Advice on housing options for broke, dysfunctional parents.

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Does anyone have suggestions where I can start researching housing options for parents who are broke and struggling? They have pawned moms jewelry and gone without to stay in their home. It's a constant financial drain and source of worry to me. I bring groceries, drive 2 1/2 hours each way to check on them, and pay for insurance and phone. I just want them to be more self sufficient and to be able to stop worrying about them. Two of three brothers have done a disappearing act. I have anger because my parents never plan; I try to help them. I did all their social security and my dads VA paperwork and got my mother supplementary medical insurance and got my dad to go to the VA for cancer treatment. There is a dysfunctional family history and I am trying to do the right thing and help although I was always on my own.
What I need help with is figuring out how to locate the options they could have for finding some kind of retirement community although they have zero in savings. If they sell their home they could earn 50-60 K and have this in the bank. I think that staying at their house is isolating and they are under terrible stress handling expenses associated with homeownership - everything from house insurance to shingling the roof. My mother wants to move but my obstinate and narcissistic father changes the subject when I bring it up. Now my mother has pulmonary fibrosis. If one of them dies the other cant afford to keep the house. Currently they live on $2000 per month social security. I'm so angry about their denial and want them to sell. It would be great to know that they had enough to cover basic expenses. Any suggestions or similar stories would be greatly appreciated.


You're in a real "situation" over there. Triage and delegating between you and one (read that 1) brother is tough going especially 2 1/2 hours one way. Idea? Is there a grocery store that can take an order by phone, deliver it? Otherwise, sell the home, don't look back -- moving forward always and use this money to pay for a fine facility that can keep them together. Good luck to you, Roseisabelle -- this road is not easy upon which we find ourselves.
I suggest you look into senior housing. My mother has a nice apartment in our home town, subsidized by the federal government. The building is quite pleasant and has about 40 apartments. The rent is based on income; there's a review every year that asks about income, including SS, and all medical expenses. In Mum's case, she pays $400 per month, which includes heat and electricity. When we started looking into this 8 years ago, we put her on several wait lists in the area. Her name came up much faster than we expected since many other people are on multiple wait lists, too.
Roseisabelle, with $2,000 per month and 50/60 thousand from sale of house, assisted living is a definite possibility. I suggest you look into that. Also, talk to the VA about the possibility of assistance with living expenses. This ain't easy, is it? But from personal experience, I will advise you to not move them in with you. They can pay their own way and they should.
There is likely a publically funded agency on aging somewhere in the area of your parents' home, or perhaps you could access one where you live. You could check with whatever local government body handles human services needs, perhaps a local or regional department of human services or community action agency. There are people somewhere in your parents' area who are knowledgeable about the issues your parents are facing. Actually, your parents are much better off than many people I have come across in my years of working in social services. To have a house with $50--60K in equity these days is rare, regardless of income level. The additional $2,000 in monthly income is better than many seniors, especially singles. There are more resources out there for them, but it may take some research. With their health issues, it may be best to get them out of their house, but that, as you know, can be a huge challenge. Are they connected to a church of other organization (local veterans group, visiting nurses, etc.) that you might be able to access for support?
Hi all, thank you for the helpful replies. It was energizing to write down the issues. This week I called a local elderly assistance organization and two social worker types are coming to help to outline some of the options. I hope to learn something and to start any required paperwork. Nimue, I agree, what is the use of having a home if there is not enough money to pay for it and your retirement years are in so much poverty you can't even afford food? Pamelac, thanks for sharing your story. It gives me hope that there could be good options for my parents as well.
Only1of3, it hurts to understand that I can't have my dad living with me. If it was just my mother I would take her in a second, but for me my father is just too challenging to spend time with. I have a lot of guilt about this but I do think that they are in their current predicament because of his failure to think ahead and his narcissism. We all have our failures but he would rather have his adult daughter bringing him groceries than go out and get a part time job. I do feel that he brought my mother hard times, but on the other hand he is a faithful husband and they do care for each other. So I think my role can be to try and connect them with resources and better information. That in itself can be a big help. Catjohn, thanks for your perspective that they are not as poorly off as many seniors. I am endeavoring to see my role as hooking them up with others who know better and can do more. I am a teacher and earn a modest salary. Helping with supplementary health insurance, groceries, and other Incidentals has been a hardship for me as well. I think when I look ahead I hope we can get their situation arranged so that my mothers last years with the pulmonary fibrosis could be more fun and not so ruined by constant stress over money and resources.
Thanks for your thoughts. Other stories, insights and possibilities really help meto think brought the situation. It's a huge part of my life although I keep it as a hidden burden hardly ever discuss it with anyone, kind of a silent bu
That last word is burden.
I just want to thank you for reading and commenting. This whole situation is personally painful to me and just being able to share my thoughts about it is a huge help.
Roseisabelle, I think you are very, very wise to see your role as connecting them with resources and better information. DO NOT consider moving them in with you!

