Moved to Care Facility -- When to Sell House?

Updated on October 21, 2010
H.A. asks from San Francisco, CA
13 answers

Hi there,

I'm wondering if any of you have been in this situation and have some advice for us. My father-in-law has moved into a care facility because he was not able to care for himself any longer. He is 84, we are living out of the country so could not care for him. He seems to have adjusted fairly well, but keeps asking to return home to check up on things and look for objects. He is usually confused and accuses people of taking things and moving things, when no one has been in the home while he is not there. He becomes quite agitated about this.

We are wondering if we sell the house if it would make the problem better or worse? And even if he wasn't insisting on going to the house and searching for things, when do you empty a house and sell it when the owner is still alive but will not be able to return to live there? It seems silly to be paying all of the bills associated with owning a home when no one is living there. But since he is still alive it seems cruel to get rid of all of his things that he can't keep in the assisted living facility and to sell his home. I don't even know how we'd discuss it with him. My husband has the legal right to take control of the house (not sure how to word that) so this isn't a legal question, just not sure what would be best for my father-in-law. Maybe if the house wasn't there he wouldn't worry about his things?

Thanks for any advice!


Thank you so much for your replies so far! To answer a few questions, he has two very dedicated friends who visit often and have taken him back to see his house. He is aware enough to know it's there. Also, he has a very nice, large room at the care facility with his own furniture, paintings, etc. from his home. But his house is still FILLED with things that will no longer use since he's moved out of his home, and he is very attached to his things, understandably!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

Does anyone ever take him back there? If not, I'd say sell it and don't tell him that you did. No need to cause him that upset and stress. You're right, unless money is NO object, not a smart to be paying those bills, taxes, etc. Also, the money from the sale of the house can help fund his care.

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Denver on

A stager I worked with did a lot of work for elderly clients. She called it "moving on with style" and one of the things she did, among many, to help seniors move on was to take pictures of all the collectibles, valuables, furniture, anything which could have a memory. She'd sit with the client and get a story on each object. Once everything was documented she'd present the client with an album of all the pieces and their stories so the memories wouldn't be lost and they could "move on".

Then families would divvy up the household items, or do an estate sale, and also sell the home. Consult with a realtor who works with seniors to help you. It's a very tough transition. GL!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I would put his things into storage for now, and consider renting the house out. It might be easier to explain to him that as long as he isn't in the house, it makes more sense to have someone using it, and that you are getting money from that to help him. Also, storage rental is less expensive than keeping all his things in the house.. and his knowing it's in storage (at least for the time being) gives him the assurance that they are still his things. I don't know your father-in-law's health condition, but 84 is relatively young these days to be in a care facility. I'm wondering too, if there is any possibility that his condition might turn around to the point where he could be able to move back home in a year or so? It just seems to me that a somewhat 'temporary' arrangement for his house and belongings would be better at this time for his peace of mind and any possibility that he might need those things again.



answers from Boise on

I would say to put his stuff in storage and sell the house. There is no reason to keep it and the cost is just silly. Who is taking him back to the house? Why? My husband's grandfather went into a care facility, but he knows that his house was sold. Doesn't see to be a big thing for him. If he can understand, I would talk to him about it. Let him say goodbye to it and maybe organize his stuff at the storage place.



answers from Detroit on

I put my mom in an assisted living facility about a year and a half ago. I haven't sold her condo, but I'm renting it out. My mom paid top dollar for her place and now, it's not even worth half, so for me, I'm renting it and using the money to pay for her care. I don't even handle the landlord issues either. I hired a property manager who handles dealing with the tenant and any issues that the tenant may have. The property manager takes 10% fee of the rental income per month. I suggest you contact a relator and have the house appraised first to see what it's worth before selling it. It may be better for you to rent it out. Be careful also because if you liquidate the house, the money will have to be used for his care before you can go on Medicaid (if it ever comes to that point). That means you may not get an inheritence if he wanted to leave you anything.




answers from New York on

This has got to be one of the saddest and hardest things to go thru - I know, because a similar thing happened to me. My mom was living alone in FL (I live in NY) and after a fall had to go into the hospital and eventually rehab. Because she could no longer live on her own, I had to move her up to NY to an assisted living facility. Her house in FL stayed empty while she was here for almost a year - in her mind, the move to NY was only "temporary" and she always planned to go back, even though we all knew that could never happen. Eventually she decided to put the house in my name, and gave me "permission" to sell it. We emptied it out and kept all of the things she wanted to pass along to us, and put it on the market. She passed away before it was sold, which in a way was a blessing because she knew it was still there, even if she couldn't physically go to it. There are no easy answers here. It sounds as if your father-in-law is perhaps suffering from dementia (at least the paranoia and agitation indicate this might be so). But if he is still cognizant, it certainly would give you and your husband peace of mind to have his agreement on what to do with the house. Try to gently have a talk with him and see how he feels about it - maybe it would help him to have some of his own things with him at the facility, and the rest could be sold or donated. You're right when you say that paying for an empty house just doesn't make any sense. Is there any possibility of renting it until a decision is made about selling? Good luck!



answers from Anchorage on

Does he need the money to help pay for the assisted living home? If so I would sell rather than go into debt to pay for his care.


answers from Philadelphia on

What about taking him to the house and having him select some things from it to bring back with him, with the understanding that whatever is left at the house will be put up for estate sale?

