Planning Ahead for Housing: What Parents of Special Needs Teens and Adults Should Know

Virginia special needs planning attorneyThe issue of long-term housing for an adult with special needs is often a source of fear and frustration for many parents. We meet with parents who want the peace of mind of knowing that their child will have a suitable place to live when mom or dad is gone, but the options are often limited and waitlists are long.

Because the issue of housing can present a number of challenges, we encourage parents to start thinking about their child’s options well before they are needed.  We often suggest that parents place their children on waitlists as soon as they can.    However, many times these parents are still on these waitlists after more than a decade.  For that reason, having a plan and a solid backup plan is key.

While housing choices will ultimately depend on a number of factors, including the type of disability the child has and the financial resources available, we recommend that our clients consider the following factors when starting their search:

  • In-home care: Parents who wish to care for an adult child with special needs in their own home still need to take steps to plan for the future. For example, home health care agencies may be needed to help with the child’s medical needs and tasks of everyday living such as bathing and transferring, especially as mom or dad ages and is no longer able to provide hands-on support. Thought also needs to be given to what will happen when mom or dad passes away. Will a caretaker move into the home? Will the child need to move out and is he or she prepared for such a transition? These are questions that will need to be answered to ensure the child’s comfort and future security.
  • Living independently in another home: Parents who wish for their child to live independently or semi-independently can purchase or rent a property for the child to live in. In addition to the monthly mortgage or rent payment, the child will also need to have enough resources to cover expenses, maintenance, taxes and other costs that come along with home ownership. Likewise, parents should think about how they want their child to spend their time in the home. If isolation is a concern, it may be better to choose a property in a larger community, perhaps even with other adults who have special needs, so that living alone doesn’t always mean being alone for the individual.
  • Group homes: Group homes are another option where an individual with special needs has the option to live semi-independently with roommates and typically a live-in staffer or counselor who helps to provide a watchful eye. Because many variables exist in trying to find a group home that’s a good fit for the child, planning early and getting a good idea of what options are available is of utmost importance.
  • Section 8 Housing: The federal government provides vouchers for people with low incomes to live within the community, but waiting lists for such properties are long. If you think your child will need section 8 housing in order to live independently in the future, it’s important to plan sooner, rather than later.
  • Long-term care facilities: For adults who are unable to live independently and require a significant amount of care, a long-term care facility such a nursing home or specialized program for individuals with disabilities may be necessary. Many of the higher-end programs are private pay only and can be extremely expensive for the average person to afford. Other facilities in the area may be covered under Medicaid, but are also subject to waitlists and limited availability.

Finally, take the time to run your ideas by an experienced special needs planning attorney. Here at our firm, we help parents weigh the pros and cons of all options, while exploring the best way to financially prepare for any care the child will eventually need.  If you are currently in this position and would like guidance and clear advice, we invite you to contact our office at (571) 328-5795 to schedule an appointment.

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