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FIL wrecked his car, might be a good thing
Old 06-15-2008, 04:03 PM   #1
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FIL wrecked his car, might be a good thing

My 82-year-old FIL wrecked his car yesterday, and he does not have the funds to buy even a junker for a replacement. I haven't seen it but according to him one wheel & tire were bent over 90 degrees from hitting a curb. On a front wheel drive 2000 Buick with 150k miles on it, that's probably totaled.

This on top of his living in an otherwise nice house that has suffered 30 years of benign neglect. Family room carpet is shag right out of the 1970s. When DW and I repainted the dining room, living room, hallway and one kitchen wall last fall it was the first wet paint to touch those walls since about 1982. He appreciated the efforts but it was very disruptive to his normal routine. We're going to have to get him out of there to do the kitchen - perhaps get SIL to take him to SC where they have a vacation home.

We, meaning all who are physically able, have been working on correcting the water problem in the basement. The house has a sump pump but it hadn't been working for 15-20 years and every time there was heavy rain one end of the basement flooded. The sump pump was in a closet underneath a shelf in a finished off basement bedroom, so earlier this month was the first time I knew there was a sump there. He attributed the water from coming in over the outside basement stairwell threshold, and thought the drain was clogged with leaves. Nope - running water in it showed the drain is clear but it drains to the sump. No surprise there.

We ripped out the paneling and drywall that was moldy, found more mold on the 2x4 studs - some were so rotted they crumbled when touched - and ripped them out as well, so now we're down to bare concrete floor and cinder block walls. Replaced the sump pump, put in a 65-pint-per-day dehumidifier that drains into the sump, and the humidity still does not go below 50%, from 75% when we started. I'm thinking of getting another one but I'll have to run electric service there to do it. (My father was an electrician, so I can do that.) But I'm not sure another dehumidifier will do much good if vapor moisture is still coming in. The new sump pump kept things dry during the last very heavy rains so the "wet water" issue is cured.

Maybe wet cinder blocks can hold a LOT of water and it will take a while to dry them out?

BIL, who has extensive masonry construction experience, dug out the foundation wall in the front and found that the last course of block was never waterproofed and the walls on the front and one side are now bowing in slightly from freeze-thaw cycles. He's taking care of the waterproofing.

We're doing all this in preparation for selling the house and trying to get FIL into a retirement community where he will have access to care when he needs it. He doesn't need assisted living yet but it's coming within 2-3 years at the outside. The only asset he has is the paid-for house, in today's market worth at least high 200's-low 300's, mostly for the 3 acres with a wonderful view. Two years ago they were going for near $500k. Getting him to move may be a hard sell, he's just a tad stubborn and has been there 30+ years.

Two months ago his house was three weeks away from a tax sale because he didn't pay the taxes. Last year he was undergoing chemo and radiation therapy for prostrate cancer (he's doing fine with that, thankfully) so we think he got confused about the due date on the bill. DW and I and one other sister were the only ones who could come up with the $2,700 on short notice to make that problem go away for the moment. He has $100 in a savings account and a $9,400 outstanding credit card balance. That's it.

So we suggested he take a $25k loan on the house to pay off the CC, do some home improvements and pay this year's property taxes, which he has applied for but not yet received. Other than the waterproofing issue, windows that don't open, and needing broken vinyl siding replaced on one side, the house is in good shape and needs only cosmetics, painting and new rugs.

Now he's wheeless in an area where you're stuck without a car. Hopefully it has finally sunk in that he can't afford to stay where he is and his wrecking the car may make him more open to moving to a place he can afford.

Good thing we're retired, we'd never have time for all this if we were working!:confused:
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Old 06-15-2008, 08:31 PM   #2
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My sympathies, Walt, it sounds like you guys are coping as best as you're getting cooperation...

