Maintaining Elder Independence Without Burdening Families

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As we age, what does staying independent look like? Here is a tale of two families who were alike in many ways, including political and religious beliefs, income, and net worth. But they were drastically different in how they approached aging.

The first family had a culture of self-reliance. As they aged, the parents took great pride in maintaining their independence. To their children’s frustration, even medical emergencies were often kept secret from the family.

When managing a house became difficult, they sold their home and moved to an independent-living community. Needing more help a few years later, they moved into an assisted-living facility. Their children only learned of these moves after the fact.

Only one of their children lived in the same city. Gradually, he became their financial and health advocate. The around-the-clock availability of assisted-living services like housekeeping, meals, transportation, medication management, and medical care made his job relatively easy. He was able to collaborate with the staff, nurses, and doctors to make sure his parents were cared for and supported. Spending the few hours a week this required was manageable and didn’t interfere greatly with his job or family activities.