Author Topic: Considering move to help care for Wife's father - exploring living arrangements  (Read 426 times)

dclarke1

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Hi all,

My wife and I are considering a move to a different city in 1 to 2 years. My wife's father's (FIL) health is declining and he is expected to need increasingly more care over this period. He and his partner live together in a house in our new city and his partner is so far able to help him as needed, although she has mentioned that she needs more family around, especially during the winter, to help out while she gets away to see her family.

My wife has wanted to move to the new city for years and so is eager to go. I likely can keep the same job and work from the new city and so I would be okay with it.

To get an equivalent house in the new city would cost approximately 2x the value of our current house.

I am thinking about ways to afford something somewhat equivalent to what we have now and have contemplated purchasing a property in partnership with FIL and his partner, with a similar house to ours and then building something like a laneway house on the property. FIL and partner having only a 2 person household would take the laneway house and the wife and I with 2 kids would take the larger house. I am thinking that would allow us to be close to each other with still some separation between the households. Hopefully it would also add some value to the property.

Looking to get some comments on desirability of this arrangement from someone with similar experience, and/or suggested alternatives.

Thank you.

Goldielocks

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I foresee your father's partner not liking the idea of giving up their home.  Have you talked about it yet?

Also, if his health is declining, he could end up in a care home suddenly, and then you have a property that is not used by them.  Is this the property that you would buy if you did not have this FIL question?

Finally -- why not have your wife go live with FIL when the partner travels to see family?  Or is this a single day once a week type of thing?

TrMama

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We basically did the same thing 10 years ago. We moved back to a town DH and I had lived in for a long time previously. MIL sold her condo in the big city and moved into our basement suite. It wasn't quite as simple as that, but that's the short version. Things to keep in mind, in no particular order:

1. Who will own the property? I don't recommend any kind of joint ownership. I do recommend one party owning and the other "renting" their space. This worked for us for a number of years. MIL also paid a lump sum towards the down payment. In return she got very cheap rent and care from us for life. We benefit by having a house with potential rental income when she passes.

2. Estate planning. If your wife has siblings your FIL's estate could be messy. There will be a perception that you benefited more from his estate than the siblings. Best to sort this out now.

3. End of life. This is where we are now. It's very unpleasant. Living in the same home while MIL is in the hospital on palliative care is weird. Her stuff is all here. She probably won't come home, but may for a short period. So we can't repurpose the space now (she's got some hoarder tendencies and it's in need of a minor reno), but we're living with all her things. We can't really set any timelines. It sucks. In your case, what will happen with FIL's partner when he passes or gets too sick to live at home? What if they both get sick and need care at the same time? Are you willing to care for her too?

4. Separation is essential. It's what made our arrangement work for so many years. However, seriously consider a larger house with a suite. Even though separation is great, so is being able to walk into the suite in our PJ's with no shoes in any weather. Doubly so when there are kids in the house so you can attend to FIL without leaving the kids unattended. In the last months of MIL living at home, this was essential because we were with her hourly.

5. Power of attorney, living wills, etc. Sort this out now. Even if you don't move. Especially if FIL is declining because decline tends to happen in steps. He'll be fine for a while and then will suffer a setback he won't recover from. At the very least, find out what his wishes are.

6. Nursing home. If you move in together will there be enough money to pay for a nursing home? Or home care? Conversely is he poor enough to qualify for a government funded bed? Ditto for his partner.

7. Cell phones. Make sure FIL and his partner each have cells and know how to use them. If not, buy them and set the phones up for them now. MIL never learned how to use a cell (we tried, she destroyed them). So now that she's in the hospital with major dementia-like symptoms there's no way for her to communicate with the outside world. "Luckily" she's sick enough that they're letting DH visit daily, but for weeks and weeks she was totally isolated and communication with her doctors was extremely spotty. The new Covid visitation rules have made patient cell use very important.

8. Obviously the space FIL and his partner will live in needs to be accessible. That means either no stairs, or some kind of lift device. It's also good to make sure there's a walk in, stepless shower available. They do not (and possibly should not) have a bathtub.

9. Communication with doctors. I always thought this will be tricky and would require some kind of legal paperwork, especially because I'm the DIL she doesn't really like. Turns out it's easy. You just call up their doctor and make an appointment for them, just like you do with your kids. I'm already making use of this info for my own father who claims to be fine, but is showing some worrying cognitive symptoms. Anyway, go to appointments with him ASAP so his GP gets to know you (or your wife) and so you get his medical info straight from the source. This can actually happen now since most of his appointments are probably online.

10. The physical move. FIL and his partner probably won't be able to participate. Plan on either moving them yourselves or hiring it out. MIL swore up and down she'd pack herself. It never happened. DH unpacked every last one of her tchotckes.

Welcome to the sandwich generation :-)

dclarke1

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TrMama - Thank you for the detailed reply. I was hoping to find someone with a similar experience who could comment on the situation. Most of these things I had not considered.

I foresee your father's partner not liking the idea of giving up their home.  Have you talked about it yet?

Also, if his health is declining, he could end up in a care home suddenly, and then you have a property that is not used by them.  Is this the property that you would buy if you did not have this FIL question?

Finally -- why not have your wife go live with FIL when the partner travels to see family?  Or is this a single day once a week type of thing?

I expect the four of us to have an in-person conversation in the next week about it. So far it has been a series of text messages going back and forth between two people at a time, which hasn't been good. The indication I have is that the partner is actively looking for this new arrangement but the FIL is keen to keep things the way they are for the next several years.

Regarding the property and ownership structure I see it working best with the party living in the laneway house (or garden suite) renting from the owners of the property who live in the larger house. With that structure I believe it would be a desirable property to own even if the laneway house became a market rental. Although that structure doesn't really suite us as we are not in a position to own such a valuable property, but would require the larger house.

