Co-housing and “End of Life” Issues

Email correspondence with a young woman named Rebekah Churchyard, a “gerontological social worker” by trade, raises a question about the degree of advance planning we should give at the start in preparing for the end.

Some of the challenging questions she poses include:

  • What happens if a member of the community begins to develop some form of cognitive impairment, such as dementia? How far can the community accommodate? What is the point at which the safety of both the individual and the community requires a different response?
  • If the community has had use of a member’s property, such as furnishings, what will happen to this property when a member leaves or dies?
  •  How does the community evolve to take in new members over time? This is less about the financial or contractual arrangements, and more about the deeper social impacts.

Rebekah’s point, with all of these, is to suggest that clarifying assumptions and expectations in some form of clear, written, “social contract,” should be negotiated right from the start, well ahead of the time it’s needed.

We had given some minor thought to this already. For example, we assume we may need to review our wills with co-housing in mind, and it will be important for all of us to have conversations with our families about our plans.

But a clearer and more detailed form of contracting than we had contemplated may well be advisable. After all, we’ve made the assumption that the best time to move into a co-housing arrangement is long before there is any necessity to do so. By the same token, we should also anticipate and prepare for the stages that come later.

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