Recently we went home to Pennsylvania to visit my husband’s 88-year-old grandfather. He is the patriarch of the family and provides warm bear hugs any time we visit with a “Welcome home” whispered in your ear. He is the baby of 12 siblings and has survived two heart attacks and a stroke. Needless to say, he is a real fighter. During Easter dinner, he collapsed and coded twice after being rushed to the hospital. We were in North Carolina and were afraid that we would not be able to say goodbye. He received a pacemaker and defibrillator and now is back to his barrel laughs and typical jokes at a rehabilitation center. Seeing him and his wife, who we call Memie, made me thankful that my husband’s parents had the difficult conversation several years ago with them about downsizing and moving into a retirement home.
Memie and Pappy lived in a 1930’s colonial style home with bedrooms upstairs and a washer and dryer in the basement. When they both passed their 80th birthday, we could all see that it was harder and harder to go up and down steps. This house was Memie’s dream house; we loved visiting them because it felt like we were actually home. When the topic of downsizing was first brought up, it was met with a defiant, no! They wanted to live out their last days in the home they always dreamed of.
After having more delicate conversations and Memie seeing Pappy having more issues climbing the stairs every night, they agreed to at least tour a few facilities in the Pennsylvania mountainside. They found one they liked, after many objections, it was in an apartment in a larger retirement community. The amenities offered were a restaurant just steps from their apartment door, library, craft room, and entertainment center. Once Memie heard she would not have to cook, and a cleaning service would come in monthly to do a deep cleaning, she was sold.
They have now lived at their retirement community for several years and have found new friends and even reconnected with old ones. They no longer can drive so they can use the community bus to get around and enjoy weekend entertainment from local groups and touring performers. This environment has helped them thrive in a time of their lives that most just seclude themselves in their homes. With Pappy’s recent health issues, it made the entire family thankful for where they are now.
Imagine the heavy load the family would have to take on to quickly find a new place to live if this had happened when they were residing in a two story home. By having an awkward conversation now with your parents or grandparents, it allows you to take your timing touring facilities and evaluating what would be the best fit for them. If the family had waited until Pappy had significant health concerns, they would have had to settle for a place in a rush, not have adequate time to downsize or have a chance to sell their home. Because the family took control and had that awkward conversation, Memie and Pappy are comfortable in their new home and enjoy when family comes to visit.
Pappy is still slowly recovering from his recent cardiac emergency, but Memie is well taken care of at the retirement community with concerned neighbors and friends. We hope Pappy can come home soon, but until then the family has one less thing to worry about, downsizing the grandparents in a rush.