I'm not sure, though, that better information is going to be enough to get Dad moving. It doesn't sound like it has in the past. $2000/month is not enough to support two adults in a house in need of lots of maintenance. It is plenty once the housing situation is changed. My mother lives comfortably on $860 month, in subsidized housing.

The equity your parents have in the home will decline rapidly if the house is not maintained well. A house that needs a new furnace, a complete interior update (paint, carpet, etc,) and a new roof will definitely not sell at market value (if at all in this market).

I definitely think you are the right track to be looking at housing options. But how are you going to get Dad to accept a good option when you find it?

Remember that you are fully in charge of your own behavior. Your can decide not to bail them out anymore, if they won't change their circumstances to not need bailing out. You can refuse to pay for insurance and buy groceries. (Save your extra money for your own old age!) This may sound harsh, but you need to be thinking about not only finding a good solution, but ensuring that it gets implemented.

Bless you for trying to look after your parents' best interests.

Roseisabelle, Maybe a disinterested 3rd party would have better success discussing housing with your father. I'll bet they could say things we caregivers wouldn't dare confront with aging parents, as sensible as those things may be. I agree that a house doesn't make sense for them any more; so, what are your father's objections? Maybe those issues can be whittled away. Maybe seeing some alternative, affordable senior housing would help him picture a life elsewhere. If there's a senior center in their area with activities he/they could attend, he might talk with other seniors who enjoy living without the burdens of home ownership. I hope some of these random ideas proves useful!
JeanneGibbs, my therapist is really pushing me to examine where I am being codependent with my parents. She urges me to strictly limit my role to being informational and referring them to outside resources. The issue that I run into as an adult daughter of low-income relatively low-literacy parents is that in order to survive and adapt they must negotiate large computerized systems such as social security, medicare and the VA. Even though I bought them a computer, navigating these systems has been difficult for them, and this is what makes me feel so terrible. The very mother who took a job at MacDonalds so that I could attend a private grade school now struggles to read the information she must understand in order to get the resources that she needs. It's a heartbreak; a perfect storm of the vicissitudes of the recession, their own poor choices, and literacy barriers.

Figuring out how to get out of their current predicament and get entered into the section 8/low income housing system? It's not going to be possible for them without serious help, from me but more importantly from professionals. My therapist says to hook them up with knowledgeable people and then let go. I have to work on this and seek guidance on when to push and when to let go. The scenario you outline, Pamelac, is hopefully what can be found: professionals to come in and to help them figure out what is next and the opportunity to see some of these places for themselves.

You ask, what will I do if my father refuses to make a change? It is coming up on the time when he and my mother will have to face the brutal reality of her pulmonary fibrosis. Unfortunately, the fact that he won't be able to afford to stay at the house once she is gone has to sway even him. Part of what I am going to have to do is to join forces with my mother and help them to get set up somewhere that he can afford to stay once we lose her, which will be devastating. Last summer my pushing-70 year old father was up on the roof shingling half of his roof; this summer he is shingling the other half. They do what they can to maintain the home, painting it and keeping up with basic maintenance. It is going to be hard for him to let go of the house; it seems to be bound up with his working-class masculinity. He wants to be Archie Bunker but unfortunately Archie wasn't facing the predicament that my parents are now in. "The New Archie Bunker Show" would be like the old plus devastating expenses and a recession that mitigates against my tradesperson father being able to re-start his failed business. Although, now that I think about it, Archie worked for someone else doing what he could, and my father insists upon working for himself only in his trade. The Sally Struthers character would not have the luxury of rolling her eyes at her father's political tirades but she would have the task of mediating between a well-meaning and knowledgeable social worker and the old coot ... or does she let go completely and trust that somehow Archie will land on his feet?

You have obviously been able to maintain your sense of humor throughtout this, which is wonderful. Your comparison with Archie Bunker's hosuehold updated to your situation, is amusing. It sounds as though you are taking needed steps and have been thinking about various scenarios for a while now. Your empathy and compassion for your parents's situation is admirable. You may be furstrated, sad, irritated, during all this, but I don't think, when you look back, that you will regret doing everything you could to help them, especially for your mother's sake. Fathers can be much more complex, mixing in the disappointment of not being able to provide adequately, loss of his business, all the things that come with aging plus the economic downturn. It is a sad situation for all, but one that they can come through relatively well with the proper help and support, I agree that they need one-on-one assistance to navigate the sytems for housing, medical care, etc., especially if there is a lack of literacy or computer literacy. The systems can be difficult to navigate even for those who are more familiar with them. Sometimes it seems as though they are designed to frustrate peopleso that they will fall by the wayside and just give up. It takes takes a strong advocate to come through this with the best possible outcome for everyone. You sound as though you are up to the task. One suggestion is that you always document every phone call or interaction you have with someone, including names and dates, which you are probably doing already. Reaching out simply to talk with others here was a healthy step.
I wish you all the best with this.

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