Written by Sean Cooper
Wednesday, July 24th, 2019
Four years ago my father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and it changed his life forever. Simple things like going to the corner store are no longer easy for him. He also has spinal issues, making his situation even worse. Some days he's confined to a wheelchair.
My dad lives in a two story house with the bedrooms upstairs. The house is sometimes too much for him to handle due to his mobility issues. Despite all this, my father refuses to downsize.
Downsizing Isn't An Easy Decision
He has his reasons. He likes his house and the neighbourhood he lives in, and doesn't want to go through the hassle and expense of moving (I estimate it would cost between $1,000 and $1,500 to hire movers, not to mention the other closing costs of moving). He sees it as losing his freedom. My sister also still lives with him, so if he were to find a new place, he'd need an extra bedroom for her.
There are a lot of personal and financial considerations to consider from my dad's and my family's perspective. Let's take a look at the major ones.
One of the main reasons the family wants my dad to downsize is because the current house just isn't working for him. My father's Parkinson's disease coupled with his spinal stenosis means walking up the stairs is no longer easy. Some days he's perfectly fine walking up the stairs, other days he can barely get up to make coffee.
My dad likes to sleep in the basement. The problem is there isn't a bathroom down there. To make things easier for him, we turned the dining room into a makeshift bedroom so he could sleep on the main floor.
Getting the house reconfigured just isn't an option. Although it's technically possible, it'd be very costly. There simply isn't enough room for a bathtub on the main floor. The bathroom would have to be totally reconfigured. Walls and plumbing would need to be moved. It would be a major renovation. We've received quotes from contractors at over $50,000. My dad doesn't want to spend that amount, so he continues to crawl upstairs when he needs a bath. We've also received quotes on installing an elevator in the house, but due to the house's age and configuration, it would also cost about $50,000 to install.
A condo or bungalow would be a much better option, but my father is adamant that he doesn't want to move.
Being Close to Family and Friends
One of the main reasons my father doesn't want to downsize is that he enjoys being close to family and friends. If he were to downsize, there aren't a lot of options in the neighbourhood, which doesn't have a lot of bungalows or condos.
Due to the lack of supply of bungalows and condos, they tend to sell for more, meaning my dad wouldn't save much money by downsizing. He'd likely end up spending $800,000 or $900,000 on a bungalow or $600,000 or $700,000 on a condo in Toronto. His house also isn't quite in saleable condition, and would need a fair bit of work before going on the market. He'd also have a lot of stuff to sell and donate before moving to a smaller place.
Supporting my Father's Decision of Aging at Home
The best thing the family can do is be there for my father emotionally and financially and support his decision not to downsize. We do that by taking turns taking care of him. This helps save money on senior care by not having to hire a nurse.
We can also help around the house with home renovations and hire contractors for bigger jobs.
The next few years aren't going to be easy, but we plan to stick together as a family and be there when my dad needs us most. Despite his challenges in the house, we think we can make it work. We may reassess this decision in the future, but for now we'll make the best we can of the current situation.