Facing Adversity In Early Retirement

Facing Adversity in Early Retirement

This post is a little darker than usual. I’m an upbeat guy and I tend to write positive uplifting blog posts. For example, I recently asked Can You Become A Millionaire? The answer is – of course, you can. You just need to have a positive mindset and keep working to get there. However, life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Adversity is inevitable. I’ve been extremely lucky and had a smooth early retirement so far. Life has been amazing since I retired from my engineering career 9 years ago. Unfortunately, all good streaks must end. Today, I’ll share my big adversity in early retirement. This feels like airing dirty laundry, but I’m obligated to share the bad as well as the good in my life. Early retirement isn’t 100% perfect all the time like many FIRE influencers would like you to believe.

*This post was originally written in 2018. Updated 2021.

Everyone has a plan until…

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Mike Tyson

I’ve always liked this quote from Mike Tyson. Everyone has a plan until something goes wrong, as most plans will. Unforeseen circumstances and random factors in life will get in the way. (For example, Covid…) You can’t predict everything and it won’t always work out in your favor. When you get punched in the mouth, you’ll have to make some adjustments. You can’t stick with the same plan rigidly when something goes wrong because it won’t work.

Anyway, here is my first encounter with a big problem after early retirement. In 2018, my mom started her struggle with dementia. (She lived with us at the time.) My mom had some problems in previous years, but it wasn’t too bad. She could do almost everything herself and only needed help occasionally. The neurologist diagnosed her with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) in 2017. MCI is the stage between normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. Unfortunately, her condition worsened considerably over the last few years. Now, she needs help with almost everything. This was a huge problem in 2018 because she lived with us.

Dementia is a big problem

Her problems started in July 2018 after we came back from our CA road trip. My mom stayed with my brother’s family over the summer and I drove down to bring her back to Portland. The scenic road trip back took 3 days and she got more and more confused as the drive went on. When we got back to Portland, she was hearing voices and couldn’t think clearly. She occasionally stayed up all night because she thought there were people in our home, bugs going in her ears, or some other hallucination. It was a difficult time for us. I took her to various doctors and they tried different medications with varying degrees of success. We had to move RB40Jr into our bedroom because she kept bothering him at night. They shared a bedroom previously and didn’t have any problems before the hallucination started. (Quetiapine helped with the hallucination, but it took a long time to get the right diagnostic and prescription.)

The big problem was long-term care. My mom started to lose her English fluency. It’s part of dementia. From what I understand, they revert to their first language as the disease progress. My mom occasionally talked to RB40Jr and Mrs. RB40 in Thai. They couldn’t speak Thai and didn’t know to respond when this happened. Down the road, we’ll need help and it’ll be near impossible to hire a caretaker who speaks Thai. A long-term care facility probably wouldn’t work if they can’t communicate. At first, we tried to figure out a solution where she can continue to live in the US, but it just doesn’t work. By the end of 2018, we decided to move her to Thailand where she has families and people can understand her. When I retired from my full-time career, I didn’t factor my parent’s health into the equation. I had to make some adjustments so she can get the help she needed. Let’s take a quick look at my early retirement plan.

Original early retirement plan

My original early retirement plan is relatively simple.

  • I retired in 2012 to become a SAHD/blogger.
  • Mrs. RB40 liked her job and plan to work until she’s in her 50s.
  • My mom stayed with us half of the year and with my brothers when it’s cold and rainy in Portland.
  • We planned to live in Portland until RB40Jr finishes high school. Once he goes to college, we’ll sell everything and go live in Asia part-time for 3 to 4 years.
  • You can read more about our early retirement withdrawal strategy. Finance wasn’t a big concern because we had passive income, online income, and my wife’s income.

Minor change to the early retirement plan

By 2021, the plan has changed a bit. Mrs. RB40 wants more time for herself. She still wants to work, but her retirement target date moved up. She has one more year syndrome and continues to work.

  • RB40Jr started going to school and my life became much easier. I had a routine and I could work on my blog regularly.
  • Mrs. RB40 now plans to retire in 2022. She wants more time to do her own thing, but she likes working too. Hopefully, she’ll stick to this date.
  • At the end of 2018, my mom moved to Thailand and my dad took care of her. Her dementia deteriorated and by 2021, she needs a lot of help with everything. For now, she can still live at home, but I don’t know for how long.
  • I try to visit for at least 4 weeks every year. In 2020, I didn’t go because of Covid.

First major adversity

In 2018, I faced my biggest adversity in early retirement so far and it was a big one. I tried to learn as much as I can about dementia. The problem with dementia is that you don’t get better. It’ll only worsen as you age. With the language problem in mind, we needed to make some big changes to accommodate my mom. We moved my mom to Thailand. My dad can take care of her at first and hire caretakers later. It’s much more affordable there.

It’s been 3 years since we moved my mom to Thailand. It was a good decision because she was able to spend time with friends and families while she was relatively healthy. By 2021, she can’t travel much anymore. In Portland, she doesn’t have any friends. Her condition worsens considerably, though. She became much frailer in just 2 and a half years. Now, she needs help with almost everything. If we didn’t move her to Thailand in 2018, we’d have to put her in a nursing home in Portland. I wouldn’t have been able to take care of her and my son at the same time. She needs constant supervision or she’d wander off. Also, life in a nursing home in Oregon would have been terrible during the COVID pandemic. I wouldn’t have been able to visit and who knows what else could have happened. (There were 0 new Covid cases in Chiang Mai while I was there. Life was pretty close to normal.)

Related topic: Retirement Options for Foreigners in Thailand. I visited a retirement resort in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago.

Dementia progression

My mom’s dementia continues to worsen as expected. Here is the summary.

2018 – My mom had hallucinations and couldn’t sleep well. I moved her to Thailand. She still functioned pretty well and my dad took care of her.

2019 – I visited for 4 weeks. Her condition declined, but my dad could handle it. She was mostly lucid and could still do most things by herself – take a shower, eat, go to the bathroom, etc… She would wander off if left unsupervised. She couldn’t find her way home at that point.

2020 – I didn’t visit due to COVID. My mom had a few health events that year. She wandered off and had a very bad fall and maybe a small stroke. After that, her physical condition got a lot worse. Her left side was very weak. She can’t follow instructions very well.

2021 – I braved the quarantine and visited for 6 weeks. I can see that it’s been very stressful for my dad. He helps her with everything and it’s wearing him down. I suggested that he hire a caretaker to help in the afternoon after I leave. That will give him a few hours a day to decompress. At this point, she can’t do much. She needs help with getting dressed, showering, eating, going to the bathroom, putting on shoes, and pretty much everything else. We’ll try to keep her living at home as long as we can. From what I hear, the condition worsens extremely quickly once you go into a dementia care facility.

2022 – I hope to spend a year in Thailand and travel around SE Asia. My parent would love to have me around more. I’m not sure we could pull it off, though. Stay tuned to see if we can pull it off.

Uncertainties – Mrs. RB40 parents are also getting older. They probably will need help at some point as well. They live in Southern California. My dad lives in Thailand. He’s going strong and doesn’t need help yet. However, he is 75 so I don’t know how long we can depend on him to take care of my mom. This is the primary reason why I want to spend more time in Thailand.

Money – Finances aren’t the biggest consideration for us. Although, it will be much more affordable to care for a dementia patient in Thailand than in the US. It costs less than $2,000/month for a dementia facility.  Hiring a caretaker to help out at home is much less expensive than that. My mom is 72 years old and doesn’t have any retirement savings. The cost of her care will be divided 3 ways between my brothers and me. Collectively, we send them $1,500/month and can increase it as needed.

Be flexible

My mom’s dementia problem really was unexpected. Her family didn’t have any history of this disease. She seems healthy physically and doesn’t have any cardiovascular problems. It was a big surprise for us. Actually, it’s fortunate that I’m already retired so I can take care of her in 2017 and 2018. I took her to see social workers, doctors, and many specialists. If I was working full-time, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

Adversity is part of life. All of us will face it someday. The important thing is to keep a positive attitude, learn from it, be flexible, and grow. Dementia is a huge problem, but at least I’m learning about it in my 40s. Now I know the typical American lifestyle doesn’t deter the development of dementia. We need to eat much healthier, exercise more, challenge our brain, and stay socially engaged as we age. I’ll work hard to prevent dementia because you can’t wait until you get it. It’s a progressive disease that has no cure and no treatment yet. I don’t want to get dementia when I’m 70. That’s just 22 years away. I want more time than that.

