My brother has early dementia as well as some physical problems. He’s only 64. (Scary, right?) The issues with his body are all about mobility rather than, say, a heart problem, so he will probably live a long time. My brother has no money.
There’s an inheritance coming from our uncle, who has offered help. Any money he gives my brother will be subtracted from my brother’s share of the estate down the road. My brother’s daughters are trying to figure out what to do. Are renovations needed to make his home easier to navigate? How much should they invest?
My nieces love their dad and are absolutely committed to putting his needs first. But not everyone has so much integrity. After all, whatever is left of the inheritance when my brother dies, goes to the next generation.
This points to a conundrum that can come up during aging-in-place projects. Often, the children of the homeowner are involved in remodeling decisions, and may not always want what’s in Mom’s best interest.
I was talking with a Dallas remodeler not long ago who mentioned a client where this was the case. The homeowner—who was 80—wanted the step down into her laundry room eliminated. Accessing the area was still doable for her, but she was nervous about a fall. When her kids heard the price, they talked her out of it. It was too much to spend on something that wouldn’t add value to the home, they said, and after all, there was a perfectly good grab bar she could use.
Listening carefully to the problem will help you suggest a number of solutions that may work for everyone.
“I felt that they were trying to preserve their inheritance,” the remodeler told me. Although this situation doesn’t often arise, it’s still good to have a plan in place to deal with adult children that you suspect are putting their own interests first. Here are some ideas:
Be Informed: Forty-six percent of falls occur in the home, and 32% result in hospital admissions, according to the World Health Organization. Having some facts at your fingertips about the dangers of trip hazards will give you authority and help show that you’re not trying to sell an unnecessary modification to a vulnerable homeowner.
Become Certified: The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program from NAHB teaches skills for handling these types of issues. The CAPS program provides technical education as well as business management and customer service skills.
Highlight the Advantages: For many people, aging-in-place brings up depressing institutional images. Not only is this false, but often the modifications can add value to the home. Speak about the ROI, not just the direct benefits to the homeowner.
Listen and Ask Questions. So often, remodelers will begin by saying, “What do you want done here?” rather than “What’s not working about your home?” These salespeople never learn the client’s real issue, and often waste their efforts. Listening carefully to the problem will help you suggest a number of solutions that may work for everyone.