If you have an elderly parent or other loved one, you probably know you may one day have to move him or her away from home. The move may be to a senior-only housing development, an assisted-living center or into your own home. The decision can be difficult, if not painful, for all parties, but sometimes these transitions are necessary. Therefore, you need to be ready for it. "It's best to talk these things through while everyone's healthy, so your parent and your siblings know what's going on and there's a plan," says A.J. Nisen, a mortgage loan officer from Contra Costa County, Calif., who has personal experience with the matter. "You don't want to be caught in a situation where your mom is ill, can't stay in her house anymore and you've got to find a place for her, quickly." Addressing Safety: If the senior and his or her doctors agree that living unassisted is still safely possible, you may need to look into modifications that will make the home more suitable. These modifications can include the installation of some form of stair assist, bathroom and shower grab bars and hallway handrails.
Another possibility could be lighted flooring that can guide someone at night from the bedroom to the bathroom. Lighting, both natural and electric, is critical for seniors, since our eyesight often worsens with age. Monitoring devices that an individual wears around the neck can summon help in case of a fall or other emergency.
Deciding Whether to Sell: This is a terrible time to sell a home, but if it's got to be done, it's got to be done. However, there is an alternative if the senior doesn't need the proceeds right way. The home could be rented out until the market improves, or you may find a renter who's willing to take a lease with an option to buy at a certain point. (Read more in How to Sell a House -- Fast.) "By renting the house while the person moves to alternative housing, they may feel they have more control," says Brad Long, a Phoenix-area real estate agent. "It's not as final as selling a home,
and the home is still a part of them, if they have special memories there." Know the Tax Considerations: Get the facts in your state regarding how property taxes work for seniors. In states such as California, residents age 55 or over can move into a home that has the same or less value as their current house and maintain the same tax basis. Other states have similar statutes, so check with your accountant. Moving In: Having a parent or a senior relative move in with you is a big step, not only emotionally but in terms of responsibility. "You become the primary caregiver and you have to evaluate if you're ready for it," says Nisen. If a parent does move in and you pay for at least 50% of their living expenses, you're entitled to claim them as a dependent on your returns, and their health care needs, including any modifications to your home to allow them to live there, can also be deducted. Get Help: Talk to your local senior services agency about resources that may be available to your family. If you need to buy or sell a home for a parent, look for a Realtor with a Senior Real Estate Specialist certification who has been trained to help those making the move to retirement.