Alright, thanks for listening. This is one good thing about having a blog. I can write about my adversity rather than talking to a psychologist about it. We’ll try to stay positive and adjust our plan to make the best of it. I wouldn’t mind living in Thailand for a few years. It’ll be an adventure. Well, a few years might be too much. I’ll shoot for at least one year.

Have you faced adversity lately? DO you have any tips for when things don’t work out as planned?

Starting a blog is a great way to save money on your therapy bill, build your brand, and generate some extra income. Check out my tutorial if you’re thinking about blogging – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should 

Photo by Charlotte Karlsen

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.
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141 thoughts on “Facing Adversity In Early Retirement”

  1. I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s dementia.

    That’s a good quote about plans. I also like the 2:

    One by Eisenhower around WWII: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”

    Then of course the origin of the title for the book Of Mice and Men: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

    I would love to white knuckle it through corporate until 65 or more, but I keep hearing about burnout like your wife along with my parents. Hence, why I started blogging recently as an alternative route. Generally , I’m not sure we as humans are suited to staring at a screen and sending emails 9-5 24/7. I acknowledge the privilege associated with the ability to WFH during a pandemic.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s mental decline. I highly recommend The End of Alzheimer’s by Dale Bredesen. There’s a lot of good information there and a plan to address the causes of mental decline in Alzheimer’s if this is what your mom has.

  3. I came to this post via the happiness curve one. Just wanted to say I love the way you coped with adversity here by making a plan – and I could also see how the way you’ve lived your life enabled a degree of freedom and flexibility in making that plan (such as earlier retirement for your wife, moving to Thailand for a year). Inspiring. Wishing you the best as you work through this difficult time.

  4. So sorry to hear about your mom’s declining health and the challenges your family is facing with dementia, Joe. You are wise to be educating yourself about dementia and exploring options earlier than later. Your plan for moving your mom to Thailand sounds like a good one.

    Lots of food for thought from other readers. So many jewels in the comments! I’m always impressed by the wonderful support of this community. Another excellent resource is dementia expert Teepa Snow – https://www.youtube.com/user/teepasnow/videos

    I agree with many of those who have shared their suggestions for finding additional Thai speakers within your community (even though it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack!), and highlighting the importance of taking care of yourself as your mom’s caregiver (sounds like you’re on top of this).

    I’m a caregiver, too, and constantly struggle to take better care of myself. My husband had a ruptured brain aneurysm which dramatically impacted his memory. He still has terrible short-term memory loss after 5 years. Your writing really struck a chord with me –

    “The important thing is to keep a positive attitude, learn from it, and grow. . . Now we know the typical American lifestyle is conducive to the development of dementia.”

    We’ve always maintained a positive attitude and have moved forward the best we can. I realize that I’m at greater risk for health problems due to being a caregiver, and my husband is at greater risk for dementia due to having already had a brain injury. Your post is an important reminder for me to make sure I take better care of myself and my husband in the areas you mentioned: diet, exercise, brain stimulation, social connection (and I’d add getting enough sleep – my downfall!).

    Wishing you the best as you navigate this challenge!

  5. I found your website via the MMM comments section of an article. I’m excited to dive right into your blog. So sorry to hear about your mom’s situation. My parent’s are in their mid-to-late 40s, and they have $0 in retirement savings. Luckily, my brother and I have already agreed to help pay for their retirement once that day comes. I assume your wife is supportive. That is such a blessing. I wish you and your family the best.

  6. Unfortunately, sure can relate to what you’re going through. My mom also has dementia and needs help with all personal care and other ADL’s. English is not her native language, and, just like your mom, she has totally reverted to her native language. Caregiver services get complicated because, where we live, there are hardly any people from her ethnic background who speak the language. Any type of placement in a facility would also be complicated by the language issue, and, just like you, in our culture, we take care of our parents. Our parents have sacrificed a great deal for us, and so we feel we need to take care of our mom. Have you thought of importing a caregiver from Thailand? Otherwise, I think your plan to move her to Thailand is a good one. Make the plane ride while she can still travel. We have been using a photoneurobiomodulation device (vielight) on my mom for the past 9 months. Can’t say that I have seen any improvement in her, but also no further deterioration. So is it helping, can’t say, but, other than being expensive, the device is harmless (and they do have a six month guarantee during which you can get 80% of your money back). Btw, I have no stake in this product. Ran across it reading an AARP magazine that stated preliminary studies showed it helped dementia patients. When you’re desperate, you’re willing to give anything a try! I hope they find a cure for dementia/alzheimers soon. It’s a heartbreaking disease. The best to your and your family. Love your blog!

  7. Dementia care everywhere is a big mess, it’s just way more expensive here in the US. My MIL has lots of money, but we have no way of knowing how long will she need it. We are afraid of turning on the firehose too early, so she lives with us. Therefore, money, alas, is still not a panacea.

    Thailand, especially because of the language factor, is likely to be an improvement. It will suck to have her so far away, but there will be comfort for your mom in the form of easier communication. She is also likely to remember her siblings longer than her children, simply because she has known them longer.

    As to lying, you may have to utilize it when you leave Thailand. Don’t tell her you’re leaving, if you can possibly avoid it. If she notices suitcases (we sneak ours out through the garage when we have to go away), say you’ll be back the day after tomorrow. Later, if she asks again when you’re coming back, use a similarly short time frame. More than that simply causes them too much stress. You also want to might try Skype. She probably won’t realize how far away you are. None of this is easy, it just never is.

    This is a horrible disease. I’m glad you’re moving up your time frame.

  8. Oh, boy. I heard about this over on the MMM Forums, so I came to offer help.

    My MIL lives with us and has full-blown dementia. Things that have helped:
    -Seroquel (Quetiapine). She takes a tiny dose, but it takes the edge off her anger. Much less hitting, biting, and anxiety. She still doesn’t like me, because she sees me as usurping her role as matriarch. Sucks, but at least we know which one of us can keep her safe.

    – Next is strategic lying. Yes, you heard me. Don’t answer questions directly, answer them in a way that causes her the least pain. Don’t say you’re going to the doctor if that stresses her out, say you’re going for a ride. Say the appointment is for you, and then bring her in with you. It’s difficult, but the aim is to avoid upsetting her. It works.

    – A lot of the care my MIL needs is akin to babysitting, so I hire a babysitter occasionally. With that in mind, could you hire a Thai au pair? Surely someone in the family knows someone young who would be up for the task?

    Next, I agree that the best option is to go to Thailand now. You’re a smart guy, you could easily homeschool RB40Jr. for a semester or more. He will be fine, and the younger he learns the language, the better his accent and understanding will be.

    Go. This is one of the reasons you worked and saved so hard. You were prepared when life handed you a curveball. It sounds like your mom is in a steep descent, which is both sad and hopeful. Her journey will end and your lives will go on. All the best to you and your family.

    • Thank you for your input.
      I haven’t heard of Seroquel. My mom isn’t violent so I don’t think we’re at that point yet. The only time she threw/hit things is when she’s sleepwalking. She stops when I wake her up.

      Lying is okay with me. We haven’t had to do much yet. I just don’t tell her much ahead of time.
      I already got tickets for December. We’ll see if it works better in Thailand. Dementia care in Oregon is a big mess.

  9. Hi Joe,
    I believe my mom is in early stages of paranoia. She’s becoming very paranoid with everyone stealing from her. She lives in a subsidized housing with other seniors in San Jose near my brother but she gets very paranoid about her roommates stealing from her and she’s needing more help.
    I am going to have her visit me in Southern California and maybe have her stay with me longer as she slowly transitions to living with me. My worry is that when she lived with my brother she got in a huge fight with his wife and now believes that she’s stolen her identity and continues to ruin her life from afar. This seems to be a pattern with everyone that she has a disagreement with.
    I would like to take her to a doctor when she visits but I don’t know how I can do this without letting her know I want the doctor to check for Dementia. What kind of doctor do I even take her to and how do I tell them not to tell my mom What I suspect?
    I am Asian too and my mom does not have too much savings for long term care. Sorry for long post but I can use the advice.

