The 40/70 rule: Prepare for the time an elderly parent needs extra care
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. Dealing with his father's death last year was hard enough for Rick King. But soon after that came another difficult situation.
King's mother, Betty, who was living by herself, fell and broke her hip in her house on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
King was living in Columbia, S.C., and frequently commuting to the Hilton Head Plantation home during her recovery. But King was concerned about his 80-year-old mother living alone while he was nearly three hours away.
Dick and Betty King had lived in their home for 16 years, becoming ingrained in the community. But King knew some changes had to be made. He had to broach the topic of where she planned to live.
There comes a time when children need to take on the role of a parent sometimes. It's the time when your elderly mother starts forgetting the names of relatives. The time when your 77-year-old father has difficulty reading the newspaper yet denies he's losing his eyesight.
How do you address such touchy subjects?
Home Instead Senior Care, a national home care service with a location on Hilton Head, S.C., has started the 40-70 Rule campaign. The rule states that when a child turns 40 or when a parent turns 70, some of those potentially sticky situations should be met head on. Even if Alzheimer's isn't currently an issue or even if driving at night hasn't posed a problem, the best way is to discuss those issues before they manifest.
"When you're in the thrust of it, it becomes very emotional," said Jan Geraghty, Home Instead community service representative. "We're saying, let's start to broach these topics earlier."
Research by Home Instead Senior Care states that one-third of children say the are too intimidated to talk to their parents about difficult subjects, she said.
"We will always be our parents' children, but some have not reached a level where they're peers," said local Home Instead franchise owner Rachel Carson.
The No. 1 fear of seniors isn't death, but a loss of independence, said Geraghty. So addressing topics that could take away a parent's sense of freedom can make the situation all the more intimidating.
In King's case, he approached the conversation by asking what his mother wanted to do, rather than trying to impose what he thought might be right.
Once he asked, King found out that his mother and father actually did talk about moving closer to King and his family in Columbia.
Now, King has helped his mother sell the house on Hilton Head. Betty plans to move to a patio home 10 miles away from King in Columbia. The process has been difficult, but now his mother is excited to be trying something new, he said.
"It surprised me that it wasn't that difficult to talk once we did it," he said.
King is thankful he ended up confronting the issues before the situation got worse. It took cooperation and openness on both sides. And now a worrisome time in their lives is a bit less so.