Sharing a House with Aging Parents

Archived Responses: 


Mom moving in with my sister - how do we compensate her?

May 2010

My 89 year old mother can't continue to live alone. One of my sisters has offered to share her home with Mother but wants to be compensated for providing room, board, time, attention, and other sacrifices she will undoubtedly need to make. All siblings are in agreement but want to be sure we can pass a significant amount of money to custodial sister without running into legal or tax difficulties. We also do not want to ''hire'' our sister and become her employer. Has anyone else solved this problem? We have consulted a lawyer and a tax advisor and neither of them came up with a real solution for us. Thanks very much for sharing ideas. sandwich generation

I think Family Caregiver Alliance can be a great resource for you. Call 1-800-445-8106. You'll most likely get a human being who knows what they're talking about and/or guide you to resource. Also, they'll know your local support group which might be a good way to get feedback. Monica

We have a similar situation. My M-I-L recently fell at her home. The Dr.s say she had some minor strokes that may have caused the fall. She did not break anything but is not able to take care of herself any longer. If she stays in the assisted living place it will cost approx. $5K or more per month. If we bring her into our home we will need some in home care to help with her care. My husband feels comfortable in using her savings to pay for the home care and reimburse our household for costs up to the $5K per month that they would be paying if she is in an assisted living facility. He says he would do the same for his sisters if either of them would offer to take her into their homes... but so far they are not offering just leaving it up to him to care for her. I just recently saw how much time and effort it takes to care for an aging-ill parent, my mom, before she died. It is a huge undertaking of both time and money. You should be thankful your sister is offering to take your mother under her roof and be glad to help with the costs. She will never receive enough to compensate for what it takes; physically, emotionally, financially. Grateful

Not sure what I am missing here because I am a little dismayed that your advisors have not informed you that you can give anyone up to $13,000 per year without any tax issues. This means that you and your siblings can give this amount each and so may any spouses. If your sister is married, you and the siblings and spouses can also give up to this amount each to your sisters spouse. Your mother's estate can do the same. If your mother has no assets, then you could also gift to your mother in order for her to pay her direct living expenses. But then again this is probably not the right forum for this kind of advise. anon

Rent a larger home for MIL, and keep our smaller one?

Oct 2009

I'm looking for other's experience as well as financial solutions for caring for elderly parents. My mother in law wants to live with us and we want this to happen as well. The problem is that our current home is inaccessible as well as we don't have the space. We have a two bedroom home with a child and are up two flights of stairs. We were looking to buy another home and sell our current home or rent a larger home in our community so that our child could continue in the current school district. The problem with renting another home is that we will likely only get a year lease and in our community rentals are competitive and we have specific needs--virtually a level in home is necessary as my mother-in-law walks only with a walker. This means that in order to guarantee that our child continues in the same school district, we can't sell our home--as there is uncertainty regarding a rental longer than a year. Either way we need help from my mother in law to do this. She requires a lot of care and we will need approximately 40 hours of hired care per week while we are at work and we will provide the care in the evenings and at night. If we didn't need to keep our home we could put our current mortgage payment towards the rent of a larger home. We don't really think our delicate 90 year old home it is a good rental.

We therefore were wondering if it is fair to have my mother in law rent the larger home and we will pay for utilities and food and make sure that her care is always covered--she will pay for the 40 hours of care a week, but we will make sure there is always someone with her and my husband and I will be responsible for the other 128 hours of care per week. My mother in law has been at assisted living since her husband of over 50 years passed away last year. However, she has eaten all her meals in her room by herself except when we are able to come over. My husband visits my mother in law every night on the way home from work pushing our family dinner back to an absurd hour. His daily visit is necessary as there have been a number of mishaps at this very expensive top of the line assisted living place and we want to take better care of my mother in law than this. Anyone with a similar experience, and/or creative solutions or ideas, we'd welcome your advice. This is a dilemma that we need help with. Thank you very much. sandwich generation

I think there is no problem with having her rent the bigger house. These kinds of arrangements where the elder provides the housing so that everyone gets what they need is typical. The value of having you close and mitigating the isolation justifies the expense for her in my opinion. Isolation is a very serious problem for seniors. You are truly in a sandwich situation trying to meet everyone's needs. I applaud you for that. Elizabeth

