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Housing Choices
Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020 10:22 AM
Joined: 10/29/2020
Posts: 5

I am 81 and my wife is 80.  She has exhibited increasing memory problems and cognitive issues over the past 2 years so it seems clear where we are headed.  We live in a large 4 bedroom colonial in New England.  Maintenance of the house and yard are getting more difficult so I have been thinking of downsizing to an apartment or condo.  Relocating to a warmer climate seems to make sense too.  We have looked into CCRCs but I doubt at this point if she would pass the mental screening tests.  I'm thinking that a simpler living arrangement would make it easier for me to care for her down the road.

Problem is, my wife loves our house and the town where we live.  She would move if I pressed the issue but I have read that it is better for ALZ patients to remain in familiar surroundings.  I'm guessing my situation is typical and that there are others who had to make this same decision.  I would love to hear from you if you would share your experience about how your decision has worked out for you.


Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020 12:45 PM
Joined: 10/3/2020
Posts: 2

Hi Karl38,  

I am 80 and my wife 79. Her cognitive problems started about 4 years ago and have gradually worsened. She has other serious medical problems as well. 

We relocated from a 3400 sq ft home with a golf course view to 1000 sq ft 2 bedroom  Independent Living community about 20 months ago. (MA, south of  Boston)

Nothing is going to get easier for you but you should try to get ahead of your coming health issues while you can.  You know you have been fortunate to be able to maintain your house and yard so far. That's going to change as well as your wife needing more of your attention. It would appear you and I both  have been fortunate to maintain good health. 

I can't say I'm happy living here but we made the right choice at the right time. I have no regrets as to the move and would do it again with knowledge of this future. We have always been New Englanders and never seriously considered going to a warmer climate. At least none that we have seen.

Talk with your friends of similar age. Both those who have moved to "Communities" and those who have chosen not to.

Start selling the idea to your wife. There could be significant benefits to you both from; closer medical care, lots of people your age with similar issues, age appropriate social activities, on site assistance, etc.

I would be happy to share any information I might have.  Good luck.




Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020 1:17 PM
Joined: 4/2/2018
Posts: 3849

Karl, we're in the same age bracket. Wife is 80, and I am 82, soon to be 83. We downsized almost 8 years ago. We went from a large 4 bedroom home with basement to around 1400 sq. ft. with no basement. I decided to make the change because my wife could not handle stairs very well anymore. There is no doubt I miss the room of the old place, but where we are now is better for us. Like you, I am pretty fit for my age, and I'm able to do most things I could do 30 years ago. If you decide to move, consider what your needs might be in another 5 or 10 years from now.
Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020 1:21 PM
Joined: 4/2/2018
Posts: 3849

3NT, welcome to the forum. Sorry we couldn't have met on a forum where things had a brighter future. BTW, I was a New Englander myself when I was a kid. Lived in Vermont, and loved it.
Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020 2:15 PM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 19406

 to think about, can you move down stairs....good medical help where you might move system for you and your facility and other services

think ahead are going to need help.

I am still living in our home. 2 stories but a bedroom and bath downstairs. When it was time for additional help I was glad for the space. Our daughter is here as are lifelong friends.

I never thought about moving away but I did have  Plan B placement.

I have never regretted my decision.

Dreamer Lost
Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020 8:00 PM
Joined: 3/7/2019
Posts: 576

You should think of yourself and what you might want in the coming years.  Look at what support you would have.  Are you near family? moving near family? Maybe a senior living community.  Are you ready to find new doctors and dentists for yourself and your wife? Are you involved in your church?  Do you have good neighbors and friends you can call on now? Can you downsize in the same town?  

My MIL just passed away last fall at age 82 from pancreatic cancer that spread rapidly in about 4 months.  My FIL still lives in their big house in a small town and is slowly making a life for himself without my MIL.  Co-vid of course is making it harder than it would be.  He does see friends for lunch on Fridays, still goes to his church and talks to long time friends.

 So many factors play into the decision to move or not, but I would put your own health and welfare near the top. 

Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2020 7:33 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 2486

You raise a lot of good questions. 

Some thoughts from someone who is BTDT with my own parents.

1. I think being near "help", whether that is family or hired resources, is a priority. 

When dad (then 82) was finally diagnosed with mid-stage mixed dementia, I helped my mom (then 78) sell her house in the 55+ community in FL and the one on the golf course 4 hours away, so they could move closer to me. The last winter in FL I got a call from the local hospital informing me, as an emergency contact, that mom was in the hospital and in grave shape. I was shocked. I knew she hadn't been feeling well, but her conversation was just that she was really tired and his was about how their marriage was breaking up because she was lazy. The woman was the color of a school bus and it didn't occur to him that she was in serious trouble. Empathy had left the building with Elvis and it was all about him. It was no longer safe for dad to be her advocate in an emergency. And judging by his behavior while she was hospitalized he was no longer safe alone at home (forks in the toaster, mixing polarity jumping a car and entertaining neighbors for "happy hour" wearing nothing but a towel) if she had an emergency.