    • Sorry to hear that. It sounds like dementia.
      You can take her to your regular primary care physician. Your regular doctor should know how to screen for dementia. You can call your doctor and ask for advice about what to tell your mom when you bring her in.
      Maybe just tell her it’s the regular annual physical check-up. Also, ask your PCP to recommend a good geriatric doctor. The geriatric doctor can give you more info about where to get help, etc…
      My doctor sees our whole family.
      Best wishes, -Joe.

  10. Joe, I’m sorry to hear about your mother, but thanks for being open, honest, and transparent about it. I think what you are doing helps as it brings more visibility to the disease. I wish nothing but the best for you and hope things do get better. With that said, it sounds that even though your plans didn’t survive first contact, you have a pretty good plan B in your back pocket. Best wishes to you and your family!

  11. In your situation, it seems like you have a reasonable plan to take care of your mother. Many others, including people whose parents are US citizens, seem to feel the same – it is the children’s responsibility to pay. Like Suze Orman’s recent podcast where she talks about $20-30K monthly nursing home bills that she paid. Why pay these expenses for parents who didn’t plan? Why is it the children’s duty to pay? Is this feudal/medieval Europe?

    My father, in his late 50s, makes $250K per year and spends $275K per year. He hardly has any retirement savings (maybe a few hundred thousand dollars). My mother, also in her late 50s and long divorced from my father, makes $150K per year and spends just as much. She has credit card and IRS debts dating to the 1990s, at least a hundred thousand dollars worth, and no retirement savings. Her stated goal is to die with a massive amount of unpaid debt. My parents never legally abandoned me or abused me, but generally never gave me anything of significant financial or emotional value either. I was raised and paid for by my grandparents. They are dead now and I took care of them in their final years of poor health, paid what I could, and settled all their debts.

    Now I make a lot of money as a physician (lower range of the top 1%). If I worked until the day I die, I could not fund the lifestyle, debts, retirement, and nursing homes for my parents if they were to need it. Why should I? Why should I even contribute a nickel to those spendthrifts? If I were forced to work to pay for my parents for the rest of my life, I’d rather be dead. Let the floods come take me, as Suze says. Does anyone else feel this way, or is it only me?

    • I guess it really depends on your situation. I’d probably do the same in your place. If they don’t plan for their own retirement/long-term care, then they’ll have to deal with the consequences.
      In my case, my parents sacrificed a lot to set us up. We’re in a good position in life because they helped us. My brothers and I feel obligated to help them.

  12. Hi Joe, I’m a new reader. I heard about your mom and it serves as a real example for those of us aiming for a FI lifestyle. Every moment is precious.

    Unfortunately, I am another person with a similar story. Dad was diagnosed at 69. It’s rattled my plans too; I changed jobs and got the house across the street from them in a rural mountain community to help, because resources are so few. I’m still working but took a pay cut and so much time off for every little bump in the road. You are very fortunate to already be FI. I work even harder to reach it to be in the same boat.

    I’m impressed you’re thinking of moving her back to Thailand! I agree with others to move her soon, as soon as makes sense. The change will be harder on her as time goes on. Right now, you’ll be able to tell her things to make it a positive – how much she’s needed back in Thailand, what a help she’ll be to the family etc. It preserves her dignity and is a gift to give her move purpose. You can repeat it as often as needed when she forgets, and the family there can too.

    My Dad lost his language as well. That part of the brain will make all language (eventually) difficult. Even her Thai, and even understanding language. The slower you speak, fewer words used, and visual cues added (gestures, waiting for eye contact) will help her so much. If speaking with her, break it up into little pieces. “Can you go to the bedroom…?” Wait for her to go. “Open the closet…” Wait. “And get your coat?” So many little tricks to help her succeed at things she wants to be able to do.

    While she’s with you, I might suggest to stay focused on things she can still do and let her do them! 🙂 Make a simple lunch with you, wipe the countertops, or water the plants. It helps so much to let her be of help where she can. It boosts the bright spots in her life, and helps her feel necessary. Where language and other things fail, her feelings will always remain. She’ll always know who is good to her and who loves her. If you ever need anything, ask. We’re your community.

    • Thank you for your input. That’s really helpful. We’ll try to move her to Thailand as soon as we can. The scheduling is difficult because our son is in school. Thanks for the tips about language. She needs people to speak slowly with English now. She can still have a conversation at normal speed when we speak Thai.
      She helps with prepping and cooking almost every day. Thanks!

  13. I know you mentioned feeding your mom a better diet to help, but have you specifically looked into the keto diet? The brain tends to work better on ketones as a fuel instead of glucose. It is considered a “cleaner” fuel. Any brain condition(cancer, migraines, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, epilepsy, general fogginess) is improved on the keto diet.

    • I’m doing intermittent fasting so I learned a bit about keto. It’s really hard for us to remove all carbs. We eat rice and other simpler carb in our culture. If I eliminate these completely, she would eat much less and lose weight. She doesn’t have much appetite already.

  14. Oh no. I’m so sorry to hear that your mom’s Dementia is getting worse. With the language problems, your plan to move her back to Thailand sounds like a logical solution. We had the same dementia situation with my grandma (on my Dad’s side). She stayed in China with his siblings and they were taking care of her, but eventually it got bad enough (she was getting violent and angry and throwing fits) they had to make a decision about a long term care facility. And as you said, Asians tend to take care of their parents at home. It’s not culturally accepted to put them in a facility. Eventually my uncle ended up hiring a home nurse to take care of her, which ended up being the best decision and helped her condition improve. My dad took on the cost but luckily by then I was in university and paying my own tuition so that gave him some financial relief.

    Hope your plan works out! Wishing you the best for you and your family!

    • The language problem is a big problem here in the US. Only a few people speak Thai in Portland. I guess we could try to find a foreign student to help out, but that still doesn’t solve the long term problem. How will she communicate when she needs to go into a long term care facility? Moving to Thailand seems like the best move for us. There are more facilities in Thailand now as people learn to deal with elder care. Sometimes, you just can’t do it all at home. Thanks for your support.

  15. So sorry to hear about your mom, Joe – I can only imagine how hard that is on you and your family. That is good that you don’t really have to worry so much about the money side of things and that your wife can move up her retirement date.

    I appreciate your honesty in this post. It’s good for others to realize that financial independence doesn’t solve all problems. You’re still a normal person dealing with problems and facing adversity just like anyone else.

    — Jim

    • Thanks for your support. You’re right. FIRE doesn’t solve everything. We all have problems. Like I tell my son when he’s whining about homework, there is no use complaining about it. You just have to stay positive and work your way through it.

  16. Hi. Sorry to hear about your mother. We have a similar issue regarding my mother-in-law. For what it is worth, I think your plan to move her to Thailand (and sooner, rather than later so she is less distressed by the journey) is the right thing to do. Lots of studies show the benefits of singing and reminiscing are helpful to dementia sufferers. It sounds like your monther will have that in abundance in Thailand. It will also make things easier for you and your family, which is also important. It’s a hard situation.
    All the best.

  17. I feel late to comment on this even though this was just this Monday, wasn’t it? It’s been a heck of a week.

    I’m sorry that things progressed so fast for you with your mom too – that’s what happened with mine. It set in when I was only 20-something and supporting them full time so Dad became her caretaker but he wasn’t good at it and she was always confused, forever sneaking out of the house, getting lost or blacking out, and not knowing how to come back home. We were really lucky that we had finally gotten the car keys away from her just before that happened, or at least in the very early stages because that could have been so much worse. I had no flexibility in changing what I was doing when I was barely making enough to pay their debts and all the household bills so my situation would only have been relevant with regard to suggestions for you if you weren’t already retired. Luckily we have such different situations that my experience is mostly irrelevant but I do think you’re making the right move taking her back to Thailand so she can be taken care of by people who will understand her when and if she reverts entirely to Thai. A simpler lifestyle than what you can find here in Oregon will be good for her.

    • Thanks for the support. 🙂 It has been an unpleasant surprise for us. I didn’t know much about dementia before, but I read that the brain compensates until it can’t anymore. Then you see a quick decline.
      It must have been really tough for you in your 20s. You made it through so kudos to that. We just need to stay strong and push through. Life goes on. Thank you!

  18. That’s a difficult situation, but it’s good to see that you have a plan. My mother developed Alzheimer’s at a relatively young age (much younger than your mother is now) and that was tough. Eventually she went into a carefully selected home where she could receive the care that she needed, and I’m sure that was the best for everybody, although I know it’s not typically the Asian way (I worked with a lot of people from India and they thought it very strange that we weren’t looking after my mother at home).

