My 92-year-old mother refuses to sell the family home to finance her care. Many of you must have gone through this. Every parent's home is special to them. How did you approach the conversation? What points did you make? What worked? What didn't? How do you help someone who has never dealt with money---but wants to control the money to feel independent---to understand what has to happen when the cash runs out?
Please understand: she's legally competent.
Here's the story.
My mother, 92, is in assisted living. Her doctor says she needs someone in voice distance 24 hours a day, although she is still in good health for her age. We expect her to live past 100 if she can keep from falling---which she has been doing often for the last few years. We considered various options---shifts of caregivers in her home, moving her in with one of us and getting a caregiver in while we're at work, etc. In the end, the ALF provided the best combination of care, supervision, medical attention. safety, and cost.
It's a modest facility, but the staff is wonderful to her, and she likes them. She has a private room and bath, cable and private phone, weekly appointments with her own hairdresser, her own newspapers, an on-call caregiver who drives her to the hairdresser and takes her to appointments, and generous pin money. Friends and relatives visit her and my brother and I fly to see her several times a year. Although most of the residents of the ALF function well below her level---it's depressing!---there are a few nice people who could be friends if she would let them. (They're "so old," she says.) In other words, she's much luckier than many her age and the family would never want her to have less than she does now.
All of this costs about $3,300 per month due to the extras (the facility fee is only $2,050). My late father's pension and her Social Security cover about $2,700, so there's a $600/month shortfall for her personal expenses. That isn't the problem; we can deal with it.
The problem is that she owns a large old home---which is falling apart fast---on a large lot, and the cost of maintaining the empty house is an additional $2,500 a month: insurance, taxes, essential repairs, yard maintenance, exterminators, minimal utilities, etc. (I know that sounds high for an empty house, but it's a special place with special problems. Take my word for it.)
So there's actually a $3,100/month shortfall, and no way my brother or I can pay it. At first, it came from savings and now it's coming out of a secured line of credit on the house. But the monthly payments on the loan are already coming out of the borrowed money, and are going up each month as she draws down the line of credit. So she's borrowing money to pay for borrowed money --- heading for disaster. The cash flow situation will come to a crisis in a few months.
We know all the details because my brother is co-signatory on her bank accounts, pays her bills out of them, and arranged the line of credit for her.
My brother and I want her to sell the property. Even in today's market, the invested capital would produce the extra $600 per month she needs to be comfortable in the ALF and the money would be there if/when she needs more expensive nursing home care.
How on earth can we convince her to do this? She's legally competent. She just absolutely does not understand money. Our late father sheltered her from all that. They weren't wealthy but she never had to budget or save. She shuts down and tunes out when I try to explain her finances to her. I prepared a cash flow and explained it step by step. She says "she guesses she's just stupid" and "can't follow all that." (She's not at all stupid; she's a bright woman.) I understand that it isn't the money alone that shuts her down---it's her attachment to the family home, the memories, her sense of identity.
I try to be sensitive to that. Letting the old place go is heartbreaking for the whole family.
We really have to do something very soon. Please help me make this as easy as possible for her to understand and accept. What worked for you and your parent?
Love to you all,