2. Dementia impacts more than memory. Executive function skills- the ability to follow a reasoned argument and make decisions tanks fairly early on in the disease process. Sadly, this means you have to make the decision on behalf of her without her input. My mother really struggled to not consult the man who had been her partner in crime for 60 years. Alas when she tried to explain, the conversations just agitated him and left them both feeling badly. 

3. The logistics around moving are considerable. Certain steps- staging your home to obtain a good price and having folks tour it would best be done without your wife in the home. I moved my parents north to PA before I arranged to have repairs and staging done in the houses. When I moved them from the senior apartment complex to a nice 55+ community more like their place in FL, we put them both up in a nice hotel for a weekend and spent 2 1/2 days making it ready to live in.

I took mom to her CELA to sign the papers (she was dad's POA with me as secondary agent) for the sale of the MD house and FedExed them for settlement. For the house in FL, which was sold turn-key, I went down to the house for a couple of days to pack up a PODS with their person items and ship mom's roadster. While down there I signed the settlement papers for both. 

You'll also need to recreate your professional team in a new community transferring medical care (my parents had a dozen doctors in 3 states from which to obtain medical records), a CELA, accountant and whatever else you need. 

4. You'd want to take a good long look at Medicaid and resources in whatever state you consider. While Medicaid is a federal program, states administer the benefits and they can vary a great deal. I would also look at what sort of resources are available where you are now- New England typically has access to world class medical care and IME very nice MCFs and SNFs are available. When dad was discharged from a hospitalization to rehab, we could not find a SNF/rehab facility with a 3+ star Medicare rating near him in MD. Same in the part of FL where they lived. I have two 5s and a four in my small town. 

5. There may be some CCRCs where you pay a monthly fee and pay a la carte that would accept you and your wife. You would pay an additional fee for her care as her needs increase. You could also pay for care in-home whether you stay put or move to a home more suited to your needs now. 

6. I, too, had read in many places that it was best for a PWD to remain in a familiar environment and felt horribly guilty to force my parents to move. He really missed FL, especially, but over time became convinced he still lived there and worried a lot about hurricanes and the annual termite inspection. He didn't appear to regress with each move and he moved a lot around the time of his diagnosis- from FL to MD,  to the PA hospital to a rehab to an apartment in the space of 5 months and to a new house a year later. A lot of folks on these boards report that a time comes when their LO begs to come home- even PWD who are in the home they'd lived in their entire adult lives. Home in this case is more a feeling of security and all being right in their world rather than a physical place. 

7. One thing I noticed about both place my parents lived was that people in the 55+ communities were quite open and friendly at first, but as dad's still undiagnosed dementia progressed and he lost his social filter he was often shunned by members of the community, Not long after moving there, they were no longer included as a couple on my outings and activities. My mom still had a core of people she could socialize with but dad was persona non grata. When I packed up their place, a dozen of her buddies stopped by to ask after her and express sadness/anger that she was leaving. Only the man nextdoor mentioned dad and then only to complain about how rude and coarse he was. IME, building a new social life with a PWD could be challenging and you could become more isolated than most.

8. It's important to consider where you want to be, not just as a caregiver but also after. When my mom told me she was unhappy in the cute little apartment (1000 sq ft) I found for her, I started looking for a house she could buy. We chose another 55+ community with all manner of amenities and activities that is a short walk to a shopping center with a grocery, banks, pharmacy, card & gift shop, a couple of restaurants, Talbots and Chico's. Her HOA fee is a little over $200 monthly but includes lawncare, snow removal and routine exterior maintenance. Dad's since passed and mom blew out an optic nerve and can no longer drive, so this place has been a perfect fit for her

Good luck with whatever you choose to do.
Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2020 4:59 PM
Joined: 10/24/2019
Posts: 388

This is such a hard decision and, of course, falls only on you to make on behalf of both of you, bearing in mind both present and future needs and wants.

Our situation is much like yours:  my wife felt passionately about this house, and the town we live in.  It has always been impractical—almost 4,000 square feet, three floors plus basement and attic—demanding and high maintenance (120+ years old, poorly insulated)—and expensive (this county has the highest average real estate taxes in the country).  But DW loves it so here we are.

After a visit from the kids last Christmas, they pressed me to consider selling it and moving to a house all or mostly on one floor.  I prepared to do that but then COVID hit and there were for months no real estate showings.  Then the market re-opened and I started to look (real estate agents’ eyes bug out at the thought of a man buying a house for his wife/making the decision).  It’s hilly here and ranch-style homes are uncommon.  Plus our home is sited on a hill with views of the Hudson River and the valley beyond it, so it sets the bar high for a replacement.

I talked to DW’s neuro about the safety of one-story living versus moving from a familiar environment, and her counsel was that a move could cause a further cognitive decline.   That for me has led me to put a kibbosh on a move at this time.

As DW’s AD progresses, she will at some point not be able to manage the stairs.  I will sacrifice the dining room to become her bedroom when that becomes necessary.  But we have wonderful aides that I wouldn’t change for the world, and will figure out how to manage her care from this house, for the foreseeable future.

Just one person’s take on this issue—your mileage may vary.