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Lonelyheart807's avatar

How does your family deal with aging parents?

Asked by Lonelyheart807 (1504points) January 7th, 2018

My siblings are kind of ticking me off. Dad is not in good health. Mom is a bit overwhelmed trying to deal with him. Older sister and I have been the only siblings consistently trying to help with things for years. Now younger sister, brother and sister-in-law are trying to take charge and make all decisions. My mom is not to that point yet, but they are trying to pressure her. Now brother is talking to younger sister about her becoming legal decision maker for parents.

Help! I’m trying to make sure parents get the help they need without taking away their rights to make decisions.

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9 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

If your Q is the one in red, at the top, my answer is: pretty poorly. I moved closer to mine to help, and did a lot before my dad passed. My two older sisters, who live further away, are virtually useless, and refused to help even with the things that could be accomplished at a distance. I am now estranged from my mother and my sisters are still useless. Fortunately, my mother is wealthy, and still compos mentis, but I am out of the process now.

If your Q is the last sentence of your details, I would recommend contacting the most comprehensive senior center near you, they can probably steer you towards advice and resources.

Good luck with this!

janbb's avatar

My parents moved to a continuing care facility about 10 years before my mother died and were both in an independent apartment there. My father spent the last three years of his life in the nursing wing there with my mother still in the apartment because of his congestive heart failure, macular degeneration and diabetes. I was the point person then although my mother took care of a lot.

When my father died, my mother moved to California a year later to a variety of facilities near my brother as her mental health declined. She died in one out there.

The last years were a strain on all of us especially since my mother was bipolar but what we did basically worked.

The burden fell on each of us at different times and there was some resentment and anger. I empathize with you.

Maybe you can sit down all together with your parents and perhaps a counselor of some kind and spell out what you parents want instead of playing tug of war.

snowberry's avatar

You would benefit from the services of a social worker who specializes in seniors and their issues. These and more are all common problems, and one of her doctors should be able to direct you to one. Primary care doctors who specialize in seniors usually have one on their staff.

In the US, it’s important to have one that’s on her health care plan, and if the social worker was with her doctor, it would be covered.

When things got difficult with my dad, the social worker on staff with his doctor really helped us understand the law, how to best work with him and each other, and what our options were.

rojo's avatar

You need to all get on the same page. Sibs should sit down, determine what the problems are and come to an agreement on how to broach the subject. Whether you include spouses should be determined in advance.

Also, if you parents are still mentally sound they need to be consulted as well but this would be best accomplished after the children have come to some kind of consensus so no-one feels excluded.

There are certain things you need to get done while they are still able: wills, living wills, durable power of attorney, medical directives and the like. (here is a website about estate planning Here is an executors checklist).

As my parents aged we tended to find a way to gloss over problems of mobility and mental cognizance, writing it off as just a part of getting older. We also failed to realize how much each was compensating for and covering for the weaknesses of the other. My brother and I did not live in the same state as my parents while my sister was less than 10 minutes away from them. She saw much of the deterioration but was less likely to notice it as much as we did since she saw them every day while our contact was usually months apart. But, although we could see things changing the distance made it harder for us to follow through the way we should have.

Mom was always the unhealthy one so it came as a surprise when my dad died first. And honestly, what minimal plans we had made were to take care of him after mom passed away. So we were blindsided here. Mom took it hard; very hard and it made her mental deterioration even more pronounced. She moved in with my sister and her family. For the health of both, she probably needs to be in a full time care facility but my sister promised my father that she would never put mom in, as she called it “a home” so she is still there and my sister refuses to let us do what is necessary; not being able to deal with the guilt she would feel of having let my father down.

Five years on we still have not finished dealing with the family home but we have finally got the financial end under control. Advance planning would have made things a little easier.

Finally, here is a website with 24 questions you should ask your parents while you still can These will not help you with the practical aspects of aging parents but will help you understand them, how they got where they are today and what was important in both their and your life.

Good luck

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@snowberry‘s advice to talk to to a social worker is good. This is unknown territory for you, it’s an everyday situation for professionals.

In the same vein, when I’m talking to medical insurance people for my mother, when I’m confused I say that right out – “This is all new to me, I appreciate any insight you can give since you see these things every day.”

Here’s my specific experience:

I started with the same reluctance to take away my mother’s independence and decision making, but more and more we have had to simply step in and take over tasks.

My father died years ago. My mother was living well independently but getting noticeably slow-witted. She has since been diagnosed with dementia. My brother and I checked on her more and had to step in and regularly talk about her finances and doctor visits to make sure she wasn’t neglecting things.

