The Murray Family’s Story
An introduction from Bruce
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful family as they transitioned their elder parents from their home of many years to a senior community. Because I was so moved by the way they navigated this process, I asked the three daughters if they would allow me to share their story with you. They graciously accepted. Although we have changed their names and other identifying information, all that happened is true and in their own words. You will find their story unfold in detail throughout the book at the end of some of the chapters. Let me introduce you to them in their own words.
We are three daughters in a very typical and loving family of five. Both parents are nearly ninety. They grew up during the Great Depression and married after WWII when Dad returned home from the war. Throughout the years, they have been very independent. Both still are involved with their church. They value being active and independent as this is a very important part of keeping them mentally and physically fit. Until last year, they mall-walked, and Dad kept busy with yard work while Mom hung out the wash, navigating the basement stairs with wash basket in hand. Dad still hunts and fishes, and Mom still cooks, bakes, knits and quilts.
As with any siblings, the three of us daughters have unique personalities, talents, temperaments, and viewpoints, with an age gap of approximately five years between each of us. However, no matter what our opinions may be, we love each other and our parents dearly. Due to this love, whatever differences we experienced were resolved by our common goal of doing what was best for our parents. Because of our various talents and different distances to our parents, we each assumed different roles in our parents’ lives throughout the years.
Transitioning Parents to Assisted Living or a Senior Community
It has been hard for all of us to come to terms with the fact that they have aged to the point of moving out of the home they bought new sixty years ago—the home we grew up in, the home they valued and wanted to live in until they could no longer function on their own. It took a while for our parents to realize that time had come. Subsequently, each of us, including our parents, has put part of our lives on hold in order to accomplish the common goal of getting them settled into their new home, while letting go of the old home they loved. During this entire process, we have told them often that we love them, and they know we are working with their best interests in mind.
After our mother had a mishap, Barbara and Dad were discussing next steps, and he said, “Well, I guess we should move now.” When visiting a few days later, Mom looked at housing prices in the paper, and that opened the door to talk about selling and moving. She said prices were too low… but at least she was thinking about it!
At dinner that night Dad said, “All I do is sleep. I made it to ninety, so I guess it’s time…,” as he jokingly made a motion across his neck. Barbara asked if he had ever thought about moving to a senior retirement facility. He replied that he would like to, “but your Ma’s not very social.” Dad basically felt his life was over, that the recliner was all he had left.
Conversations among the three of us through recent years chronicled our parents’ physical decline, as both parents were slowing down, losing strength and in general, not being as steady on their feet causing loss of balance and on occasion “taking a tumble,” as they liked to call it. They began asking for assistance with yard work and financial items, which we all gladly helped with. But we agreed that for their ages, they were doing wonderfully!
Then, in the middle of summer, we received a call from Dad saying Mom was in the hospital after falling. The diagnosis was a partially fractured femur. This accident and subsequent surgery was the beginning of our search for a new parental home. We observed just how much both parents had aged, seemingly overnight. In normal day-to-day life, we had noticed small signs of slowing down, but during this stressful situation, the signs were amplified. Concern quickly increased, not only for Mom but also for Dad, who seemed to become more fragile and worn.
Though we knew our parents were aging and becoming more fragile, it did not hit us in the face until Mom fell. Dad had used the basement bathroom almost ever since I can remember. And when Mom needed a new washer and dryer, she insisted on getting full-size replacements instead of putting stackable units in the former upstairs powder room. Not only did she use the dryer, she lugged full baskets of wet laundry upstairs to hang outside on the wash line! The basement was the nagging fear that even with help, that basement would still be where Dad headed every time he needed a restroom and where Mom eventually would feel the pull to do the laundry herself.
Realizing the time had come, we turned to our parents’ Senior Real Estate Specialist, Bruce Nemovitz, who advised us that we needed to get the home ready for sale and that he had all of the contractors needed to do the job. We had followed Bruce’s advice for preparing the home to make it look its best, including tackling the downsizing over several months and used his contractors to complete all of the work required. The suggested deadline of having the home ready for sale was met.
Our parents are settling into apartment living, starting to participate more in activities, and bring up less often the elderly family and friends who are still living at “home.” Mom has even begun developing a “neighborhood” within the complex as she befriends more people, feels comfortable around them, and talks to us about their news. Mom goes to exercise class, and Dad plays sheepshead. They are going to look into Wii bowling next! Hopefully they will enjoy their sunset years even more with their new stress-free lifestyle!
Their new home provides meals but it also has a full-size kitchen so Mom can still bake and cook, something she really enjoys. It also allows them to stick to their food budget as much as possible. Another positive is that the dining requirement gets them integrated a little bit quicker as it forces them to meet new people. In addition, we were able to get the complex to accept a donation of Dad’s pool table, making him and the other residents very happy!
If there is one thing we cannot stress enough, it is to let your parents know how much you love them. They need to know that is the reason for wanting them to move; we want them to be safe, happy, healthy, and a blessing to us for as long as possible. Do your best to be patient and understanding, as it is a very emotional time for all family members. And always remember, as parents, they have given of themselves unconditionally; now it is time to give back, not out of obligation, but out of love. That is the circle of life.