Emmett and Gwendolyn enjoyed a long and happy marriage in New Orleans, where they raised their six children—three daughters and three sons. Emmett was a geophysicist and Gwendolyn worked in a real estate office, while volunteering for local charities and raising her children. They had always been independent. But in 2014, while in their eighties, Gwendolyn’s health declined to the point where she was bedridden.
They tried a skilled care facility. After four months, Emmett didn’t feel it was the right place for either of them. He announced to the family that they were moving back into their home. He would try to find someone to take care of Gwendolyn. The adult children praised this decision. They knew their parents would be happiest in the home they loved and were relieved they would not have to expend their resources on expensive residential care.
The house they had lived in was designed by Emmett’s brother, an architect trained at Taliesin in Scottsdale, AZ, the firm and school founded by Frank Lloyd Wright. Set on a beautiful wooded lot, it was essentially Dutch colonial in style on the outside, with a modern interior.
By this point, Gwendolyn was suffering from dementia. As their daughter Priscilla relates, a brother said they needed to do something. He began researching options and came upon reverse mortgages. Priscilla agreed this was the right option to help her parents cope with the health and financial challenges they faced.
Priscilla is retired from the Episcopal clergy. Her husband, Craig is a retired psychiatrist. She started out approaching a large company but came away feeling its representatives didn’t have a feel for the local area or a personal sense of individual clients. She spoke to several reverse mortgage lenders before contacting Sue Milligan, a CRMP based in Metairie, LA.
“Sue knew the local scene and people,” Priscilla says. “She was a really great coach all the way through the process. Being certified gave us a great feeling of confidence on a personal level. Without her, I don’t know what we would have done.”
There were some unusual procedural steps along the way, and Sue stood by the family the entire way. First, Pricilla’s sister lived in a house on the same piece of property, so that had to be legally separated from the parents’ property. Second, since Gwendolyn’s illness didn’t permit her to attend or comprehend the required counseling session, it was necessary to have her condition certified. Priscilla accompanied her father to counseling.
“Sue prepared us so well that the counselor said, ‘You’re the best-prepared people I’ve ever talked to,’” Priscilla recalls.
The reverse mortgage allowed Emmett to secure 24-hour-a-day care at home for Gwendolyn. “It was a tremendous relief for all of us. And through it all, Sue continued to give us personal attention. Anything I needed, I could call Sue,” Priscilla remarks.
In summing up the entire reverse mortgage experience, Priscilla says, “We had absolutely no problems at all.”
The reverse mortgage proceeds also helped out with unforeseen situations. “In 2016, a storm left an inch of water in the house, even though it was above the thousand-year flood line,” Priscilla explains. They had flood insurance, but funds from the reverse mortgage helped with the renovation and replacing some of the damaged items.
Gwendolyn passed away, and Emmett, by this time seeing his own mobility decline, decided it was time to leave the home and move into assisted living in New Orleans. The family sold the house, which paid off the reverse mortgage. Priscilla says her dad, at 93, is now “wheelchair bound, but still sharp as a tack.”
The reverse mortgage Emmet’s children researched and recommended allowed him and Gwendolyn to continue living in their home, with the security and peace of mind of knowing she was receiving excellent care. And Sue Milligan’s dedication is something Priscilla says she will never forget.