My grandfather gradually sank into senile dementia over a five-year period, although no one noticed until he stopped paying his rent. Unfortunately he drove flawlessly during this time, may or may not have been a good thing. (He'd dumped the contents of his safe-deposit box into the trunk of the Olds and forgotten about it.) But by the time anyone realized what was happening and got him into a full-care facility, it was too late for anything with his personal affairs but forensics, reconstruction, & back taxes.

I fear my father is heading down the same road. Hopefully he's learned from dealing with his father's situation, but there's no tactful way to be sure.

Sounds like all of "you who are physically able" are getting along pretty well. Maybe it's time to tackle a couple more suggestions that we learned from my grandfather:
- Is it possible that the accident was contributed to by a medication interaction? Any recent changes or additions?
- Was the accident a result of a small (undetected) stroke or heart attack?
- If he hasn't already, now would be a good time for your FIL to review or sign a durable power of attorney and a healthcare directive.
- It might be worth checking on how he's handling his mail-- utility bills, dividend checks, financial statements, and tax bills. Then it might be a good idea to verify that he's filed all his tax returns and see how well he's balancing his checkbook. Your BIL has probably heard/seen all the stories about unscrupulous contractors getting paid multiple times.
- Has your FIL been eating a healthy diet, or has he been letting McFriendly's take care of his nutritional desires? If he's a good tipper then no one will ever quirk an eyebrow at his eating habits.
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Old 06-15-2008, 09:09 PM   #3
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We managed to convince my FIL to move out of the family house (30 years old - 5 bedrooms) despite his vow of "I'm going to die in this house!" When he finally bought off into the idea he did a good job of picking out something that would work for him in case he ever needed home health care. Which was great, because that's ultimately what happened.

The hardest part for me, other than seeing a good man degenerate over time, was that I tried, without success, to get my wife and her sisters and brothers to get involved early in planning. There was plenty of time to see this coming and some things should have been handled differently. They would listen to my suggestions but never followed through on little things like "Dad, why don't you buy a house closer to everyone else in the family?" I guess they were in denial, but now we are all stuck with extra hassle that could have been avoided with a few frank discussions.

Being the retired guy, I'm the one who drives an hour each way to figure out why the AC isn't working. Oh well, what else do I have to do all day?

Good luck with it Walt, you have my sympathies as well.
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Old 06-15-2008, 11:07 PM   #4
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My folks are 72, and Dad is still going strong. He cares for our home while we are away, pays some bills for us (our money), mows the weeds in the "back forty", and generally takes care of things for us as well as himself and mom. We are in the process of designing and will eventually build a guest apartment on our land, which will be for them to use when they can no longer care completely for themselves, but still want some independence. We'll be close by to look in on them. Its a good thing that we are best buddies or this would not be a workable solution.

My FIL has passed on, but DW and I poured out huge amounts of money to support him and his business (read that: helped him make his payroll) for several years. At the end, he ran his business into the ground and our money sank with him. Shortly after the business's demise, he lost his ability to think, walk, care for himself, etc. He only lasted four months after he lost his business, and I think he died because he had lost the will to live along with his business. This is a man who was once very successful, but could not change with the times, nor could he change as his abilities declined. Having seen that, I think I am more likely to begin relying on my kids help a little earlier as I age, so that I don't make similar mistakes by not understanding what I am doing.

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Old 06-16-2008, 06:32 AM   #5
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I fear my father is heading down the same road. Hopefully he's learned from dealing with his father's situation, but there's no tactful way to be sure.

