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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

A New Home May Move More Than Furniture

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In the best of cases, moving can stir up emotions, but when the move concerns parents who can no longer care for themselves, financial advisors say that both boomers and their parents should be ready for unexpected feelings to surface.

In the last of a three-part series, National Underwriter looks at what boomers should consider when dealing with their parents’ and their own emotions surrounding a decision to relocate a parent.

Bedda D’Angelo, president, Fiduciary Solutions, Durham, N.C., starts out by saying she has seen “every imaginable solution” and “none is perfect.”

Even if it is obvious that a new living situation is needed, D’Angelo says “every elderly person I have ever known resists moving out of their home like the plague,” and typically, many become depressed when they are forced to start over.

She cites one family for which she had done planning that lived 300 miles from the parent. The mother’s neighborhood, according to D’Angelo, had deteriorated, with crime on the rise. Additionally, the mother’s walk-up flat was “in a state of gross disrepair.”

Her children moved her into a luxury assisted living facility, but the parent became very depressed, D’Angelo says, because “taking her away from her home and the network of people she had known all of her life was too big of an adjustment for her.”

D’Angelo says she believes the move could have played a role in her death.

Another case D’Angelo cites is one in which a daughter moved her mother into a luxury facility across the street from her home and visited her every day.

“Nevertheless,” according to D’Angelo, “her mother has never forgiven her for making her give up her home in New Jersey even though she desperately needed a car [to continue to live there.]“

D’Angelo says a parent’s anger can be assuaged if he or she has some choice over the solution.

She advises starting the discussion two to three years before a boomer thinks a transition will be needed because the elderly need more time to adjust to ideas. This shows that a child is looking at the parent’s need and not the child’s convenience.

One option that can work is if the parent lives in the same home but in a separate apartment, she says. Even if the parent actually lives in the boomer’s home, it can work, D’Angelo continues. But she cites two caveats: the entire family needs to offer input and the decision is not made out of guilt.

“One of the least favorite things for our clients is to move in with family. But, in some cases, it is unavoidable because they don’t have the funds,” says Cheryl Hancock, a certified financial planner with Rinehart & Associates, Charlotte, N.C. Others prefer options such as continuing care communities because this allows them to retain control of their own lives. The key, she says, is “to keep the power in their court. If they’re allowed to make decisions, it is a much less scary experience for the whole family.”

Boomers should try and determine parents’ preferences and then honor them, says Jim Watkins, a certified financial planner with Watkins Financial, Leawood, Kan. But that is not always possible, he says. If it is not possible or there were previous feelings between parents and children, they often can arise, he continues. There also can be feelings that arise among siblings as they discuss alternatives about a parent’s future, he adds.

“These decisions for the kids often are gut wrenching and extremely stressful for the parents,” says George Middleton, a chartered financial analyst with Limoges Investment Management, Vancouver, Wa. Most parents, he says, want to stay in their homes, but this might not be a viable option if their health has deteriorated.

When such is the case, Middleton says he finds “a dynamic split regarding whether the parents should move in with the children.”

If a decision is made to move in with a child, the first question to answer is “Which child?” he says. “Talk about fodder for family conflict! In many other cultures there would be no question, but here in the U.S., children are less inclined to step up to the plate.”

When they do, Middleton says, his experience shows that daughters assume more responsibility than sons.

In general, he continues, assisted living is resisted by parents but favored by children. “Today’s houses are bigger, but we tend to be less willing to fill them with ailing parents,” Middleton notes.

Eve Kaplan, a certified financial planner with Kaplan Financial Advisors, Berkeley Heights, N.J., says it is generally a “terrible idea” to put a parent in a child’s home because many sons- and daughters-in-law would not welcome an aging, ill in-law into their home with open arms. Rather, she mentions other options such as reverse mortgages, a qualified personal residence trust and bringing qualified help into the home if it proves dependable and the option proves affordable.

When adult children set up a meeting between a planner and a parent, it can be awkward, leaving the planner with the dilemma: Who are you answerable to and who are you trying to satisfy as a client?

She cites one example in which a child set up a meeting between his parents and Kaplan and proceeded to do all of the talking. Such a situation can be a “minefield” because the interests of the parent and the child are not always the same, she says.

Eric Bruck, a certified financial planner with Allied Consulting Group, Los Angeles, says most of his clients would prefer to have the parents stay in their own home. It is rare when boomers move a parent into their own home, he adds.

A planner needs to get to know the emotional state of the parent regardless of whether the parent or child is the client, he continues.

Elaine Scoggins, a certified financial planner with Scoggins Financial, Tampa, Fla., says a boomer making a decision about whether or not to bring a parent into the home has to make sure it is done free of anger. She says it is better to place a parent in a facility if there is going to be resentment or if the boomer will not be able to balance work or other commitments with the parent’s care.

And whatever the ultimate decision is on the next step, it is important, Scoggins says, to hold on to some belongings from the old home for the new one. Those belongings can be anything from family photos to a blanket or bedspread that reminds the parents of their old home, she continues. “It helps them adjust to the new home whether it is your home or another home,” she says.


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