Plumbing Panic

Fixed income or not, life has a tendency to throw a wrench in an otherwise calm situation. But when life throws a sledgehammer into an already slightly chaotic dilemma, it can create quite the catastrophe. And well… currently, life has thrown a sledgehammer into an old leaky pipe, and now the walls are bursting at the seams.

Okay… well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration since the walls are still intact. But the wall is currently weeping right along with me, all over the wood floor in my parent’s guest room in their house.

“About five thousand dollars,” he said. “Unless of course your foundation is compromised, then you’re looking to spend quite a bit more, but that’s just worst-case scenario.”

I must have looked at the plumber like I spoke not a word of English, and at the time I don’t think I really did comprehend anything other than “cha ching! Cha Ching!  CHA CHING!”

Now, my dad has always been a tightwad to put it mildly, or a downright cheapskate if I want to be brutally honest. So, the fact that he ever invested his hard-earned money into something that was as unpredictable as the stock market surprised me. But thankfully he did, and now instead of fighting over funding life’s sledgehammer, we were only left to argue with him about the timeframe of the repairs, urging him not to piecemeal the entire job in hopes of finding the elusive sale on drywall or Pergo to save a few bucks.

Although I think it would be better for them not to live amongst constant construction for the sake of their sanity, the real problem lies in the fact that the only shower that my dad can use in the house is in the downstairs bathroom… which so happens to share the wall to the guest room, and was currently the culprit for the catastrophe at hand. So, piecemealing the job was not an option, because dad needed to shower, and with his inability to safely climb the stairs to any other bathroom, the job needed to be done now.

Life’s sledgehammer got me thinking. As home owners, things are bound to break. That’s just a fact of life; and hopefully when they do, we have the means to afford the repairs. But what happens when an elderly couple, with no mortgage, realizes that the house they have deemed their forever home, may no longer be ideal?

Thankfully, when dad no longer could make it up the stairs, the downstairs bathroom served as an easy solution. As long as he still had the ability to adhere to daily hygiene, then there really was no cause for concern. But what about an elderly couple who have made a forever home with a showerless downstairs bathroom? Or a couple that doesn’t have a shower that’s suited for their needs any longer?

Ideally at that age, one has a home with a mortgage that’s paid for, and are only left with praying that nothing catastrophic happens to it while they’re still around to live in it. If the situation would have been different with my parents, and they owned a home that didn’t transition well with their declining abilities, I wouldn’t advise them to purchase a new home seeing as their life would expire most certainly before the life of their mortgage. But I also wouldn’t recommend that they both move into an assisted living home or retirement community, since I don’t think they are quite ready to relinquish the privacy and tranquility of their own home.

I guess the obvious fix would have been to install a chair lift for the stairs, but those things can get rather pricy as well. Or when the day comes that they can no longer quite lift their legs over a bathtub ledge, and will require the need for a walk-in, we will have to face that financial obstacle. All of these what-ifs for continuing life as a senior can start getting quite pricey, and how do you know exactly how many what-ifs to plan for financially?

Furthermore, knowing how to plan for elder care when reaching that golden age now seemed like a sudden emergency to me. Having spent some time touring facilities with my parents, I found that the price of these places can reach three to four times what my mortgage payment is per month, and that’s just basic room and board rate. So, I’m left with how to fund these costs without diminishing the legacy they’ve built their entire lives. I mean, yes, they’ve wisely invested money throughout the years, and can reap the rewards of it now, but eventually that money will run dry. Since my mom is still of sound mind and ability and my dad is of sound mind, although questionable at times; we’ve discussed enlisting the help of an attorney when the time comes to establish a Trust to protect their assets, still leaving them with the ability to access financial help if need be.

Life doesn’t hand you instructions with how to handle every situation and it’s important to always be well educated on the options you have. But planning ahead, seems to me at least, to be the best way to handle life’s wrenches, especially if they do indeed threaten to turn into life’s big sledgehammers.