Most seniors--as high as 90%-- would rather age in place than move into an assisted living facility or a nursing home. They often lean on their adult children for support, even when those children live far away. Fortunately, there are an estimated 7 million adult children willing to give long-distance care to their parents. But when they consider long-distance caregiving tips, they may not realize that the house is often neglected.
As aging parents’ health and abilities decline, they often fall behind on day-to-day house maintenance. When that happens, the house can become unsafe for its occupants, and the valuable asset that many parents want to pass on to their families can lose significant value. Long-distance caregiving tips should focus not just on health, but also the home.
The High Cost of Deferred Maintenance
Beyond creating an expensive—and potentially dangerous—situation, deferred maintenance can also erode a significant portion of the homeowner’s net worth. Seniors aged 75 and up have nearly 80 percent of their total net worth tied up in their home equity.
If homeowners need to tap into that equity to supplement their income but the house has fallen into disrepair, they could come up short when they need money the most. And if they consider the house their legacy, beneficiaries could end up inheriting more headaches than wealth.
What Could Go Wrong? Just About Everything
The myriad details required to maintain a property run from the mundane (changing filters and lightbulbs) to the monumental (replacing a roof after a storm). In the best-case scenario, adult children or other relatives living nearby can help out around the house, stopping by to check on things and keeping all of the systems in working order.
Without regular monitoring, small issues, such as a leak in an upstairs bathroom, can go unnoticed for months, leading to catastrophic property damage. Floor joists could rot, a downstairs ceiling could collapse, and mold could take root in external or weight-bearing walls.
Long-Distance Caregiving Tips
If you’re helping elderly parents age in place, here are three long-distance caregiving tips steps you can take to help protect your parents, and your legacy.
1. Get an inspection.
The next time you visit, explain to your parents that you want to help them stay in their house for as long as possible, and then hire a professional inspector to go through the property the same way they would if you were buying it. That will give you and your parents a baseline for what needs to be done now and a head’s up on potential future problems, such as an aging roof or heating system.
2. Consider hiring a property manager.
If you were a long-distance landlord you’d have someone on retainer to check on your property regularly, and to be available to your tenants if something breaks. Setting up a similar resource for your parents would give you both peace of mind.
3. Get to know your parent’s service providers.
If you don’t need a full-time property manager, it’s still a good idea to meet with the regular service people that your parents use—the plumber, the landscaper, the maintenance person. Letting them know you’ll help monitor the house from afar will help ensure quality service, and you’ll have someone you trust checking in on them now and again. Make sure they have your number so they can call you if they see things starting to slip.