TrMama

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Glad I had something helpful to say. Please don't take any of it for an endorsement. Living with a parent in law is difficult, even if everything goes well. I've often resented the time and energy MIL has demanded from DH. It's also important to remember that people age on their own, unknown, timetable. Regardless of how sick FIL appears today, he could hang on for a looooong time. Is that OK with you? When we agreed to our living arrangement, MIL had, at best, a 5 year life expectancy. That was 10 years ago. It's been fine and and her health remained quite good for many years. Apart from the extra time, I'm glad that our kids are old enough to be left unattended and are at a stage in life where they don't require the same constant attention that little kids do. It's left DH and I time and energy for MIL.

If FIL's partner just wants respite care from time to time it would probably just be easier for her to hire home care while she's away. If fact, it may be the best option for FIL too since he wouldn't have to move. If he's got dementia, then there's a very good chance moving would precipitate a decline anyway. Some assisted living homes also offer respite care.

One other thing you'll want to consider is what do you want to have happen if your wife predeceases FIL? Are you willing to care for your kids, FIL and partner without your wife? I certainly wasn't. Whatever answer you come to here is fine, but you need to speak up so there are no surprises. 

In almost all cases your FIL's reaction is totally normal. The person needing care almost never accepts it gracefully. There are many books devoted to the subject that you may want to check out.

Don't forget about the ongoing maintenance costs of a larger home. Not just utilities, but the bigger infrequent stuff too. Exterior painting, new roof, updating the decor, repairing windows/tile/floors/etc. Can your income support all this? This is another argument for a suite instead of a laneway house. Only one roof, less exterior, etc. Regardless of which configuration you choose, select the smallest layout you think each party can handle. Our suite is a 2 bedroom, which in retrospect is too large. It allowed MIL to accumulate too much stuff (which we'll need to clear out) and the reno work that needs to be done will cost that much more. When you get to the point of having to clean FIL's space yourself, you'll also be happy if it's not large.

Finances_With_Purpose

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That's an impressive response @TrMama : you said much of what I could have said.

I have looked into doing this before with a relative but we found other solutions.  And our situation wasn't nearly as complicated, I think. 

I absolutely agree that you need uniform ownership.  That may be the single most important variable to make it work: one owner, but separate spaces.  One person/couple needs to own and be responsible for maintenance.  It gets wildly too complicated otherwise and makes everything a negotiation. 

For instance: Who maintains what?  To what standard?  Do you all agree?  Who pays?  For a roof?  Lawn care?  Etc.  It gets tricky fast. 

Some other things to consider:
  • Your associated costs also go up when your home value is doubled.  Maintenance will be more expensive there.
     Etc.
  • Medicaid clawbacks: get with a good attorney in your state to fix this up if you seriously consider it.  You don't want to lose your own house when FIL needs palliative or other care and thus Medicaid, only to have them force a sale of your house or collect against it.
  • Related to the next point: what do you do if/when various problems arise due to declining health?  For instance, I have a relative who cared for another relative...who then got serious dementia and was taken in at times by a con artist.  It created problems as to who could be on the property, etc.  I have another relative who had a relative living in a separate residence and then let the place completely go native to the point that it would have looked like elder abuse (except that it was self-imposed), again due to dementia or the like.  What would you do then?  These things happen.
  • What's the exit plan if either party needs to exit?  On what conditions will you exit?  This is uncomfortable to think about, but it happens more often than one would expect.  It's always better to sort those things out on the front end: who gets what, how are things divided, and who takes over what?  Life changes and things happen.

In short, be very, very wary of this type of arrangement.  Especially if it's going to explode your costs of living anyway. 

Cb1234567

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We are in the beginning of this journey, too. Here are a few things weíve learned/decided would be prudent (so far):
- Make sure that whatever you do is sustainable within your own budget. Do not count on rent. We would collect rent to keep their self-sufficiency (if their finances are ok), recoup costs, and avoid hard feelings, but if someone could not pay, it wouldnít cause disaster.

- If the seniors still are living independently, then privacy and simplicity of a 1 story smaller lane house are big pluses. And more social life of their own guests or visitors can be a positive.

- Making the move and downsizing (presumably) is easier the younger they are. More energy, more resilience, more time to learn the new layout and establish routines before dementia or poor vision (both concerns in our scenario). More help for you in terms of making decisions about what gets moved.

- Definitely brainstorm outcomes as a foursome. Itís ok if things change, where they want to move elsewhere, need more care, you relocate for work...disability or death...of any of you. No need to plan all the eventualities, but do have a talk. Likely, everyone will be relieved to air possible fears and concerns. Can you just live near to one another and hire help? Why or why not?

- I think you got the point earlier - no way on the joint ownership. That is for you and your spouse Only. Hence, the rent payment. [ in the US, if you charge below-market rent, there may be gift implications with the IRS, so be sure to file any forms you need to (to avoid).]

- Regarding the 2x price increase, be sure not to stretch yourselves too thin. As another said, purchase price isnít the only expense so make sure your budget works for your own goals.

- If you havenít already had The Talk, now might be a good time to find out if POA, living will, and estate plans are in order.

- There are agencies and independent help that can be hired, at varying levels of care, in their own residence. We stumbled onto one site (care.com I think it was), and found CNAs, RNs and everything in tbetween that my mom could pre-interview and meet now, while sheís healthy, and choose a few favorites for future use when she needs it (which is coming). Her wish is to stay in her own home, and these folks will enable it to happen without me sitting there 24/7 or her living with us. I just want to say that the live together scenario isnít the only option get help.