The most stressful life events are:

  • Death of a loved of a loved one
  • Major Illness
  • Moving
  • Divorce
  • Job loss

When one spouse dies or has to suddenly go into a long term care facility, and the other spouse cannot live at home alone, you have just triggered two of the three most stressful life events (death and moving) while the third (major illness) probably already existed. When couples decide to stay in their home but they are there under the most delicate of situations, you need to make alternate plans.

I have older friends who the ill wife was taken care of by the healthy husband. After two days of illness, he passed away in his sleep. The next week she moved out of town to a facility near one of her children. She desperately wanted to stay in their home but that wasn’t feasible given her needs. Her entire life changed dramatically within a week.

Are your parents living in that delicate balance? They get by but everything that keeps them in their home must be in order or the system collapses. Just like the tower building game, Jenga. When that happens one spouse does all the caregiving but when that spouse is incapacitated the couple doesn’t have food or the other, less mobile/cognitive spouse, is left without care.

What is the antidote to this problem? Planning and communication.

Not only should you plan, but your parents need to be part of the conversation. They may say everything is fine so why bother? The obvious answer is because it won’t be fine forever. Point out that you want to have this discussion so everyone can thing rationally. Remember the only two sure things are death and taxes. It is an uncomfortable but necessary discussion to have with your parents.