Affordable, safe housing is one of the most crucial aspects of a person’s life, especially if that person has a disability. Parents and guardians must plan for this as early as possible to make sure their loved one has a secure and appropriate living situation long after they either become unable to provide care or pass away. Here are some general considerations to keep in mind when formulating a plan. The plan that works best for your family should be affordable in the long term and best suited to your loved one’s disability.
You may be caring for your special needs child at home, where there are no additional costs for residency, and the setting is safe and familiar. But in most cases, this is not a permanent solution. Inevitably, as parents and guardians age or develop health problems, they will not be able to provide the supervision and care needed. Bringing in around-the-clock home health care may not be affordable.
For people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), there is an increasing movement away from private or state-run institutions and toward community care. This encompasses a great number of programs, from treatment provided in group homes to interaction with a social worker to job training and other vocational training centers. One of the programs on the cutting edge of community mental health is called “supportive housing,” and it incorporates not only housing but social services and medical care as well.
Your city or state may have supportive housing programs. Providers of supportive housing are typically non-profit organizations that contract with federal, state, or tribal governments to provide the housing and services that were formerly provided in institutional settings.
The Arc, a nonprofit advocacy program for adults with IDD, offers an online planning tool that provides insight on a host of issues, including finding accommodation, getting a job, and securing special services.
It is vitally important to make sure there will always be sufficient funds to pay for your loved one’s housing and to set money aside without compromising their access to government benefits, if applicable. One strategy is to set up a special needs trust (SNT). Regulations about using SNTs to pay for section-8 housing through government vouchers are especially complicated.
Another crucial planning tool is life insurance for the parents or guardians if they qualify. Even term insurance will provide protection and immediate cash in the event that a parent dies unexpectedly. Other assets, such as the proceeds from the sale of the family home, can be set aside in an SNT to pay for a loved one’s care and support into the future.
Do It Right—and Don’t Wait
“The best plan is to start early: Apply for Medicaid, find a financial advisor, establish a good credit rating for the person with disability, and then talk to their care coordinators or housing navigators about detailed options,” said Musa Klebnikov and Michele Lawton of Special Needs Advisors LLC, an agency that helps families place their loved ones in living situations. “Everyone has different needs and support systems; therefore, each family needs a different solution.”
Failing to put a plan in place can lead to trauma and stress for the family if something unexpected happens in the meantime. Avoid scrambling to find the best solution for your loved one’s housing. Start planning early and with the right professionals. Be sure to consult with your special needs attorney.