Sounds like all of "you who are physically able" are getting along pretty well. Maybe it's time to tackle a couple more suggestions that we learned from my grandfather:
- Is it possible that the accident was contributed to by a medication interaction? Any recent changes or additions?
- Was the accident a result of a small (undetected) stroke or heart attack?
- If he hasn't already, now would be a good time for your FIL to review or sign a durable power of attorney and a healthcare directive.
- It might be worth checking on how he's handling his mail-- utility bills, dividend checks, financial statements, and tax bills. Then it might be a good idea to verify that he's filed all his tax returns and see how well he's balancing his checkbook. Your BIL has probably heard/seen all the stories about unscrupulous contractors getting paid multiple times.
- Has your FIL been eating a healthy diet, or has he been letting McFriendly's take care of his nutritional desires? If he's a good tipper then no one will ever quirk an eyebrow at his eating habits.
His diet is generally "meat & potatoes" but his cardiologist says he "has the heart of a 20-year-old". Up until his hip replacement last year he walked between 5-8 miles a day, now he goes to a mall to walk in the mornings. Mostly his diet seems to be frozen prepared foods as that's what I see in the freezer. He won't eat "rabbit food".

He has done a power of attorney and healthcare directive - DW and one SIL are the administrators.

We did try to get a picture of how he's handling other bills and that seems to be going okay, but it was treading on thin ice there as he was beginning to feel intruded upon so I backed off. I am going to ask him to have the electric company notify us if the bill isn't paid. Other than telephone that's the only utility he has - water & sewer are well & septic. SIL did get him a Go-phone some time ago with the kid's numbers programmed into it.

It's clear he's aware that things are not going as he planned, and said that he "never thought his kids would be taking care of him" after we paid the property taxes. That was one wake-up call, the other was hopefully wrecking the car. I know he's depressed about it (who wouldn't be?) but I think he's overwhelmed at the choices and what to do about it.

There are a few full-range senior communities within 20 miles of his home so we're getting information now from them, they appear to be affordable for him if he sells the house. The question is will he.
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Old 06-16-2008, 07:13 AM   #6
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There are a few full-range senior communities within 20 miles of his home so we're getting information now from them, they appear to be affordable for him if he sells the house. The question is will he.
This is a very reasonable alternative for him, so I hope it works out. Maybe when he realizes how much easier this will be for his children, he will decide on it.

Meanwhile, perhaps he could take a cab if he needs to get places. Taking a cab for a year or so would probably end up costing less than another car, and it would certainly be safer! It doesn't sound like he needs to be out there driving any more, at his age.
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Old 06-17-2008, 07:52 AM   #7
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The saga continues....

DW went over yesterday and while she was there a nice lady from Enterprise dropped off a big black Chrysler rental car. For $20/day. We don't know if his car insurance covers the rental but being a believer in Murphy's Law I doubt it.

At this point I'm annoyed enough to just let the house go for a tax sale if he doesn't have any better sense than that. When I married DW I signed up to support her but not her family! Taxes will be due the end of this month but it won't actually go on the block for almost a year yet.

DW went with him to get stuff from the wrecked car and from her description I'm sure it's totaled. Unless/until his loan is approved (small-town bank is sure moving slow!) I guess he'll keep digging the CC debt hole deeper.

Weather is nice today, I'm going fishing.
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Old 06-17-2008, 09:19 AM   #8
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In 2004, when my mom was unable to live by herself, she and Sister #3 both sold their houses and bought a McMansion together. I told Sis that it was a bad idea, since all Mom's life savings were in her house, and she might need them if she needs to move to a full care facility.

She's now shuttling between the four siblings for care, but mostly with Sister #1.
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Old 06-17-2008, 09:29 AM   #9
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DW went over yesterday and while she was there a nice lady from Enterprise dropped off a big black Chrysler rental car. For $20/day.
When I read your OP, I was going to type "He'll be driving a rental car within the day and will have bought another car by the end of the week".

