Sig and I often advise clients to have a Plan B. When my kids were visiting this weekend I took my own advice. I’m glad I did.
Chances are, Plan A is what you have in place now. Say, Dad is caring for Mom, in the early stage of memory loss. They live in a city close to public transportation, a supermarket, a bank, a drug store, doctors, everything they need. Dad handles the finances, driving, decision-making. They have a supportive church community and a network of service providers (accountant, house cleaner, handyman, yardman). Closest child is within 40 miles. Everything is working well.
But what if Dad is suddenly taken out of commission? A fall, a medical incident, sudden death . . . what then? Mom can’t live alone. What is Plan B?
Another scenario: Both parents are in their 80’s, physically and mentally fit. Dad doesn’t drive because of his vision. Mom does. They live in a lovely home in the suburbs. Trouble is, all of their needs – food, medical care, social contact – absolutely depend on driving. The kids want them to move now, but they feel paralyzed at the thought of disposing of a lifetime of accumulations and deciding where to go. If Mom goes first, Dad will be trapped without being able to drive, and taxis are not readily available. There’s no Plan B for Dad.
Even if both parents are in good health, we know that won’t always be the case. It’s best to be prepared.
My family had a Plan B conference over the holidays, with both parents and all children participating. No final decisions were reached, and this conversation will continue. We talked about the first weeks after an incident: Would a child move in? Would the parent temporarily go to live with a child while other plans were made? How would other kids help? And we agreed to begin to look at continuing care communities now, before the need arises. We want to learn what’s available, what we like and don’t like, and how to pay for it.
We also took a tiny step toward downsizing: we began to give away some things – paintings and some knick-knacks this go-around – and were happy the kids each wanted different things and took all but one! We also talked about our will and distributing personal property.
The kids responded in very loving ways, and the conversation drew us all closer. It helped us appreciate the precious gift of the present moment and each other.
More conversations will follow. But already we all feel loved, free to talk about these things, and less afraid of the future.