Preparing to Support Relative with Intellectual Disability


My brother in law is disabled and currently living with my MIL. However, she’s getting older and her health is not doing well. We want to make sure we have a plan that supports BIL and makes sure he can thrive without her support.

Here are the relevant details for BIL:

  • He can keep a full time job in retail / fast food service
  • He currently lives with his mother, but has lived alone before in an apartment close to his parents house
  • He cannot drive and requires transportation to appointments and work
  • Is susceptible to manipulation from people purporting to be his “friends” and has opened credit cards and racked up thousands on “gifts”
  • Can be violent if in emotional distress, but is usually a gem
  • Dotes on his nephew unerringly

Having BIL live with us would not be a great solution for everyone. BIL is the older brother and does not take well to stewardship from DH. They both grew up in abusive household together, so that adds an element of strife and complexity to the relationship.

So, we’d like to arrange for BIL to live alone, close by, with lots of support from family and state services.

I don’t know where to start on how to make this happen. Can anyone offer insight? We live in Massachusetts.


A good key phrase to Google is “transition services” plus “disability” plus your area. They’re usually aimed at kids with disabilities turning 18 and aging out of the school system. It’s not a perfect fit for your situation but they should hopefully get you started for a sort of “living independently with supports” kinda thing.

This is not a total answer but a good first step I think.


I’m not American, so am probably of little help, not knowing what supports you might or might not have there. Is there a state or federal organization, for the type of disability your BIL has, that might be a resource or starting place for you? Might you be able to discuss it with your doctor or his?

Is there any way to modify your house to provide a separate suite for him? And still stay within your local bylaws? That’s an expensive way to go, but then, so is living on his own long term.

Would family counselling help? Or is he not able to process the information?

I don’t know how to help…just throwing out thoughts and questions. Kudos to you both for caring enough to want to help and protect him. I have two special needs relatives I would help at the drop of a hat. They are wonderful simple people with pure hearts. And, as you say, very susceptible to being manipulated and used.

If your BIL won’t take advice from your DH, I would carefully select the team that works with him. Or get to know them well if they already exist. They are the ones that are going to be causing him emotional stress if they have to tell him he can’t buy any more gifts on that new credit card he has.

I hope you get better answers than this to your post. Big hugs and take care! Sending lots of wisdom, knowledge and discernment your way when it comes to dealing with your BIL.


How is brother in law with public transit for work/appointments if he lives somewhere with good transit? Here multiple organizations orient folks with ID to public transit (plan routes, how to use, how to talk to drivers and avoid bad passengers) and some support the actual taking of it with buddies

Just in case that opens up options of where to live


@meerkat My googling brought me to this:

I think I’ll have to start calling around to get more descriptions. I’m sure we know someone in social work who can help.

@anomalily Oh I didn’t know that! He can take the bus solo! I think having him live in Boston proper would be bad news, but having some sort of buddy would be great for transit in the city outskirts.

@pinktutu Thank you for your kind words! A separate suite would be ideal, we’ll see what our financial situation is like.


Welp, posting here got me through my anxiety regarding this. It seems we live in an awesome state and it’s just not going to be an issue. Massachusetts will cover his healthcare and support needs, and he also gets housing. If we would rather he live in a suite with us, and he agrees, and we can afford it, that cost would be supplemented for us.


My friend did similar planning for her sister with Downs and was able to swing a duplex where her sister lived in the other unit with a roommate - so everyone contributing to the mortgage and a separate space but still nearby for support. They bought before Portland got expensive though. They bought the duplex several years ahead of her parents dying (in rural South Carolina) and her sister moving out in preparation for the inevitable. Her sister loves Portland and now has two twin nephews and has been living her best life here for over 10 years now. She’s in walking and transit distance of both work and her social groups - few that have other people with Downs

Mt friend might be up for chatting through it if you want? May not be useful since she’s in Oregon and you’re not but let me know if you want me to ask.


Please ask! I’ll see if DH wants to connect with her and get ideas and tips, since he is the sibling in this case. I’m sure there are parallels to MA.


Just wanna say you’re awesome


can you help freeze his credit so this particular approach wouldn’t work as easily in the future?


It sounds like you already did a lot of the research here, but I have had some tangential experience (dealing with elderly services), and I always found the local Council on Aging suuuuper helpful. They have connections to all the disability stuff in the town AND state and people who work there whose full time job is just to connect you with the right resources. Highly recommend if you hit a dead end or feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Just walk in and look for a friendly face.


Not an American, but do you have any supportive roommate programs there? Basically the (vetted and trained) person gets room and board + small stipend for helping a disabled person with daily routine, meals etc.