I Could Afford to Care for My Parents

Chicago, Illinois

Natalie, 52, had experienced a string of stressful years, but 2008 was particularly bad. It marked the fifth year since she had been laid off from her job as a project manager with a communications firm. Even so, she had been unable to seek new employment because of her parents’ long term, serious health conditions. Then her father and mother experienced severe medical problems for several months, on top of the diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney problems, and dementia from which they had both suffered for years. Her mother’s pneumonia was treated with a medication that caused a chronic loss of bowel control. The foot pain that her father first suffered in June was not properly diagnosed until November, and as such he had to have one of his big toes amputated. The other big toe was amputated early in 2009.

To make matters worse, the family owed $355,000 on the mortgage on their home in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, a historic building with a coach house that had been in the family for more than seventy years. Her father's pension from his former career as a truck driver and he and his wife’s Social Security income could not cover the mortgage payments, and after months of unproductive negotiations, the lender was ready to foreclose by early 2009. On top of serving as her parents’ primary daily caretaker and taking them to numerous medical appointments, Natalie now needed to find a way to save her family’s home.

The family’s former lender “just didn’t want to cooperate,” Natalie recalls. “They seemed to want to take the property.” As her lender would not offer useful assistance, she sought financing elsewhere, but that was also a brick wall. “Some people said that we were qualified, but it turned out we weren’t…others wouldn’t give us enough money.” It was a difficult and uncertain time for Natalie, who worried about what would happen to her parents if they had to move to a nursing home. “If they had to leave the home they had lived in for years, where they raised their children…it might have killed them.”

Fortunately, a deacon at Natalie's church recommended personable, knowledgeable, and determined Jeanine Weintz of Seniors Reverse Mortgage. Ms. Weintz was “absolutely awesome,” raves Natalie. “She went over and beyond anyone who does what she does.” Ms. Weintz told Natalie that although she herself was too young to qualify for a reverse mortgage, her parents did. Because of her parents’ dementia, however, they would not be able to make the choice themselves. Natalie went through the legal process necessary for her to gain power of attorney status, so that she could make decisions about her parents’ financial affairs.

Ms. Weintz wrote a letter to support Natalie when she had to go to court to stop the foreclosure on her family’s home, informing the court that they were waiting for the HECM loan limit to increase to $625,500 to take effect in the wake of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 before they went forward with the reverse mortgage. Luckily, the foreclosure procedures were stayed and Natalie and her parents were able to procure their reverse mortgage. The property was assessed at $700,000 and Natalie received enough to pay off the hefty forward mortgage and now has the residual in a line of credit for her parents. She is using this to pay for home repairs, including maintenance on the roof, and also to cover the charges on her parents’ medical bills that are not covered by insurance.

These days, life is still challenging, but Natalie breathes easier knowing that her parents can stay in her family’s home, a home that her grandmother originally lived in. She also feels secure knowing that she is taking good care of her parents with a personal touch, instead of wondering about their comfort as she would if they had needed to move to a nursing facility. When she helps her parents into bed at night, her father often says, “I can remember when I used to tuck you into bed, now you tuck me in.” It’s all in a day’s work for a loving daughter who saved not only her family’s home, but her parents’ golden years.