    It’s interesting that you find your blog is helpful in being an outlet for you to talk about it such issues. I also find the same with my blog, it helps me think things through by deciding to write about them. It’s a blog positive that I hadn’t expected.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. My relatives in Thailand don’t like the nursing home idea. It’s not traditional, but it’s the easiest way for everyone. At the later stage, dementia is really difficult for the family. I think the culture will change in the future as they have more dementia cases. There are more nursing homes opening up in Thailand now.
      Blogging is a great outlet. Everyone is so supportive.

  19. Hi Joe, I’m so sorry. I think I commented on a similar situation a few months back. My siblings still are offering little support to both my parents who are in assisted living with dementia-dad with broken hip, and I am their power of attorney, and I have a two year old. I have been taking time from work and as my parents are in a good spot financially, I suggested that if I need to take unpaid leave that my parents funds be used for this (which they would want). Also, I had to lease a car as they are at a one hour distance not easily accessible by public transit, and as my parents have a fully paid for car, I also suggested that I give back my lease, and use their car. Both siblings don’t want me to do this, and want me to sell the car. In the few visits my one sister has made, she makes trouble and puts her address as the contact with various services, even though I am the poa. I also had to force my way onto parents bank accounts even though I pay their bills, and had to for a time with my own money after returning from a long maternity leave.

    At the end of the day though, I think about what my parents would want, and that is to spend time with the family. I am still helping my parents facetime on my phone with my siblings, and organizing Christmas, though I can’t force their attendance. My two year old is a great joy to my parents, who accepts them as they are.

    I will be taking a day from work very soon to take care of myself. Husband is great, and he works very long hours. Enjoy your mom and, for my two cents, taking her to Thailand at Chrismas, going at march break, then again in the summer after school might work?

    Take good care and blessings to your family.

    • I’m sorry to hear that. It’s hard when siblings disagree.
      Dementia throws a big monkey wrench into any plan.
      Please take care of yourself. It’s a stressful situation. I’ll get a little time off when my brother comes to visit.
      Best wishes to your family as well.

  20. I am sorry to hear this, Joe. My grandpa has an early onset of dementia. While it hasn’t gotten bad yet, I am sure one day we will want to provide the care you are providing for your mom. It just shows that even when we try to account for everything, life throws us curveballs that we weren’t expecting. Wish your family the best and I am sure your mom is very thankful to have you as a son.

  21. Thank you for sharing your story. Your love for your mother is clear. I can appreciate that this is a difficult decision and you are thinking of what’s best for her. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  22. Hi Joe,
    I have been where you are headed. It’s hard making decisions for another adult even if it’s our parents. Looking back now I am so glad we made good decisions because now our parents are gone and I think it would be hard to think I “should have,” or ” could have.”
    I ran a small business out of my home so was able to care for my mother-in-law for 12 years. We had several steps along the way in regards to housing. She never lived with us but a couple blocks away in different levels of care.
    You might look at your real estate market at an all time high right now and sell at least one property by the end of this year. Taxes are much better for 2018 although I don’t know all your details.
    This stock market may turn at any time but solid cash from a rental at the high end of the market may be a real comfort and safety net for your family.
    Good luck with all you have to do, it’s challenging at times.
    I sleep well knowing we did the best we could.
    Your already thinking of great ideas!
    I enjoy your posts and my heart goes out to you on this one!

    • We’re working on consolidating our properties. It’ll probably be next year, though.
      I don’t think my mom can live by herself even with a caretaker. She hasn’t been independent in a long time.
      We’ll try to stay positive and do our best. Thanks for your input.

  23. Me again. This post really strikes home. Joe, do whatever it takes to take care of yourself first. Unplug. Get out into nature. Sit in silence and/or stillness. Read under a tree for an hour. Go walk around the neighborhood. Find some joy, somehow, someway.
    We will all be there someday. And we are all rooting for you.

  24. Hi Joe, very sorry to hear about your mom’s latest condition. It’s right: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Life is so unpredictable. Wish your mom, you and your family the best.

  25. Despite this wrinkle in the plan, you’ve already got a wonderful plan lined up, Joe. You’ve done a great job figuring out an intermediate path forward, that’s probably the best situation for your mom.

    I love the Asian tradition of caring for your elders at home. That’s how it should be, assuming the circumstances are within reason. Too often here in the states we’re quick to send mom and dad to the home.

    Again – nice job figuring out next steps despite the situation. As I learned when my grandmother went through Alzheimers, you simply have to roll with it and offer the best care you can even though the prognosis isn’t good.

  26. Wow Joe.

    So sorry you are going through this. It definitely has to be a very trying process. It sounds like you have a very feasible plan to take care of your mother and I am sure she would actually enjoy being in her native country as the dementia progresses because it is likely the recollections of the past that will stay with her the longest (like reverting back to her native tongue).

    This is another great example of how financial independence can allow you to meet this challenges better and allow you to adapt to unforseen circumstances. If you were living paycheck to paycheck this wrinkle in your life would have created a much harder situation to deal with emotionally and financially.

    Thanks for sharing a difficult period in your life. It is good to know that life happens and everything does not always go according to plan but you can still deal with it.

      • Joe,
        It dies not really mean nothing ask the government for help. There are just benefits elders are entitled to have! That is why you and I pay taxes. You also must remember that you might not be able to qualify for those benefits because you probably will have plenty of money! So, sometimes the benefits that our parents get is higher then having them as dependents in our taxes!

        • Thanks for your comment. My mom is not a citizen. She is a resident, but she doesn’t want to take the test. She’s afraid she won’t pass. I think Thailand is the ideal place for her. The language barrier is a big problem. She worked in the US, but doesn’t have enough credit to qualify for social security benefits. We’re going to see a geriatric doctor next week. Hopefully, we can get some good advice.

  27. Sorry that your mom is getting worse, and she’s so young. It sounds like a very difficult time.

    This is why I plan to FIRE soon, not to travel the world (well that too) but to be able to take care of ageing parents and young kids (e.g. sandwich generation).

    The positive thing is that you have a fantastic plan in place and you are being very dutiful and compassionate about the need for her have people around her/ caregivers speak Thai, and that she will be with her sibling.

    That’s very good that your siblings are working together and contributing together for the financial aspect of hiring a caregiver for your mom.

    • She is actually stable, but that’s not great news either. I was hoping she’d improve.
      The big question is what to do in the future. If we wait until things get worse to plan, then it might be too late. It might be impossible to move to Thailand if her condition deteriorates steeply.

  28. Wow, Joe. What a sobering post. So sorry you’re going through this. Thank god you got family who are just as caring as you are. And thank god you have options. Thailand strikes me as the best destination for your mom. She’ll get good care and she’ll be in familiar surroundings. We’re going through something similar with Mrs. Groovy’s aunt. Not fun.

  29. Dear Joe, I’m sorry to read about your Mom. I have been through it with my parents. My Mom passed in 2003, and my Dad in 2011, but my Dad lived until he was age 90. The day Dad called me and told me he needed something and I dropped everything and was on the road for an hour, only to walk in his house and find out he had no food in the house, only eating cookies and drinking coffee and was not taking his medications and was not bathing. I took him to the ER, and told the ER Doctor we were not abusing him, we just didn’t live close by. In one week he stopped taking his medications for his heart and kidney condition, stopped doing his grocery shopping, laundry, and driving. He was dehydrated, hungry and they got him on his medications and kept him in the hospital for a week to evaluate him. I came every day for a week as I stayed at his house and stayed all day at the hospital with him. It was only after four days did my sister show up after I called her. The Doctor called the Social Worker after a week, and we had a meeting with the Doctor who told us Dad could not be left at home anymore and we had to find an Assisted Living Facility. The cost of Assisted Care here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and my hometown in Wisconsin as well as here in Illinois where I live is very expensive, $4,000.00 a month and the food is terrible. My Dad hated it and hated being there. Dad kept asking me if he could live with me, but I could not take care of him 24/7, my house is old, and the doors could not accommodate a wheelchair. I didn’t have a bath and bedroom on one level for him. Dad’s house did, but he needed 24/7 care. He had to have someone give him his daily medications, do laundry, he could not cook and needed help with a bath. I took him to his Dr. and Dentist, etc. helping my sister out, who had 3 kids, but they were in college and she worked with his Doctors to help manage his medications, and pay his house bills to keep his house for him. We always hoped he would come home where he wanted to be. Lucky for us my Dad had a great pension and Social Security and savings to pay for the Assisted Care. After he fell and broke his hip in the bathroom in the middle of the night, we had him in the hospital and the hospital kicks the person out after a certain time, and, my sister working with a Social Worker from the hospital found a Facility close to her for him, as the Assited Living Place won’t take care of the person if they can’t manage some things on their own. She said she would do his laundry each week to save the $50.00 they wanted to charge for that service. My Dad died the same day my sister had him moved there, as she suddenly put him in Hospice as I was on the road in a snowstorm on my way to help her out for a week. I get there, and Dad is in a coma. Joe, from experience, it’s not fair your brothers can’t help, and I’d get your Mom to Thailand sooner than later. Dementia is a nightmare, I’m not a Nurse with training. Dad would yell at me and I’d cry all the way home. If other health issues crop up, which they will, fast, and if she falls at home, and breaks something, it will be even harder. Take her to Thailand as soon as you can if you have family there. Take care of yourself, Joe, as that is one thing I forgot to do. You forget who you are, and no one cares about you. Good luck with your decisions. Sincerely, Dianne