So watch out for part deux...
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:39 PM   #10
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CFB, you're probably right. The bank told him his $25k loan was approved, he'll have the funds later this week. Will he listen to reason...? Maybe he'll have sense enough to buy a used one for $4-5k or so, but I'm not optimistic.
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:38 PM   #11
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I am going to ask him to have the electric company notify us if the bill isn't paid. Other than telephone that's the only utility he has - water & sewer are well & septic. SIL did get him a Go-phone some time ago with the kid's numbers programmed into it.
If the bills don't get paid, the good news is that most utilities will complain to the bill-payer for a few months and then just start adding 1.5%/month interest charges. (The Cincinnati electric utility did that with my grandfather for nearly four years, but then he used to work for them for over 30 years.) No utility wants to be seen as beating up on senior citizens, and in most cases they get their money (and penalties & interest) one way or another.

The other news is that credit card debt is generally regarded as non-secured. Hypothetically the estate is not obligated to pay credit card bills, let alone the beneficiaries. I'm surprised that this isn't commonly known (or maybe it is) and that elderly don't go on a huge credit binge during their final years (or maybe they do!).
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Old 06-18-2008, 05:47 PM   #12
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Great news today!

I broached the subject of his selling the house and moving by saying "Would you consider...." To my astonishment he agreed to take a ride to the retirement community and seemed to very much like the 2 bedroom 1 bath house with a garage and screened-in back porch that they showed him.

We also found a "maybe" car, a '94 Ford Tempo with 76K miles, $1,950, garage kept according to the ad, so we'll look at that tomorrow and if it looks promising have his service garage do a pre-purchase inspection. I'll offer the seller $100 to in effect "buy an option" on the car for the time it's off the market for the inspection. If he refuses that's a red flag and we'll keep looking.

While I was outside he said to DW "I hate having my kids take care of me." So between his hip surgery a couple of years ago, his pneumonia last winter, the car wreck and the realization that he just doesn't have the funds to keep the house he's in, this is a way for him to still live as independently as he can. And he'll have about $100k left over.

I sure hope all this works out.
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Old 06-18-2008, 05:59 PM   #13
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Walt, I've been following this saga with great interest. That really does sound like good news. I have an 88 year old FIL, living alone 2 1/2 hours from here, so I can readily identify with your situation. Hope you can get him where he needs to be.
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Old 06-18-2008, 06:23 PM   #14
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Walt, I have read this thread with great interest maybe where you FIL would. I think it is great how you are taking care of the situation. I have 4 kids and feel very sure they would care for DW and I if it came to that. I can be a big PITA for them and most everyone else so I have to kind of mellow about this stuff - getting old and older. I wish you and your FIL much good luck in this quest. The unique thing about your work here is that this is your FIL and not your Father. Good for you.
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Old 06-18-2008, 07:15 PM   #15
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Walt , My sympathy is with you . I guess we are all in the same boat .
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Old 06-18-2008, 10:59 PM   #16
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Glad to hear that things are looking up for the situation. I hope that he does not change his mind and things go forward.
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Old 06-20-2008, 07:36 AM   #17
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Things do seem to be looking up on this. The car insurance is paying him a lot more for the wrecked car, $5k vs. the $1.5k I thought, so that makes it a lot easier to find something a bit longer-lasting to drive. Whether he should be driving is a whole other question....

He got the loan from the small-town bank. We met with the president of the bank who handled the transaction, and he immediately paid off his Visa card. I'll be looking today for a car (the other was overpriced but sold anyway).

DW gets upset from time to time, it's a hard adjustment to be taking care of one who took care of her.

FIL was a little too anxious to start spending money though. We'll see how it all plays out. But I'm more optimistic about it than I have been for a while.
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Old 06-20-2008, 08:12 PM   #18
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We'll see how it all plays out. But I'm more optimistic about it than I have been for a while.
Hang in there and keep us posted-- we're all hoping to learn from your experiences...
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Old 06-20-2008, 08:48 PM   #19
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While I've only skimmed thisthread and maybe missed something, is it possible that this is the time to suggest to FIL that driving days are over?
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Old 06-20-2008, 08:57 PM   #20
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While I've only skimmed thisthread and maybe missed something, is it possible that this is the time to suggest to FIL that driving days are over?
And be prepared for a hissy fit.
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