Do You Have an Exit Plan for your Home?

Post By Bob Shulz

My experience in this area comes from becoming, over the past 5 years, very involved in my father’s life.  My mother died from cancer at age 65, over 30 years ago.  Knowing her life was coming to an early end, she made up a list of women my father should date once she was gone.  Being a practical person, my father married the woman at the top of the list, Marge, my mother’s bridge partner.  As an aside, let me say that if you happen to live a long life, some very interesting things can happen.  My father will be 97 in June, so after being married to my mother for over 40 years, he married Marge and they were together for 29 years, until she died, at age 100, in 2011.

As you may have heard, or experienced with your own parents, older people tend to want to live in their own home as long as possible, and then die in their own bed.  While I can empathize with that desire, in today’s reality of people living into their late 80′s and 90′s, having that as your only plan can create some very dangerous situations.  That is what happened to Marge and my father as they made the decision to stay in their home as long as possible. Marge’s husband had died from cancer ten years earlier, and she had been living alone prior to marrying my dad.  Coming from a West-Texas ranching family, that was no big deal.  After much back-and-forth discussion, Marge moved into my father’s home, which he had purchased in 1969, after retiring from the military and moving to New Mexico.  My dad and Marge had a wonderful life together into their early 90′s, but as usually happens near the end, that is when the wheels began to come off the wagon.  I think Marge knew intuitively that they had reached the point where they couldn’t care for each other, but she couldn’t get my father, a “full bull” Army Colonel, to move to an assisted-living facility.  I have my mid-west work ethic as a gift from my dad, and I believe he could not imagine not being able to “piddle-around” in their home and yard.

Having gone through the depression, Marge and my father only saw a doctor when absolutely necessary.  Marge had been having some digestive tract health issues, but because all her family and ours lived out of state (a topic for another guest post), no one knew how dehydrated she had become.  Only when a neighbor came to check on Marge, discovered the situation, and called an ambulance, was a decision made to move Marge into an assisted-living facility.  Of course, my father’s decision was to follow that of another soldier, and make “Custer’s Last Stand” at the house.

We had observed when visiting Marge and dad, in New Mexico, that my father had developed some poor driving habits and heard “rumors” that he would sometimes become lost (he called it temporarily disoriented) from time-to-time, but no one had the courage to confront him and take away the keys.  Funny, how that same fear of confronting a parent continues into adulthood. Not even after Marge was safely in assisted-living, and he ran a stop sign, totaling his car (miraculously no one was hurt), did anyone want to confront him.   Well at least not until Memorial Day 2008, when my brother called to inform me that we needed to drive to Plains, TX and release our father from the Yokum County (think Lil’ Abner) jail.  He had become lost, like those aliens, in Roswell, NM (where they lived) and driven an hour and a half east into Texas, where they found him disoriented at an oil-field regeneration facility.  Only after we took the 1999 Cadillac with 25,000 miles away from him, did he agree to join Marge in the assisted-living facility.

Breathing a sigh of relief, that we now had them both in a relatively safe environment, we moved forward with getting their home ready for sale.  At this point they got lucky, as in the middle of 2008, the housing market hadn’t yet crashed.  My brothers and I spent a weekend going through the items in the house, and ended up with 2 piles, Salvation Army and Trash.  That is another bad outcome of staying in your home too long.  Your children are forced to go through your “stuff”, and you are dismayed to find out they don’t want anything because they have their own collection of “stuff”.  One of the advantages of having an interim move between your long-term home and an assisted-living/nursing facility is that you have a chance to purge yourself of your “stuff”.  I believe that responsibility should be yours, and not your children’s.  Their home sold quickly and the $200,000 was deposited in their bank account.  I will spare you the details of how they burned through that money and another $100k in three years at the assisted-living facility, until another time.

Bob Schulz retired in 2008, and developed a passion for assisting others in planning for their own retirement.   Bob facilitates retirement planning seminars around the country, speaking on; ”Are You Ready to Retire?”, ”Social Security”, ”Medicare, Medicaid & LTC”, “The Financial Conundrum”, and “Leaving a Legacy”.  In addition to his seminars, Bob sends out an email every week containing articles on various retirement topics, to over a thousand people who have attended his seminars.  To prevent any conflicts-of-interest, Bob doesn’t sell any products/services or have any licenses to do so.  If you are interested in having your email address added to his distribution list, or would like to receive an article(s) on specific retirement topics, please contact Bob at roberthschulz@msn.com.