It’s an honour to speak to the Canadian Personal Finance Blog audience once again. I was speaking with your fearless leader Big Cajun Man trying to come up with a good topic to discuss on the blog when we both realized that we’re dealing with similar life situations. Big Cajun Man is dealing with his mother (who is 90) in a house that she will NOT leave, while I’m dealing with my father who is almost 70 in a house he will NOT leave.
Dealing with an aging family member is never easy. The last thing they want to do is lose their freedom by leaving the family home. But if the family home no longer works for them, some tough decisions need to be made.
Without further ado, let’s look at aging family member and how to deal with their real estate.
My Father’s Story
Five years ago my dad found out he had Parkinson’s disease. This changed our family’s life forever. Suddenly tasks that used to be simple for my father like making a cup of coffee were no longer easy. On some days when his back acts up, it’s even tough for him to get out of bed.
My father lives in a two story home. The stairs pose a big challenge for him most days. He finds it tough to go up and down the stairs without falling. Luckily there’s a restroom on the main floor and upstairs, so my father doesn’t have to go up the stairs as much, but he still has to use the stairs at least a few times a day and doesn’t always have a family member to help him.
Despite the challenges, similar to Big Cajun Man’s mother, my father refuses to downsize. We’re not asking him to move to a long-term care facility; we just think life would be a lot easier if he moved to a condo or even a bungalow with everything on the same floor. We’ve planted the bug in his ear, but so far he isn’t open to the idea of moving.
My father doesn’t want to move because he likes the street he lives on and his neighbourhood. He also sees downsizing as one step closer to losing his freedom. My grandfather passed away at 62 years old, so for my dad losing his freedom is really scary.
Making It Work
Rather than nag my father and pressure him to move, my family is trying our best to support his decision. Instead of moving out, my youngest sister has stayed at home to help my father out. Likewise, my older sister and I stop by the house as often as we can to check in on my dad and run errands for him. We’ll also mow the lawn and shovel the sidewalk and driveway of snow during the wintertime.
When I bought my house, an important factor was being close to my mother and father so I could help them out in their old age. Fortunately, I’m a 15 minute walk away from both of them. This makes it easy to check in on them and make sure they’re ok.
When the Time Comes
There will likely come a time when my father has to leave the family home. I’m not sure when that will be, but it’s a time my siblings and I want to make as simple and stress-free as possible.
My older sister is a real estate agent, so selling the family home won’t be a big deal. She can list my father’s home and stage it so that it sells for top dollar.
The toughest part will be convincing my father to downsize. Perhaps he will come to the realization on his own. If not, most of my friends are facing similar situations. Instead of pressuring my dad, I’ll tell him about how much better my friend’s parent’s life is since downsizing.
If push comes to shove there will be a time when my father has to downsize, but I’d much prefer the carrot over the stick approach. I’d like to exhaust the carrot approach before even considering the stick approach. That being said, you have to be ready to have the tough conversations if needed.
About the Author
Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Finance Journalist, Money Coach and Speaker, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and MoneySense. Connect with Sean on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.