selling home when your parent has Alzheimer'sWhen it comes time for a senior to move into assisted living, one of the most important items on the to-do list is to sell the person’s home. Often, the money from the sale is needed to pay for necessary care. It has to be done, but there’s a catch: only a homeowner can legally sell their home. If Alzheimer’s has already incapacitated the person, then getting this task done becomes difficult. Basically, you cannot act if you do not have power of attorney. Hopefully, your parent was organized enough to assign this power to a family member or other trusted person while they still had the capability to make these important decisions. But all too often, this step has been postponed, and now that the parent has lost capacity to make decisions, it’s too late. The caregiver’s only option now is to apply for guardianship of their loved one through the legal system. However, be forewarned that the process of obtaining guardianship is expensive and draining. For one thing, the court will need to award you the right to complete every step of the process. You need to have permission to sell the home, you need to get court approval of the sale price, and then you need to have permission to use the proceeds to pay for senior care. Getting these rulings made will take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months, which seems to be a long time to wait when the money is needed now. The first step is to find a buyer who’s interested in the house, and then get them to sign a contract. The contract must state that the sale is conditional upon court approval. You can then file this document with the court and wait for them to review it and approve the terms of the sale. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for buyers to decide that this extra step is too much trouble. If they can find a house they like just as much without restrictions like this, they may decide to walk away from the deal. The process isn’t necessarily any easier even if the caregiver has power of attorney. Sometimes the title company puts up obstacles and challenges the validity of the agreement between the senior and the caregiver. They may want your parent to still sign something to approve the sale, or they may want to meet with them to confirm that they are incapacitated. In the end, the takeaway message is that selling a parent’s home is complicated, and you should be prepared for a lengthy and challenging process. Your best course of action is to find a lawyer specializing in elder law, who will be able to guide you through the process in the most painless way possible.
Many of us have pets we love dearly in our lives. Seniors often find pets to be good companions when they live on their own. Indeed, studies have shown that having a pet is great for one’s health. However, pets often cannot move with a senior to assisted living, and even if they can there’s many reasons why it might not be a practical decision. What will happen to the pet is often the biggest concern about the move. It’s common for people to feel wracked by guilt over abandoning a beloved friend they have taken on the responsibility to care for. However, this guilt is misplaced if the senior is having trouble caring for the pet and it would be better off with other owners. Seniors who are ready for assisted living may have trouble with taking the dog for a walk, feeding or cleaning their pet, or getting to the vet or to the store for supplies. Indeed, families concerned about mom or dad can get a clue to how well they are able to be on their own by observing how the pet is doing. One possible solution is for the senior’s family members or a friend to adopt the pet. They can bring the animal to see their loved one regularly. Even if the pet cannot come into the facility, the senior can be brought outside to say hello. This is the ideal solution for reducing the trauma of pet separation. If this is not possible and the senior doesn’t know anyone, even living far away, who can take the pet, it will probably have to be surrendered to a shelter. Giving the animal away to strangers is not always a great idea, as they can end up with an abusive or irresponsible owner. Seek out a well-funded “no-kill” shelter to receive the animal. It’s a good sign if you have to make an appointment to surrender the pet: this shows that the shelter is working to manage their intake of new animals. There’s a good chance the pet will find a new family. Find out in advance if your pet has any issues that will make it “unadoptable” in the shelter’s eyes. Especially if the pet is old, make sure to provide the shelter with veterinary records. If a loved one entering assisted living is bereft over the loss of a pet, try to compensate with plenty of human companionship. Make sure that the senior’s family and friends visit often. Feeling involved in a community can help with the loss.
Meetings can be very useful when a family is faced with a tough decision, like whether to move a parent to assisted living. They provide a chance for relatives to come together, pool their knowledge, and discuss various options and strategies. It can be tough even to make the decision to hold such a meeting. The most important family members may not all live close together, so location is a challenge. People’s schedules are packed and some may be reluctant to add one more thing to the calendar. Sometimes it’s assumed that other relatives don’t want to get together. However, it never hurts to ask. Due to the serious nature of the decision, people may be more inclined to be cooperative. And if their lives are heavily affected by caring for mom or dad, they will be interested in solutions that will improve the situation. It is important to include the affected senior, even if it means overcoming challenges presented by physical or mental disability or resistance to facing the need for care. There are several reasons why you may feel this is inappropriate, but making sure your loved one is included in the process is vital to making any solution work. They deserve the respect of knowing that they have say in decisions affecting their life, and you can’t find a solution for them unless you have their own opinion on what their needs are. You may be surprised to learn how they see the issue. This does not mean that the solution mom or dad would choose on their own is necessarily the best one and that they have final say, but you do need to take into account their concerns. Consider including any paid caregivers or others who provide household services. The cleaning lady who comes in on Fridays may have noticed something you haven’t. Also consider bringing in the senior’s friends and neighbors. A social worker or for families where religion is important, a spiritual advisor, may also be helpful. Try to plan the meeting at a time when it’s easier for far-flung family to travel, perhaps during the holidays. When planning the agenda, make sure everyone will get a chance to speak so that they can make their case for what is important to them, and be sure to devote significant time to what the senior has to say themselves. Have everyone in the group review the agenda in advance. Also choose people to take on different tasks: someone who can be a neutral facilitator, someone to take notes, someone to keep time. Plan to hold the meeting in a place that will comfortable and have food and beverages available. Try to choose somewhere that allows a layout where everyone can make eye contact with one another. Tension exists in any family, even those where the members are close and get along well. It’s a normal part of life. Bringing everyone together at once will cause these problems to rise to the surface. Keep conflict to a minimum by focusing everyone on finding solutions for the future, not on rehashing past grief. Remind everyone that there will be no perfect solution and there will have to be compromise in some form. You won’t be able to fix everything then and there. The point is to gather perspectives and come up with practical answers. When you’ve finished the meeting, send the notes to people who were interested but unable to attend, and follow up on whatever course of action was agreed upon. Even if you decide that assisted living is not the right choice now, in time your parent is very likely to need help. Make plans to have them visit facilities you are considering and prepare for an eventual move. It never hurts to have alternate solutions available for when they might be needed. The one thing you can always count on is change.