I am assuming he is private pay at whatever facility you have placed him, or private insurance. I am not sure how it is in California, put in PA they can sell your house and take the money for your expenses if you do not have sufficient funds for your facility stay. So if it is the same out there, double check into whether they will eventually claim his house for payment.

If so, then sell now and get the money out of your FIL's name, so they cannot take it. Eventually most incurances run out and the people are left on medical assiatance or medicare, which the facility gets pretty much all of.

I know it sounds bad, but I work in a long term care facility, and there are some people who's houses and property ahve been sold in order to secure fund for their treatment. and once that money runs out, the facility no longer gets money from them, just the reimbursements from the state for their care.

Definitly worth looking into, because it would really suck if you held on to the house and ended up losing it with nothing in return. Maybe have the house transferred into your husbands name while your FIL is still in his right mind and can still legally sign for it?


answers from Dallas on

I've walked in you shoes a few years back. My dad had Alzheimers and my mom passes shortly after he was diagnosed. I cared for him as long as I could but we had to move him into a private paid Alzheimers unit for his best interest and mine. What ever you decide I don't think I would tell him about your decision. If he is suffering for any dementia problems you couldn't expect him to ever understand and it would just upset and hurt him. It's hard enough for him to adjust to his new living situation. After about a year or so, my sister and I made the hard decision to sell the family home. It was paid off but we where still paying for utilities and the house was just sitting there. We knew dad would never return to it. We had an estate sale after spending several weekends going through papers, and deciding what we wanted to keep. Then sold the house shortly after. We used that money to help care for my dad. I agree it was hard to do since when we did it my dad was still alive but it done with his best interest in mind.
I wish you and your husband the best in this sad situation.



answers from Columbus on

I don't have any good answers, but I watched something very similar happen with my grandmother, and it was awful to see. My heart broke for her. During her better days, she knew what was going on, but on her bad days, she would forget everything about why and where she was, and just keep asking to go home.

I would suggest that you and your husband talk to the medical staff at the facility. They should be able to tell you how much he can comprehend/grasp (as they should have evaluated his mental condition as well as his physcial condition). If they can't tell you/don't know the answer, talk to the FIL's physician about it.

Once you have a better idea what he can grasp, and what he can remember, then I think that will help your husband make the decisions necessary.



answers from Washington DC on

My Uncle was recently moved to a care facility. He often had those moments of needing to go home. His children chose to wait until he had passed on before trying to sell. That way he could always go back and check on things.

There are several things that you could do know without selling.
1. Yard sale/estate sale some of the stuff.
2. Talk to the mortgage lender, if there is one about a reverse mortgage.
3. Cancel the phone, tv service, etc.
4. Keep the eletricity down to 65 degrees.

For our Aunt who had lived in a different state, we just told her that she was moving in with us, packed her up, put the stuff she wanted to keep in storage and sold the house. 4 years later and she still goes to the storage unit to check on things.


answers from Bakersfield on

We just had to put my 94 yr old father in law in convalescence as my 84 yr old MIL just couldnt handle him anymore. He still likes to come home and look in the garage at his stuff and likes to go into his bathroom and rifle through his stuff in there as well. She doesnt have the heart to get rid of his stuff yet either. Your husband, being the executor, will have to make the decision based on his heart and what is the logical thing to do. If FIL is NEVER going back home, it might be good to set up an estate sale and let him be there while it's going on....?
In as much as you all would love to shove it all under the rug you cant because FIL is still a semi cognizant thinker. Your hubby is just going to have to sit with him and have a matter of fact talk with Dad, and let him know that it's time to sell. If Dad has some sense about him, he will probably agree. It's gotta be so hard to get old and have someone else controlling your stuff. Just keep it all as compassionate as you can. Is there anyone in the family that would like to buy the house? That might make it easier.



answers from Sacramento on

Once someone has been moved into a care facility, they're not going home, so it's time to sell. Care facilities, followed by nursing homes as conditions worsen, eat up huge amounts of money and he will likely need whatever proceeds he can get out of the house. If he's mentally stable enough to have this talk, I would focus on the financials and how selling will ensure he can stay in the best possible places as he ages. If it's too distressing, talk to him about what he misses from his home, keep those objects/pass along in the family and donate or sell whatever you feel isn't worth keeping (and there is probably going to be a lot of stuff that's very obviously worth tossing out).

My parents just did this with my grandmother a couple years ago. She's also declining mentally and pines for her old house and things. Well, when all was well, she HATED living in her old house. She was always lonely, complained about the neighbors, complained about house problems, just overall didn't like it there. I think part of the mental decline is the reshaping of memories. Your FIL may or may not truly want those things he mentions.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

More Questions About