    • Dianne-thank you so much for sharing this. It is a help to us all. It just illustrates that after a certain age, we all must be ready for anything. The costs are shocking. Your advice is most helpful. It does feel like no one cares and where is the help for “you”.
      Maybe for Joe, he can stay in touch w/his brothers, come up with more ideas/plans if needed. This too shall pass. Thank you, again!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. That was a very difficult time for you. It sounds like you dad’s condition went downhill very quickly. My mom has been living with us so we could monitor her conditions. She has declined quite a bit and can’t live independently anymore. I’ll talk to my family more and try to come up with a better solution. Maybe we can move her over during Winter break. I’m just afraid that waiting 9 months might be too long. Mrs. RB40 will help take care of me. She’s very supportive. Thank you!

  30. I’m sorry to hear the progression is steady but my heart really lifted at your first mention of taking your mom back to Thailand. It makes so much sense for her to be in a comfortable environment with people who speak her language. Another thing about dementia, Joe, is that often the person’s long term memory is fairly good. And your mom’s long term memories are from Thailand, and it sounds like they are happy. So her spirits may really improve.

    We’d like to move my aunt, who has dementia, closer to where we relocated. But she gets such good care where she is now that we don’t want to rock the boat. I haven’t found any solution near us that is 50% as good. Like you, I have to think in terms of what is best for my aunt, even though I prefer for her to be near us.

    • Thanks for your support. I think going to Thailand is the best long-term move for us. Her long-term memory is pretty good at this time. There are not many dementia facilities in Thailand. The ones I found are geared more toward the luxurious end. I guess that’s fine because the cost is still affordable.

  31. Hi Joe, I’m sorry to hear about your Mom. I wanted to mention that low Vitamin B 12 and thyroid disease can both mimic Dementia. Chances are she’s been tested but just in case it doesn’t hurt to mention it. It could also not be the cause, but it could make symptoms worse if those are off. Im not a doctor, but have I both of those issues myself and have read a lot. Take care.

  32. Sorry to hear about your mother’s dementia worsening. Life really is so full of unexpected things, and often times we don’t expect it. 2 of my grandparents have both had major surgery within the past week, which is difficult for their old age. Luckily they have the means to take care of those expenses which I’m grateful for. I think your plan to help your mother is really smart and it’s always important to be flexible at all times during the process.

  33. While caring for an immediate family member losing cognition it was really tough for me as I had no siblings to share care taking.

    The hardest part for me was mentally since I watched an older family member go from normal responsive to no longer even recognizing me.

    I usually hid in the closet and cried despite being a grown adult.

    Fortunately an elder aunt assisted on the days I was at work.

    There’s nothing much else you can do besides your best since you don’t have professional or practical training in nursing or caretaking.

    Just be prepared this will be tough for everyone else in your family as much as it will be tough for you too.

    • Thanks for sharing. I’ve been stressed out too, but not at that point yet. I just hope she is stable for a while. I’ll try to stay positive and do my best. Her siblings are underestimating the problem. They’ll have a hard time when we go to Thailand.

  34. Sorry to hear the bad news Joe. Dementia / Alzheimer’s is so hard because the person is often gone long before they actually die. I do think the faster you can get to a stable, long-term sustainable environment for your mom, the better. Even a minor change to the environment of an advanced dementia patient can be a major shock and lead to a fast downward spiral. Good luck

    • You’re right about the environment change. I think part of the trigger for her was coming back to Portland. Any change in the environment is really hard on her. I’ll try to see if we can move her earlier.

  35. Hi Joe, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s condition. Dementia is a horrible disease. I don’t have direct experience with it. But I heard horrible stories from friends and neighbors on how dementia impacts everybody’s lives who surrounds it.

    I can totally relate as I’m from Thailand myself. You’re right that culturally Asian people take care of their elder at home. I have 2 sets of parents (mine and my husband’s) that we need to tackle at some point.

    Looks like you have a good plan. You’re always ahead of a game, Joe. Being FIRE is such a wonderful thing. It gives you options and flexibility. Your mom is so lucky to have a son like you.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and your life situation with us. I really appreciate it. Not many FIRE bloggers share their non-finance real life situation. I learn a lot from your blog in just a few months of becoming your reader. All the best.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I didn’t know you’re from Thailand. Are your parents in the US?
      FIRE really helped this situation. It would have been much more difficult if I was still working full time.

  36. So sorry you and your family are having to deal with this. Thailand sounds like the best long term solution. In the meantime are there Thai restaurants in Portland run by actual Thais? Asking there might find you either someone’s grandmother who would be happy to visit with your mother and speak Thai or a younger newcomer who would be happy to work off the books as a part time caregiver. Maybe they could help RB40Jr learn Thai.

  37. i lost my mom to dementia in 2017 and she was otherwise healthy when she entered the hospital. some things to be aware of: a power of attorney form in case she declines in health and cannot admit herself to nursing home care is something my mom didn’t have. she died in hospital care. is she a citizen or resident with or without a sponsor? she might be eligible for medicaid with low enough assets/income if she becomes not well enough to travel. i don’t think your family should go on the hook if she needs to stay in the u.s. these are crappy uncomfortable topics but sometimes necessary. ever think about an elder care expert to consult as to rights/responsibilities? best of luck going forward.

    • Thank you for your input. I just got the power of attorney last week.
      My mom has Medicaid, but I really hope she’ll be well enough to travel next year.
      We’re going to a geriatric doctor next week and I hope to get some good info from them. Thanks again.

  38. I’m a recently new reader of your blog and was interested when you’ve mentioned Thailand in the past. My dad moved from the UK to Thailand several years ago to be with his partner and his family. I’ve been really impressed by the way his partner’s Thai family have welcomed him into their village and culture, family comes first no matter what and the family takes caring for relatives very seriously and it is not seen as a burden. One of the reasons I’m working so hard towards FIRE is to be able to spend more time with my dad in Thailand, we’re going out there in January to visit the village and meet his partner’s family, I’m so excited to go out there and experience it all firsthand. My dad has no plans to return to the UK, he plans to live out the rest of his days and pass in Thailand that he’s happy to call home.

  39. So sorry to hear your mum is getting worse Joe – that’s a lot for you to deal with and you are coping admirably.

    It’s amazing and very fortunate that you are able to make changes to your future plans to accommodate these changes – and I’m sure you’ll make the most of them. I can see Jr RB40 really benefitting from spending some time in Thailand to learn Thai.

    Thinking of you – am I’m sure you’ll get through these difficult times.

  40. Joe,

    Sorry to hear about your mom. As others have mentioned, you already have a plan to manage it better, and its the best one possible. My family lives in India, and its tough when they’re not well – not easy to hop on a 20 hr flight at a moment’s notice. You’ve found the right balance between an economical solution but one that’s actually best for your mom. Thank you for sharing – these real-life stories are what make us voracious fans of your blog.

  41. Hi Joe, sooo sorry to hear about your mother. Heartbreaking. I work for a research facility that is working on finding triggers and new treatments for lots of diseases and this one is at the top of the list. Ran across this story today about new medical research results focused on a drug that is now in clinical use in China and Japan – fasudil. But it’s being used for other things. Thought you might find this interesting.

