My husband and I are 74 and 77….he has Alzheimer’s. We have both worked all of our lives but due to severe reversals back about 8 years ago, we are now in a precarious position. Altho our credit score is very good and we have kept up all of our payments on time over the years, we can see that we are headed for trouble, mostly due to credit card debt. Above all else, we do not want to see our children having to pay anything toward our care and feeding at any time in the future. They have families of their own and work very hard to stay stable themselves. We feel that we will have to apply for Medicaid at some point but just don’t know where to start. My husband will soon have to stop driving, and we will at that point be stranded here where we live (in Carillon of Plainfield.) We are both in very poor health. Can you suggest any course of action for us? thank you!

Terry Says: 

I am so very sorry to hear of your situation.  This is a delicate situation, and I’m going to suggest that you do share your concerns with your adult children. It’s not so much that you are asking them for financial help, but no matter what you do they should be a part of helping you find a solution.  I don’t have enough details to give specific advice, so let me give a range of thoughts — and an idea of where to start.

Assuming your current income (Social Security, any pension checks) is enough to cover your living expenses — and that your real burden is credit card debt, then much as I hate to start here, bankruptcy might be the easiest and best resort.   It could just wipe out your credit card balances, giving you enough money to live on for the time being.

First, though, you have to figure out whether you would soon be back in the same situation (and unable to file again for many years) if you are able to get out from under.  In other words, are you financing basic living expenses on your credit cards.?  If so, you’ll wind up in the same place.  So you might have to make some adjustments.  And if your husband’s condition gets worse, I’m not sure whether your senior living situation might change, as well.  He might become dependent on the state for care in a nursing facility  –and you might eventually need to live with one of your children.  I know — it’s every parent’s nightmare.

So let’s start out by having you make a call to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 800-388-2227.  That will connect you to the nearest local facility.  You can even do this over the phone.  Explain your situation.  Prepare a list of your outstanding credit card balances, interest rates, and minimum payments on each card.   Then make a total of your monthly income and living expenses.  They will help you come to the best solution regarding your existing debt — and can guide you to some possibilities to reduce your monthly spending.  (Giving up that car might save not only gas, but insurance bills — and the potential cost of a lawsuit if your husband is driving with Alzheimer’s.)

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