Agnes, in her late 70s, still enjoyed good health and independence. A widow with no children, she lived alone in an old house in the country, and she managed just fine – until a medical disaster struck. A seemingly minor infection spread rapidly, triggering a cascading series of health events which meant moving her into assisted living.
In a few short weeks, Agnes went from her own house to a hospital room and finally into an assisted living facility. It happened so quickly that Agnes’ sister and nieces, her closest relatives, were left scrambling to understand and manage not only her health-related decisions, but the finances as well.
Health-related events like Agnes’ can necessitate quick transitions, and families often aren’t prepared to make rapid-fire decisions and finance the move. If you are moving parents into assisted living, or supporting other family members, here are your top three priorities.
1. Confront Reality Head On
Agnes and her family were struggling to grasp the idea that Agnes couldn’t go back home, and they also had to dive into the financial picture. To complicate things even more, her sister and nieces all lived several hours away. Everyone wanted Agnes to have the best care possible, but they weren’t sure the family could manage the transition long distance. They also didn’t know what level of care Agnes could afford. They pulled together comprehensive medical and financial information to guide their decisions.
With a health-driven transition like this, you need to think about the long term so that you can limit the number of moves an ailing senior has to make. Agnes’ sister and nieces had an honest conversation with her about moving her into an assisted living facility nearer to them.
Although Agnes had hoped to stay closer to her house, one of her nieces had her power of attorney, and she needed Agnes to be closer in order to oversee her care.
2. Liquidate Assets ASAP
While Agnes was by no means rich, her family quickly discovered that she had too many assets to qualify for Medicaid assistance. Agnes owned her primary home, a second house on a river, and a piece of land. She also had some valuable collections and three automobiles.
Her assets looked strong on paper, but until they could be sold, her family had to pay out of pocket to fund her sudden round-the-clock care, and finance her move to assisted living. They also needed to know what she could afford long-term.
Because of the house’s rural location and significant deferred maintenance, the family decided that an auction, or accelerated sale, was the best option. Distressed properties tend to attract real-estate flippers, and if families take the first offer from a flipper they generally don’t make as much as they would from an auction, where multiple buyers bid on the property.
3. Make a Multi-Year Plan
With a health-related emergency, it’s easy to settle on the most expedient solution to the immediate problem. As with Agnes’ family, though, it’s important to think through the details of a longer-term plan.
Her sister and the nieces estimated how much they would need to keep Agnes in assisted living for at least five years. They ran all the numbers and determined that liquidating the entire estate would meet that goal, but they had an emotional attachment to the river house and decided not to sell it immediately.
Armed with information, Agnes’ family was able to make solid decisions. We helped them get the main house, the land and the rest of Agnes’ belongings cleared out and sold within 90 days.
In all, the family raised enough to cover Agnes’ expenses for about three years, which gave them some breathing room to decide about selling the river house. This difficult transition took an emotional toll on the entire family, as it would with anyone moving parents into assisted living. But being informed and thinking realistically enabled everyone to move quickly, make smart choices, and keep Agnes as comfortable as possible.