  42. This is one of your best articles yet, Joe. So true and real. Thanks for having the courage to share it.

    In a few months I’ll be 82 and I feel blessed in that I can still do everything I did at age 52 or 62. Still working seasonally. Still hiking, camping, kayaking, and biking all over the world.
    We all age differently. However, my wife is slowing down at age 79 and I have to slow down on our hikes and biking for her as she has problems with her knees. Our big question is should she have a knee replacement in the next year?

    Several of our friends are going through changes as well. A very close friend is going through early dementia and my wife’s brother and sister-in-law are going through the same thing. When we speak to them over the phone every few months, it gets worse as most everything is like, “Well you know. We went to…? You know…it’s up in the north country. And whatcha call it….is doing well (his son whose name he forgot). And … (you know) is doing well also. (His daughter). ” We called his son and now everyone agrees something has to be done in the near future. He’s retired from the military so he will be taken care of by the government. Others are not so fortunate. In truth, no one really wants to face it, particularly in the USA where “Memory Care” or “Retirement Centers: are so expensive, $4000 a month. We were fortunate with my wife’s parents, as all five of the children chipped in to buy their house so they could live in it forever and gave them extra money as needed ($800 a month) so that they were eligible for Medicaid in their last years at ages 91 and 95. That worked great. They each stayed in a Nursing Home about two years before they passed. We sold the house after their deaths for a slight profit.

    In reality, Thailand sounds like a good bet. More caring people (Thais), less expensive Memory Care centers than the USA, which would be paid for by the children. I think you have a good plan that will leave you with a clear conscience that you have done your best for your mother. Blessings!

    • Thank you for your comment. I think you’re really lucky to be healthy in your 80s. Some of the seniors in our building are very healthy too. It’s great to see. Great job with your wife’s parents too. That’s a good move if you can make it work.
      I haven’t investigated memory care facilities in the US much because of the language barrier. It would be really hard on my mom. Thailand is the best bet for her. She can communicate better and spend time with her siblings. Blessings to your family too. Thanks!

  43. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s dementia, Joe. Both of my grandmothers had dementia and it was really hard watching my parents go through that with them. Our plan at the moment likely involves retiring around when our second set of parents retires (the first set is already retired), which will give us some nice more time with them hopefully. We currently live much closer to one set. The other set is closer than Thailand, but still a decent plane ride away, so we are working on our life planning to see them more often as the years go on. That set of parents has more vacation time than we do, so I think them visiting us sometimes will help since it saves us the two days of travel time.

  44. Thank you for touching on this topic Joe, it is really rare for big time FIRE bloggers that talk about non finance / aging parental struggles. I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s condition, it’s certainly a punch in the mouth. I need to tell tell myself to stop planning, it rarely works out in my head.

    This post is especially important because it highlights the double hurt for immigrants kids. You got two aging parents to look after who are may not be prepared for much. My parents have a huge language barrier but they can’t go back to China either now that they’re no longer citizens. It’s scary, and not a good combo for FIRE. I’m helping my dad with social security stuff and medical care is so expensive too..argh. Can’t deal.

    • I think most FIRE bloggers are too young to deal with parents problems. We’re also more unique because we’re immigrants. Most parents probably have more savings than my parents. At least, there is a big population of Chinese speakers here. It’s tough. I’ve spent lots of time at the county senior services too.

  45. Joe, you Mom is very lucky to have you. You didn’t say her age, but it sounds like she is probably somewhat youngish for dementia based on your age. This could go on for quite a long time and your plans will likely have to keep getting revisited as you continue to get “punched in the face” unfortunately. I’m so sorry for your Mom and your family.

    What interests me about the traditions of your Asian culture is that you are willing to move your family and impact the younger people for the sake of the old. A difficult tradeoff that we all have to wrestle with. Last year we launched into a huge back-and-forth to San Jose as my husband’s mother was hospitalized and nearly died. Luckily she has recovered but we thought it was going in the direction you are describing.

    I often think about the story of the Eskimos putting their grandparents on a boat and pushing them out to sea. Harsh, heartless, unfathomable. Yet it makes me wonder how to balance the priorities of focusing on your son or focusing on your Mom. I believe your son will learn and grow from the lessons you show him.

    • She is 70 years old. From what I read this is a bit early, but still within range. We’re really lucky that we’re flexible. I don’t mind moving to Thailand for a while. I want my son to go to school here, but living in Thailand will be a great experience for him. Thanks for your comment and best wishes to your family.

  46. Joe, So sorry to hear about your Mom. Dementia is a horrible disease that took my Dad last year. He was already in his 80s and didn’t actually live with dementia but a few years so that’s the silver lining. In regards to his care, My Mom took care of Dad at home but she died suddenly in 2016 and i was left to care for my Dad without any siblings willing to help. Having said that, I tried to keep him in his home with 24 hour caregivers around the clock, that didn’t last very long. Dad began to notice Mom wasn’t around and there were days he wouldn’t even get out of bed or eat much. This is when i had to make the very tough decision to place him in a dementia facility. He lived there for one year before he passed. The facility cost $5, 200 a month plus about $1500 that i paid a personal caregiver to sit with him during the day and make sure that he ate his meals. Fortunately, my dad had a good nest egg to pay for this but had Dad lived longer with dementia it would have quickly diminished his savings. Dementia is a horrible disease that is extremely costly due to the need of care around the clock. If i can be of any help, just shoot me an email and best of luck to you.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Dementia is such a tough disease for the family.
      My mom isn’t at that point that, but I have to prepare mentally for that. It seems inevitable for dementia patients.
      I don’t think her siblings quite believe in sending her to a dementia facility. We’ll have to see how it goes.

  47. Sorry to hear your mom is going through dementia. Taking care of elderly parents is definitely something Asian and Mexican cultures share.

    Like you, my parents don’t have any retirement savings. Their retirement will be funded by my brother and I. It has taken a few years for me to come to terms with it. But I have learned to manage my anxiety by just planning for their care in our finances. Sometimes I wonder if our net worth goal ($2MM) will be enough, but in the end we will re-evaluate when we are in our late 30s.

    Honestly, you are very lucky you have prepared your family for early FI. This is what is giving you the flexibility to deal with your mom’s dementia.

    • The financial part hasn’t been too bad for us until this point. It doesn’t cost much to have my mom live with us. Healthcare is the tough part. It’ll be much more affordable in Thailand. They have public healthcare there. Although, that doesn’t cover long-term care.

  48. Joe, thanks for being so open with us. It’s a pretty classic Sandwich Generation dilemma, because you have Jr. and your mom to take care of. There’s some dementia in my family, too, and you are facing some tough times.

    I would really consider moving your mom out sooner than next summer. That’s about 8-9 months away, and there’s a lot that can happen in that time. She still sounds like she’s at a point where she can re-adjust to being in Thailand, which means that it’s time for her to go now, while she’ll still be comfortable in a new environment. If you leave it until later, she might be more disoriented from the move. Would it be possible for you, Mrs. RB40, and Jr. to move your mom over around winter break? Jr. would go back with Mrs. RB40 and you’d still be in Thailand for a few months to facilitate the transition.

    I know that you said there aren’t many Thai people in Portland, but I wonder if you could ask around anyway. The worst case scenario is that you don’t find anybody, and you’re exactly in the same position you are now, being the sole caretaker of your mother. If you ask and see if you can get a Thai caregiver to help out with your mother, you might find somebody.

    I also wonder why your brothers are letting you carry so much of the load. Is it because you’re the retired one? I know that you’re financially comfortable (thanks for your graphs), but she’s their mother, too. It seems that over time, they keep pushing more on you. There are real reasons for it, as you explained, including the walkability of your home in Portland vs. the non-walkability of where they are in San Jose. Her doctors are in Portland, and that’s why she spends 75% of the year in Portland instead of 50%. Even so, it’s reasonable for them to try to reach out and help more. You said that you are in a foul mood when you don’t get a reasonable amount of sleep. Those nights are only going to get more frequent, and your brothers need to help in some way. I can see that you’re already doing what you can for her, and you’re reading as much as you can about dementia. It’s good. I think your brothers need to step up to the plate, though.

