Mom with MS and no retirement saved plus cheap brother

lizdcMay 4, 2008

I need some advice. I am a single parent with a very demanding job at a nonprofit (ie I barely make enough to get by). My brother on the other hand is a doctor with no dependants (meaning he works hard but has plenty of income).

Our Mother has MS and our dad is a but off. My mom is 65 and has MS. She is still working as a teacher but most of her life she was not a teacher so she has only accrued 5 years of a pension. It is getting bad and really hard for her to work.

Yesterday I had a conversation with my brother that we need to start thinking about what happens wen she can't work.

I was shocked. He said when I am certainly not helping . She should have thought about this before and been prepared. He even said why should I do anything? I said because she is your mother. He said so what. My mom had been telling me that she thought he wasn't going to help. I hadn't believed her. I mean who if they had the money to help wouldn't help their sick old mom.

So I am done with my brother. There is no point and considering someone family that would let their own mother out on the street just so they have more vacations. But now I have to figure out how the heck I am going to take care of her. My house is a two story so when she can't work she will not be able to live inside since bathroom and bedrooms are upstairs.

I have a small lot that at one time had a garage but doesn't. I was thinking about having a very small cottage built (think katrina cottage) where the garage was. Has anyone done this? What advise do have? What permits do I need?

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the cottage sounds like a good idea, unless you can figure out a way to add on to your house. Your local laws will set what kind of permits you will need. It could be that you would not be allowed to have a separate unit on the grounds.

She is 65, she can draw Social Security payments and should be eligible for Medicare. Since she has an on-going illness and little pension, she may qualify for additional Medicaid coverage for medical expenses.

It sounds as if your mother and your brother had problems. I know it sounds ugly for me to say it, but he may have good reasons why he doesn't care enough to help.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 12:16PM
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Agnes, a person age 65 would have been born in 1943. The "retirement" age to draw (receive full cash benefit checks ) AKA full retirement benefits is going up,it is no longer just age 65. A person born in 1942 would not receive full benefits until age 65 and 10 months. For those born 1943 and several years later, it is age 66. The latest "full" benefits can begin is age 67. But any person age 62 or older may be eligible for reduced benefits, depending on their current work status/plans. . You can check the facts by going to The Social Security Administration's own website: SSA dot gov. And, as you said, Medicare starts at age 65. Medicaid rules differ from one state to another, and eligibility depends on the person's assets, income, and living arrangements.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 1:05PM
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Too bad about your brother. I can only imagine how disheartening his attitude is for you.

How far away from your main house would the cottage be? The small cottage sounds like a good idea, but be aware that it's not without difficulties either. A lot depends on how your mother's MS progresses. She may eventually need a lot more aid & oversight and having her in a separate living arrangement may no longer work.

Would both your parents live in the cottage? How much care does your dad need now?

My situation is not like yours, but I, too, toyed with the idea of building a granny flat on our property for my mom. We started the whole permit process, had plans drawn up, took soil tests, etc. Then it hit me that my mom would need some sort of 24 hour supervision. I couldn't leave her alone at night because of falling scares. The kitchen appliances would have to be disabled. I'd need some sort of perimeter fence in case she took to wandering. We'd have to add security measures, cameras, audio, etc. to keep track of her welfare while we were in our home. And even with all that, I knew we'd have to get some caregivers to cover a few hours a week. Eventually I realized that it was not a good solution for us.

Obviously, everyone's situation is different. It's good that you are starting to think ahead now. That gives you time to do research and consider all the different scenarios.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 2:27PM
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Thank you all for your thoughts. On my brother if only it could be explained by them having problems. They don't he calls her a few times a week. He leans on her all the time for things like taking care of his dog. He has always been very selfish. I just assume that he had grown up or that he wasn't this heartless but he is.

So I will find a way to deal. If she needs it then she needs it.

The cottage would be 30 feet from the house. The house is a two story and all the bedrooms and only bathroom are upstairs. That is why I am looking at this option. I don't think their is a way to make the 100 year old house accessible for someone that will likely be unable to walk up stairs and may end up in a chair.

On my dad he is fairly able bodied but not very helpful. He would be there too.

Anyone know what permits I would have to pull? Also how much would it cost to have plans drawn up? I am thinking that at least getting the plans would be a good idea.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 3:56PM
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You need to check your LOCAL laws for permit requirements. Every municipality is different and you are wasting time asking strangers on the Net.

Until you know what your local laws and zoning codes permit, it is again a waste of time to draw up any plans. Investigate modular housing and how your local codes handle these types. Also investigate manufactured (mobile) homes; if your local codes allow, it is the fastest and cheapest housing you can find. Make a ramp to go up to the front door for accessibility, or create room for a chair lift off a front porch.

