hard to present your arguments from afar. Your charm and powers of persuasion may be slightly diminished by distance.  

In short, it’s a lot easier to tell kids to butt out over the phone.

So how do you help aging parents downsize from afar? Consider these tips.

Keep the Lines of Communications Open

You can’t be there in person all the time. But you can pick up a phone. Call your parents often to get a sense of how they are doing and what’s going on in their lives. Now that you are all grown up, the torch has passed. Instead of your parents wanting to know all about your day at school, and who was mean on the playground, it’s your turn to show an interest in them. Hopefully they won’t put their headphones on and ignore you. Oh. That’s right. This time around that job will fall to  your own kids. Payback.

Use Technology

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to stay in touch. Facetime is the next best thing to being there. If your parents don’t know how to use it, teach them. Schedule Facetime meetings once or twice a week. Put it on your calendar and be sure to block out a good chunk of time to really get a chance to connect. As much as they love you, your parents will want to spend most of that time talking to the grandkids. So, it’s not a bad idea to schedule separate time for serious grown-up talks.

Ask How You Can Help

Your parents are not going to volunteer information about their finances, health, or feelings. You will have to ask the right questions. You can ask for copies of their will. If they don’t have one, you can provide resources for them to begin that process. It is always tricky to ask for access to bank statements. Some parents are more willing to share than others. If they won’t let you be involved in their finances, direct them to a trusted professional. If you are a great organizer, volunteer to organize their important documents on your next visit. The best way to find out what your parents may need from you is to ask.

Make An Emergency Plan

Since you are not around the corner, it’s important to have an emergency plan in place. Designate a local family member or friend to be the point person in the event of an accident or medical emergency. Make sure your parents are comfortable with that person and can contact them quickly. On your end, it’s a good idea to set up a support system of people who can step in and cover for you with the kids, or pets, if you need to leave on a moment’s notice.

Family Meeting

Whether it’s in person, or by Facetime, organize a family meeting to discuss your parents’ issues and concerns. Together you can make important decisions, like who will have written permission to receive medical and financial information in the event your parents become incapacitated.

You will also want to take this time to start the senior apartment conversation. First question: Where do your parents want to live? Do they want to stay local or relocated to a warmer climate? Aws you get a sense of their goals and timeline, you can be a resource for finding the perfect Overture destination. Once they see how excited you are by the gorgeous grounds, state-of-the-art apartments and resort worthy amenities, they won’t be able to resist sharing your enthusiasm. The for-sale sign will be imminent.

Visit Often

Facetime is great, but nothing takes the place of a real hug. The older your parents get, the better the chances you will be the one traveling.  Regular visits will maintain your strong connection and keep you tuned in to what’s going on with  them.

After your parents are settled into the Overture senior apartment community of their choice, you will rest easier, knowing they are surrounded by a caring, inclusive community. 

When you visit, they will always be glad you are there.  But they will still be having the time of their lives when you’re not.

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