If you're moving into a nursing home, then you don't exactly need the family home anymore so selling that would one of a range of "last resort" options.
I know I'm being argumentative, but consider this quite realistic situations:
One spouse suffers a stroke and needs nursing home care ... the other spouse is still moderately healthy. The healthy spouse still needs the house.
One spouse becomes sick, and the couple sells the house ... the sick spouse dies, leaving the younger /healthier spouse still in need of housing and without a nest egg for his or her own future. Realistically, the second spouse needs more money than the first.
In my family, I AM the younger and healthier spouse, so, yes, I've thought about this quite a bit. Our plan:
- We are building a designed-for-aging-in-place house for our retirement. We're building a house without steps, with a no-barrier walk-in shower, wide hallways, laundry adjacent to the master bedroom, etc. No, these things won't mean we're safe from the ravages of aging, but they will make it easier for us to manage in our own house for a longer time.
- We are including a second master bedroom in our retirement house. This means that one of our children (or future grandchildren or a paid caregiver) could move in with us. A whole lot of elderly people can manage on their own, if they have someone available to do the heavy cleaning and driving -- doesn't have to be a full-time helper. By including a second master, it'd be easier to bring someone in ... I know that our pastor has "put together" young single mothers and elderly ladies several times ... the elderly lady provides free housing, and the younger woman helps out with the "heavy lifting". A win-win for both parties.
- Home health care can be a great thing. My now-RN daughter did this during the summers while she was in college. She'd go into people's homes, and she did whatever they needed: The single thing she helped with most was bathing and personal hygiene, but she also did light cleaning, changing of sheets, meal prep. For the elderly person who can get by with a little help, this is much more affordable than a nursing home or assisted living.
- In my own family, realistically, I'll be around to take care of my husband (assuming he doesn't need skilled nursing care), but I'll be on my own. If my children are nearby, that'll be a positive. If not, my nest egg should pay for help in the house.