You also need to talk to Social Security or at least start reading their website. When and if your mother becomes disabled, disability might pay her more than SS might. Also, you need to become aware of the Medicaid asset limits and how they would apply to your parents. Most (80%)nursing home residents are there under Medicaid. However, any home health services used prior to failing the 3-ADL definition of disability; e.g., before she becomes disabled from MS, must be paid by the person/family's own funds (Medicare nor Medicaid never pays for home health care except under very limited circumstances).

It is a great shame your brother is being so uncooperative. You need to start getting Power of Attorney and a Durable healthcare Power of Attorney on both your mom and dad immediately. Good luck and keep notes! Your brother may very well turn into a problem down the road, and you need to be thoroughly documented on any actions you take on your parents' behalf.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 5:04PM
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Jkom is so right -- regarding local laws, zoning codes, & permits - Social Security, Medicare, & Medicaid - Power of Attorney for Finances & Health Care - And protecting yourself from your brother's future interference. Now is the time to start getting some solid information from every resource you can think of.

Regarding permits, you might want to make appointments with local building contractors to get an idea of what would be involved. Do the same with mobile home & modular home suppliers.

When we were considering a cottage for my mom, we went to two different mobile home suppliers in our area. Their representatives came out to our property & looked over what we had to work with. We got a general idea of what was involved -- permits, plumbing, electrical, grading, etc. The places we we went to had special contractors that would have overseen the entire project. We eventually ended up working with a general contractor/home builder that had done a lot of work for us in the past. As the general contractor, he pulled permits, procured an architect for blueprints, etc. We got to the blueprint stage along with some permits & some soil testing before pulling the plug on the project. That itself cost several thousand dollars. It's not a cheap process. That's why doing research at this stage is so important.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 6:47PM
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be sure to check your home insurance too. If your policy says single family is not liable for an additional cottage. It would be just another cost for you to consider. It might be wiser (and cheaper) if you considered some sort of assisted living facility. She's probably going to need additional care later.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 7:18PM
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If I posted my comments to you here it would probably take up several pages - my Mom has had MS for 50 years. Please feel free to e-mail me (incidentally, she just this week went into a nursing home at age 91)
the easiest e-mail would be: e-c_spouse(at)

of course, replace the (at) with @ and leave out the spaces.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 10:49PM
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MS people do alot if they have good meds and care. Encourge your father to do more. I have a friend with this and the husband did everything before they had to go into homes. Cooked, cleaned, trips to Dr. etc. Sit down with both parents and encourage them to get their legal papers in order etc. Encourage the parents NOT to dog sit etc Do everything legal. It is not your responsibility to do everything. Encourage, the father and brother to help. I say encourage, but it is called tough love. Look around for assisted care living homes. Does your father get retirment? What does he do? If necesarry, find a support group for you/counseling etc.
Like several said, DO NOT build anything without checking with your building dept and your insurance co.
Another thing, with you working full time, limited funds they must help.After all who will take care of you if you go flat on your back.
You mentioned you are a single parent/ Your family must come first.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 2:44PM
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Here's a good link for you re Social Security

If one is 'truly disabled' Social Security offer 'disability' payments which are usually about the same amount as full retirement benefits - it does take quite some time to get them approved - you do not need to be retirement age to get 'disability'.

Regarding building a cottage - if you are allowed to add another residence to your property there are many house plans for sale on the Internet - many of which will make revisions to suit you for an additional fee.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 10:22PM
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Just a thought about your idea of a cottage .... a friend of mine has her mother in an RV along the side of her home. This way it is considered "temporary" and not a second, permanent residence. If I remember correctly, her Home Owners Association had some particulars with regard to "storing" RVs (and boats) on her property but, since the county allowes for it (as long as they're positioned behind the front side of the home), the HOA allows the situation... Something worth checking into .....

Good luck to you --- it takes so much work to take on the responsibility of caring for a parent!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 10:14AM
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What type of home do your parents live in? What can be done to make it easier for her there as to any steps where a ramp could be built, where are the bedrooms and bath located there. Is the bathroom accessable for her as to a walk in shower, a bench to sit on?
The expense you are willing to go through may be not what your mother would really want. She has a home with all her things. If not necessary, why should she have to give that up on top of the MS getting worse.
I have 2 friends with MS. One has made every attempt to do as much as possible and keep the muscles working. Her meds have been changed from time to time and gets physical therapy. The other decided she was't going to listen to the doctors and sat and sat and sat. She is now in a nursing home where everything has to be done for her.
Please consider letting your mother keep her pride and live in her home. Help her by making things easier but be active. Ask your mother what she would like to do. She may even qualify for SS disability when the MS gets to a certain point. You can also check with the MS foundation to see what options are available.
As far as your brother, he'll find a time when life slaps him alongside the head. When he looks around and no one is there to help, he will come to a rude awakening. You get out of life what you put into it.
I wish you the best

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 1:21AM
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Check out the National MS Society. They even have a forum. If you are just getting by how would you be able to afford to build a cottage, which I would think wouldn't be that cheap.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 9:07PM
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