    • Interesting post. I would like to add that you be ready for anything in the next year. Have a plan B, as far as your original plan goes. There must be a Thai community in Portland! There must be some resources somewhere in town that can lead you to them. I bet there are some seniors that speak her language. And a Thai in home caregiver, even once a week for an hour or so while you can get out and take a break perhaps? Or a daycare type place, w/hopefully some other Thai speaking seniors? Just throwing ideas out there for you.
      Not sure what else your brothers can do to help at this point.

    • You’re right about 9 months being a long time. That’s the most convenient time we can go, though.
      I’ll talk to my family and see if we can move it up. It’ll be really hard for us if I stay in Thailand during the school year. I deal with most of the school stuff like picking up and dropping off.

      My brothers aren’t in a good position to care for our mom. One is busy with 3 kids and the other is a single guy who has no space. My mom is best here with us. They are visiting more often to help out now. They’ll help out financially when we need to hire a caretaker.

      • Good to know.
        Whatever it takes to avoid a crisis. You are not alone in this.
        Life certainly throws us curve balls.
        You may also want to keep in touch w/her doctors and nurses, etc. They may have some really good advice and tips. Let them know of your plans, perhaps.

  49. Dementia is tough on everyone, my father in law suffered from it. Your mom is very lucky to have a son that is financially independent and can be accommodating with his time.

    Thailand sounds like a good place to affordably provide quality care with the advantage of keeping your mom engaged in the community.

    As much as early retirement can make life better, there will always be challenges. I think you have the right attitude to stay positive and concentrate on keeping your own health up while going through this challenge.

  50. You are an amazing son. I understand it’s the cultural norm, and really what else could you do? But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re in a fantastic place, from mental and financial and FIRE standpoints, to do what’s best for your mom. Whatever the disease may cause her to say or do, I’m sure that the person she’s always been would appreciate that more than she can say.

  51. Really sorry to hear about your family situation Joe. I know from experience it’s really tough to handle and deal with. My grandfather suffered from and eventually succumbed to dementia about a decade ago and it was tough to watch from the side as there’s not much you personally can do about it.

    I think you have a good plan and this is why they say it’s so important to be flexible and willing to adjust your early retirement plans as you never know what situations or emergencies may arise. Best of luck with everything.

  52. Man that’s tough. That said, I have always been so impressed with the Asian culture and how the kids tend to take such good care of the elders. Very inspiring. I hope everything works out for your mom in Thailand. It sounds like you have a solid plan in place.

  53. Hi Joe, sorry to hear about your mom getting worse.
    As you know, both my in-laws had dementia. At that time, my kids were little and both my husband and I were working full-time. It was really hard.
    If anything, find comfort knowing you got yourself in a place where you actually have options on how to take care of her going forwards. You are way ahead of most people.
    And good for you for knowing how and when to adjust your plans.
    Staying positive is key , even if not always easy.

  54. So sorry to hear that she’s taken a turn so much faster than you all expected 🙁 But yes, the options do seem so much better with you retired from the corporate world with the flexibility to take on the bulk of it; I’m certain it doesn’t always feel “fair” that you worked your butt off so now you’re the one with the time to be the primary caregiver, but you seem to have a pretty good outlook on a crappy situation.

  55. What an eye opener post for all of us, thank you. Very sorry to hear she is really progressing so quickly. The road trip seemed to trigger some of it, perhaps. Also, if you leave a light on for her at night, her space well lit, it may help her w/the “sundowning” condition she gets after dark.
    I am so glad you shared this w/us. Your plan sounds brilliant. I would really plan for that flight and let the attendants know her condition when you go. It may upset her again to take her out of her routine. See if some music helps her. I think taking her home is the very best thing you can do.
    You are stronger than your circumstances! You are a hero, Joe. Stay positive, and keep us posted. Best of luck to the RB40 family, you have helped us all so much.

    Ps- I do think leaving an expensive area, and moving back later has it’s challenge$. Just be aware. Also, the photo at the top of your post looks real this time!

    • The road trip was a trigger, for sure. I think we didn’t drink enough on the drive so we were all a little dehydrated. It was coming, though. If it wasn’t the road trip, it would have been something else.
      I leave the light on for her now and it seems to help a bit. She is more confused when she can’t see very well.

  56. Sorry to hear the dementia is getting worse Joe, we are worried about my Grandma’s mental health and it is not easy on multiple levels.

    Finding a plan that everyone is comfortable with that is best for your mom sounds like the best case scenario to me

    • You’re right. At least I’m healthy enough to help my mom now. Also, I learn how to live a better lifestyle to avoid dementia in the future. That’s going to a big problem for a lot of people as we age. Thanks.

  57. I’m sorry to hear about the dementia getting worse. It’s very rare that FIRE bloggers talk about their finance or situation of taking care of their parents. I think it’s more of the Asian culture to care for aging parents.

    I can totally relate to your posts. We love to FIRE soon, but we know we will need to take care of and financially support both sets of parents. Medical bills are def not cheap. But life goes on, and we are preparing ourselves too 🙂

    • I think FIRE bloggers are a bit too young to be impacted by this problem. We’ll probably see more as the years go by.
      It’s really tougher for Asians. It’s a lot harder to send our parents to a nursing home. Not that it’s easy for anyone, but Asian culture really frowns upon this.

      • Joe,
        The medications help to maintain stability of the desease. At the same time it helps slow down the progression of the desease. There are multiple levels and not everyone suffering dementia dies early. My mom is in her 90s and has been with dementia for more then 10 years. I would say progressing slowly fir the last 15 years. She still lives independent in her own apartment. She is a USA citizen and you should be earning a salary to care for your mom paid by the “IHSS” which stands for In Home Service Support. I know it sounds weird to get paid to care for your own parent. If your mother is a US citizen, she qualifies for services. If she is not, file documentation for her to become a citizen. You will be surprised of all the benefits she is entitled to have. She should have a social worker that should be guiding you through the process. Call the alzhymers association for guidance, classes and support. Many local hospitals offer free classes for the elders’care givers for free. Unfortunetrly, the care givers are at stake, it can really affect your health. You must reach out for help. Yes, you must stay positive but also be realistic! Dementia patients even try to scape from home! I had to put alarms on the exit doors so every time my mom opens the door it alerts care givers. Yep, she has scared a couple of times…so considered a bracelet with emergency information. My mom has even managed to convince public transportation to just give her a ride without having to pay. I gave her a little purse with a cell phone, luckily…the times that she scraped…people found her phone in her purse and called me. Now she is still in a maximum security building in a third floor. She has more difficulty scaping because she forgets how to get out. She was a bit anxious and some medication has helped her with her level of anxiety and depression. She loves coloring books and looking at magazines. She attends senior centers for activities, they ussually offer free transportation for her and care giver. The building where she lives also has multiple activities such as bingo, paint, aerobics,etc I believe the big umbrella that manages this buildings and activities is called “Engaged”. They are top of the line buildings to help elders live with dignity. My mom’s building is really cute with two water fountains, one has koi and turtles! For Thanksgiving they have a huge dinner! I usually volunteer serving food. Recently got free tickets for Hollywood Bowl concerts!
        I am not trying to convince you to keep your mother in the US but consider making sure she receives the services that she deserves. Oh we add coconut oil to certain meals such as rice, coffee etc. ( I read us good for dementia and for prevention of akzhymers)

  58. Sorry to hear about this Joe. One of my grand mother’s has Dementia. There are days she doesn’t remember me, and I’ve learned I have to intro our sons every time they see her. In my case I’m not footing the bill so it’s only the emotional impact it brings. That’s still significant. Don’t underestimate or under prepare for the impact of her decline on you or your family.

    I hope everything works out for the best.

  59. Really sorry to hear that your Mom is doing poorly. You are correct, it is a very tough challenge. I am sure you will work out a plan as positively as possible given the situation.

    Thank you for sharing a very personal post. I am sure it was difficult. Some may read this post and think that perhaps you would be having 2nd thoughts about early retirement. However, I look at it as a blessing that you could spend more time with Mom when she was healthy because you took such a challenging FIRE path.

    All the best,


    • Thanks for the encouragement. I’m thankful for early retirement too. This situation would have been a lot more difficult if I still worked full time. The financial aspect shouldn’t be too bad either. Splitting the cost 3 ways really helps.

  60. Sorry to hear that your mom is getting worse. It sounds like you have a good plan. My great grandfather went through that and it was really hard for him and the family. But being in Thailand is a good choice. Those older memories hold on longer and it will be more familiar. Best of luck with all the transitions.