The first big issue for me was people who prey financially on the elderly. Once someone called and got $20 for their “charity”, they would start calling under multiple names and she would give to everyone. A guy knocked on her door and she signed a contract for a $15,000 bathtub with horribly expensive financing. We were able to cancel that.

So I took over paying her bills and we left very little money in checking and review the few checks she writes on a monthly basis.

A year and a half ago, things started changing more quickly. She had a small stroke and she totaled her car (nobody was hurt, thank goodness). Living alone in the suburbs wasn’t really an option. We tried with Uber for a bit but she just can’t learn new skills or habits.

So, what we had to do…

My brother and I agreed to share responsibility – luckily we don’t fight each other, we don’t have eyes on grabbing her assets, we don’t have different agendas.

We hired a lawyer to write up Power of Attorney documents. One is general, one is specifically for medical decisions like end-of-life care.

Power of attorney is important, because without it, you can’t talk to anybody about finances or medical issues. Can’t talk to the electric company, the realtor, the hospital billing department, the doctors & nurses.

We moved Mom to an assisted living apartment. We had to be firm and quick. “Mom, we need to know there are people on call for your safety. We need the support.” My brother was amazing and in one week signed a lease, hired movers, and set up the new place with the living room and bedroom looking just like home, with the same furniture and pictures on the walls.

We are also very lucky that with a small pension and medical insurance from her job, plus Social Security and Medicare, the apartment is affordable. We are selling the family house, which will put a bit in the bank as a cushion against catastrophe.

As @rojo writes, in retrospect we also let things go, glossing over the deterioration. It worked out OK in the end, but if I did it over again, I would have started planning sooner with my mother for moving out of the house and getting her finances in order.

snowberry's avatar

Everyone here has touched on some import topics. I suggest doing the cheapest and simplest things first. If the legal stuff hasn’t been done, there are free documents you can download from the internet, which is a start, and an attorney can help you with more complicated issues.

Your social worker can advise you about all the necessary documents to get.

Also, tell your sibs that they need to tread carefully. Our social worker told us that attorneys look for situations where things weren’t done exactly right, and then they could be facing a lawsuit.

For starters, make sure one person doesn’t control both the money and the medical power of attorney.

janbb's avatar

@snowberry ‘s advice is excellent.

rojo's avatar

One thing I did neglect to mention, about 20 years ago my in-laws put their assets into a Living Trust because they did not want the farm split up four ways when they died and couldn’t think of a way to equitably split their assets othewise. The other good thing about this was that the property does not count (as an asset) against my mother-in-law when it comes to medicaire/medicade and other subsistance options being owned by the trust and not by her. My father-in-law was the executor until he died then my mother-in-law took up the reins. While she lives she controls the assets although my wife handles much of the day to day activities. No formal agreement, just the way things fell out,

While twenty years ago everyone was in agreement and this works out fine for now, we are approaching a potential crisis when she dies. Two of the siblings want to keep the farm intact and have been instrumental in the care and maintenance of the property on a regular basis. A third did so for a few years but after his father died he was more and more reluctant to do so and has distanced himself from all responsibility in the past several years. He doesn’t care for the property and other than wanting “his share”, and would just as soon be left alone. The fourth loved the place but has never wanted anything to do with the care and maintenance. At this point she just wants to sell it once her mom dies. Unfortunately she has an over-inflated sense of the worth of the property believing its value is over four times what could it could be sold for.

So, as mom ages, we approach a crisis point. Half of the siblings want to keep the farm which, fortunately, is self-sustaining with regular maintenance while the other half want to sell. None of the siblings are in a position to buy out the others without selling off a portion of the farm (except for the sister who could due to a successful second marriage and who wants to sell it anyway) which would decrease both the value and the usefulness of the remaining portion of the property. Ant that doesn’t even begin to address the how much worth should be accorded to those who have actually worked on the farm for the past twenty years. Should their labors be afforded more worth than those who just want their 25% portion?

No one but me and my wife have bothered to take the time to read the trust agreement and, this is where it gets interesting, the document states that once my mother-in-law dies then administration of the trust is to be assumed by all four children (unless someone formally and in writing bows out) and decisions having to do with the disposition and dispensation of the property have to be a unanimous agreement between all of them. So, any one sibling can thwart the will of the other three. And to further complicate things should a sibling die their offspring get their vote. We live in interesting times.

So, I guess my advice here is that, while a living trust is a viable option and one that can help address the health, care and wants of the loved ones, there are potential problems that can arise that no one thinks about.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Get the legal paperwork handled now, and at some point someone should check financials before you can consider options for the inevitable decline in health. The most important part is having someone close by to keep an eye on things & help out.

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