I treasure the time I spend with my girlfriends. It is not often that I can meet a friend or colleague for lunch, and even rarer that I can get away for a dinner with a friend. This week, I set up three meals out with girlfriends. It was wonderful to see each one. Interestingly, rather than talking non-stop about our careers and kids, there was a markedly different tone and topic to our conversations. And they all included talking about our aging parents.
Catching up with Cate
Cate and I hadn’t had a chance to get together for 2 years, It was fun to finally catch up on jobs, families, travel and such. Just a few minutes into our catch up, we hit on a new topic. Cate mentioned she spent the majority of last year helping her in-laws move into an assisted living facility.
Her mother-in-law is in her mid-80’s, had fallen and was slow to recover. Her father-in-law, now in his late 80’s, needed more help with daily living activities. They had been living in Florida, but their children live in Maine. The collective family decided to relocate Mom and Dad back to Maine. While initially reluctant, both parents are now comfortable in a lovely new place. Importantly, it includes services both parents now need.
Cate and her husband are both younger Boomers in their late 40s. They ended up taking the lead in relocation logistics. Tasks included selling the home in Florida and packing up their personal belongings. They spent countless hours and much of their vacation time getting Mom and Dad settled into their new home. It was a shock to jump into the role of a hands-on care-arranger for aging parents.
Lunch with Sue and her Aging Parents
The next day, I had lunch with Sue. She’s also a younger boomer, and the mother of a middle-schooler and high school freshman. We of course talked for a while about our kids. But once again, the conversation quickly moved to aging parents. Her parents, both in their late 70s, are suffering from health issues.
Sue has been attending meetings with her parents and their financial advisor. They are trying to address the increasing financial needs that have come up quickly. As a result of these meetings, Sue found out that her dad was the only one managing the money and the investments. Her mom is not interested. Sue asked her mom how she was planning to handle financial matters when her dad could no longer do so. Mom said that Sue would just take over that responsibility. That was quite a surprise!
Sue is busy enough raising her own family, running her own business and managing her own money. It would be overwhelming to step in and take over another household. Just how are we Boomers supposed to “cross the line” into personal finances with our parents?
One more chat about aging parents
Later that evening I had dinner with a girlfriend in town. It’s just been a couple of months since we last got together. She and her husband were in California recently when they got “the call.” Robin’s 88-year old dad had fallen ill and was rushed to the hospital. He had a severe case of pneumonia. He was stable and she was assured that she did not have to rush right back.
Once she returned home, she immediately jumped into action with her sister. Dad’s condition was improving, but he could not live unassisted. Her mom was not able to handle the care needs for herself or Robin’s dad. So, Robin had a crash course in the state-run Medicaid system and all of the requirements needed for her parents. Within 3 weeks, she felt somewhat like an expert.
She had dealt with medical staff at all levels. Never before an advocate, she was now an advocate for her aging parents. It took a bit of finagling, but she found an assisted living home where both parents could stay together and celebrate their 61st anniversary. And to keep tabs over her parent’s financial and health care decisions, she was made power of attorney.
This was a huge effort for this Boomer. One minute she was planning her retirement with her husband. And the next minute, she was responding to that call that she needed to plan the rest of her parent’s retirement.
Just a year ago, none of these topics would have been part of my conversations girlfriends. We would have been discussing our careers and how long we wanted to work. Or laughed about what our kids were doing and where we were going on vacation. Dealing with our aging parents and the realities of their retirements had not become part of the conversation. Until now. Once it starts, the reality is that it won’t end.