    • Thanks. We’ll try to stay positive and work our way through it. I think a more familiar environment will help a lot too. It’s hard for her in the US because she doesn’t have a good social life.

  61. Really sorry to hear about this, Joe. And it would be similar if it happened to us – so I understand the issues. But not the anguish, of course.
    Glad to be of help, even if just as a sounding board. Hope you figure out what is best for you and everyone else.

  62. That’s certainly a tough one. It sound like you have a reasonable plan and finances give you the freedom to do more than most in a similar situation.

    If blogging works for your mental health that’s great. Hopefully talking to a psychologist is a option is if you need it.

  63. So sorry to hear your mom is suffering more. It will definitely impact all of you – so make sure you take care of yourself. My dad came to the United States from Germany when he was 30. He’s 88 now and lives in a nursing home in the memory care unit. He’s had Alzheimer’s for about 10 years but just went into the nursing home last November. My mom was amazing and cared for him but it got to be too much.

    They have him medicated now so he is more comfortable and doesn’t experience the paranoia. He’s happy most days and still walks around but he’s failing quickly. He speaks German quite a bit now and is happy when someone can talk with him. But honestly, I don’t have any idea what he understands. I hope your mom is well enough to make that trip next summer. That would be my big concern – but I’m sure you thought of that already. I’m sure her doctors will help with those plans too. Traveling ended for my parents when he was about 80 – a few years into the disease.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. Dementia is very difficult for the families. It sounds like medication helps a lot at that stage. I’m concern about waiting too, but I think that’s our best option. We could leave earlier, but I wouldn’t be able to stay. It’ll be better to have me around for a few months. Traveling is really tough for her now and I think this will be the last long trip for her.

  64. wow, that’s tough Joe, so sorry to hear about your mom’s condition. From the looks of things, you’ve already created a detailed adjustment to your original plan. That part is awesome, and I guess that is the most important part of financial independence, the ability to have options and be flexible.

    Wishing you and the family the best in this difficult time, Take care man!

    • Right, FIRE gave me a lot more options than the average working person. The plan is tentative right now and we’ll keep working on it. We’ll probably have to make more adjustments as we go. Thanks.

  65. Sorry about your mother, I work as a registered nurse in the aged care sector now for 12 years and working with people with dementia everyday. There will be good days where she will remember everything and bad days where she will forget everything. Overtime the bad days will increase and the good days will become less. the people who suffer the most are usually close family members.
    You have an excellent plan in place. For short term, I would recommend putting a tracker bracelet on your mother just in case she wanders off and gets lost.
    Keeping her mind challenged with puzzles and other activities may help to slow down the progress.
    Good luck and we all are here for support if you need it.

    • Thanks for sharing. That’s what I’m finding out. It’s strange to see the ups and downs. I got a medical bracelet for her in case she gets lost. She can ask for help and my number is there. I’ll see if I can get a tracking bracelet for her. Although, it’s probably not a problem in the short term. She seems okay for now.

  66. Sorry to hear about your mother and the difficulties that you have to contend with. I have had a few friends whose parent had dementia.

    You ask, “Have you faced adversity lately?”

    Not me personally. But two of my best friends in Vancouver have. First, my friend Bob was having memory problems about 5 years ago. I urged him to see my Vancouver doctor friend. It turns out Bob had brain cancer. After the operation, Bob’s eyesight was compromised. Bob (now 52) lives very frugally given that in B.C. people like him get only around $950 a month for disability. Yet Bob maintains and incrediblely positive attitude about life. Hey, he even puts up with all my bad jokes and even laughs at them. My other friend Barrie was first diagonosed with MS but later diagonosed with a much rarer degerative disease. He ended up losing most of his hearing and had to purchase $4,000 hearing aids. I was just in Vancouver last week and Barrie (now 55) couldn’t even make it out to dinner because he felt chilled and ill. Barrie also has lived very sparingly and will even have to live more sparingly because his job at Bayshore Bike Rentals comes to an end when Bay Shore closes at the end of this month due to the building having been sold to developers who will be putting up expensive condos on the property. At the age of 69, one of the pleasures I have in life is treating friends such as Bob and Barrie to expensive dinners and fine wine when I am in Vancouver given that they can hardly afford inexpenisve dinners and any wine.

  67. Joe. You’ve put together a sound plan to make sure your mom is well taken care of. I’ve been reading your blog for years, and am always impressed by the firm grip you have on reality. You make the best lemonade!

    All the best during the next 8 months until you can get your mom relocated. You’ll have some challenges, but nothing you can’t handle with your positive mindset.

  68. Wow, that’s a tough one. Thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like you have a good plan that is somewhat flexible. I’m youngest of 8 and my Mom passed 8 yrs ago now. What I’ve seen is that one sibling (or 2) usually contribute way more to the care of elderly parents. Now in our own 50’s, w/ no kids, I’m starting to worry about planning for our own care. Take notes while you’re going through this process for what you might want for yourself. It’s a blessing that you could retire early and have the resources to help out.

    • I’m very grateful that I don’t have to work full-time. It would have been a lot more stressful to work and care for my mom and kid. I’m the primary caretaker because that’s the easier way to handle it. My brothers can’t really take on the task at this time. Good idea about taking notes. Thanks.

  69. Really sorry to hear about this Joe, but as you said it’s also a blessing that you’ve set yourself up so nicely and are retired so you’ve been able to take care of her.

    Being FI is such a powerful tool, and giving you the time and resources to take care of her and not have to worry about a demanding day job is a huge deal.

    My Grandmom died of Alzheimer’s and it was a very difficult thing for all of us. They’re learning more and more about dementia and Alzheimer’s all the time so let’s hope some breakthroughs are made.

    Best of luck

    • Thanks. Dementia is such a tough disease. From what I learn, the damage really isn’t reversible. We have to live a more healthy lifestyle to prevent dementia from starting. Maybe if you catch it early enough, some medication might prevent it from escalating. I’m not too hopeful from what I read.

      • Hi again,
        I am not cold blooded, I am just very realistic. My own mother taught me to accept and deal with the situations like death and terminal illnesses with the same addititude we celebrate birthdays. Before she got sick we used to talk about how we wanted each other’s barrial service. She always told me that she did not want to be cremated. She was born and raised Babtist. She never drank or smoked. She read the Bible everyday and loved to sing. She was very charismatic and never said bad words. My mother was the perfect angel that everyone loved. I noticed her dinentia episodes when she became vulgar and often said bad words. Before the severely episodes…I once took her for a scan because she fell, fracture her arm and her face. The head seemed fine, but one of the doctors said that her brain looked very young as if she had not used her brain often en enough. I was quite young to understand what he meant and It did not raised any concerns. No Dementia symptoms were evident. I once went with her to follow up with her Sivial Security benefits and is when the lady asked me: Who helps your mother during the day? I said that I did. She replied “ Do you know you can get paid for doing it? I said: Wow, really? For 8 years it was my part time job! I got paid for something I was already gladly doing! I received an extra pay Ck from IHSS, I already had a full time job! But I always rushed to my mom’s tonoreoare her meals, doctor’s appt., groceries, etc. When she showed the signs of incoherence is when I decided to move her to an apartment that included a callendar with activities so that she could use her brain! The alzhyners association and different hospitals provided me and other care givers with training free of charge to deal with the childish situations that often occur with dementia patients. Sorry for the length, I just want to make many understand that it is healthier for all to be with this type of patients during short amounts of time a day. Don’t feel guilty, it is best for all involved to take turns and don’t allow just one person to deal with the elder because it can affect the children around as well as the adults. It will take just a few months for your health to deteriorate. The best care is here in the USA. In other countries there is lack of training, meds and resources!

  70. Yikes, sorry to hear you mom is getting worse Joe. That’s horrible news. 🙁

    That said, I have a feeling you’ll steamroll through this bit of adversity like you always seem to. You’ll probably have a great time in SE Asia. RB40Jr. will probably end up learning Thai if you guys move to Thailand too… and you may end-up spending less.

    Every dark cloud has a silver lining. The hard part is just seeing it in the dark.

    Stay strong. 🙂

    • That’s life. We all have to stay positive and muddle through somehow. I think we’ll have a great time in SE Asia too. It’ll be a great chance for Mrs. RB40 and Jr to learn Thai. I’d like to take some cooking classes and learn more about the culture too.


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