My parents, in debt, want to move in with us

October 2006

My parents, aged 57 and 67 have a lot of debt (somewhere between 80K and 120k) due to a failed resturant business. They live in Miami. My mother has just found a job for $10 an hour but my father's English skills are not good and at his age, it is very hard to find work or even have the energy to work. We have lent them large sums of money and they have paid us back before their creditors by selling a peice of property. They own a condo with very little of it paid off and have a monthly mortgage of $840 a month, which is a good deal. They can't declare bankrupty because they paid me back instead of the creditors. We are in the process of moving to a very large home and my parents have begged me to let them stay with us. My husband is completely against this (and rightly so) because my father's personality is very difficult for me to be around without being very stressed!

I want to help. I feel it is my duty regardless to take them in. I have tried to find them credit counseling, housing, job help and other resources and am at a dead end. I have no more money to lend as they still owe me 5K and I am putting everything into my new house.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I may help them without upseting them about not moving in with us? Sleepless

I'm sure this is not what you want to hear, but why did you buy such a big house if you don't want to share it with anyone? It seems awfully cold to not want your parent in your new, huge home, especially when they are in such a bad state. Even if your parents are not always that fun to be around (neither are mine, believe me) you could use the space to put some distance between you and them. I don't have any debt advice. Sorry. A

You obviously care very much for your parents or you wouldn't be asking for help. Your parents also care very much for you or they wouldn't have paid you before their creditors. In any event, it sounds like you not letting your parents live in your house is a good idea since your father doesn't get along with your husband.

However, if you were able to build an in-law unit on your property then maybe your parents could live there. They could sell their condominium and use the proceeds to pay for the construction of the unit. That way your parents could live on your property without them being in your house. Another possibility might be a reverse mortgage since your father is a senior citizen. Provided your parents continue to live in the condominium, the money from a reverse mortgage might pay off their debts and give them something to live on. Also, have you consulted an attorney in Florida to see if your parents might qualify for one of the chapters of bankruptcy? I know they paid you first before their creditors, but with some legal help, they still may qualify. Lastly, have you tried asking other family members if they might be willing to split some of the cost of helping your parents? Maybe you and another relative could put together a private loan or some other form of assistance? Since you have shouldered most of the financial burden up until now, it would be nice if some other family members helped out. I know it's difficult to ask relatives since family members not directly related often don't want to help and there's always the risk of alienating them, but then again it may be worth asking Anon

Elderly father moving in

October 2002

My mother died last week and I have had to move my frail, slightly senile (senile dementia and/or early stages of ALzheimer's) 79-year-old father into our North Oakland home from his home in rural Nevada.

My father is docile and does not require custodial (nursing) care, but he is very frail and absent-minded--forgetting what he has said or done from one minute to the next; he was utterly dependent on the company, care, and supervision of my mother. He is somewhat lost at the moment, not only because he has lost his wife of 58 years but also his home and familiar routines. Rightly or wrongly, my husband and I believe that placement in an assisted living situation right now would be devastating. He needs someone to be available to him, make him lunch, and generally ''keep an eye'' on him while he adjusts to a new life and home situation. I was thinking of possibly hiring a combination housekeeper/companion who could perform light housekeeping tasks, prepare and feed him lunch, and monitor his forrays into the backyard to smoke cigars while I and my husband are at work. We have one teenage son in high school living at home and two sons in their early 20s who are in and out throughout the week and weekends.

I would be grateful for advice on the feasibility of such a plan and any information or leads on elder care services. Many thanks. Fran

The Center for Elders Independence is a not-for-profit program with sites in Berkeley and Oakland. The goal of the program is to keep elders in their communities and with their families for the duration of their lives. Participants are picked up at their homes during the day and brought to one of the program sites, where they receive full social care, medical care -all sorts of things. The goal of the program is to provide the highest quality of life possible for elders, by providing all necessary professional care while the participants are still rooted in and connected to their family, friends and communities.

The phone number at CEI is 433-1150. I believe that if your father qualifies for Medicare, the program costs are fully covered. You'll have to call to find out. I'm sure you'd be able to ask to talk to sons and daughters of other participants, to hear what they think of the program. I do know that it's considered a national model for elder care. anon

Check out This is a new website with information on all the Californian nursing homes. It also has a section on alternative care. Good Luck. Anon