How to handle

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-20-2005
How to handle
Fri, 09-27-2013 - 11:05am

My DH's uncle and aunt lost their only child in an accident a few years ago.  They are quite elderly and are very wealthy.  My DH and I absolutely cannot take on overseeing their care as we already have our hands full with his parents and my parents and our grandchild - not too mention our jobs (I have 4).  So there is a man, who was an acquaintenance of their son and who is a neighbor to all of us, who has stepped in and has been helping them.  They have added him to their checking account and given him POA for financial and medical reasons.  His spending is supposedly overseen by their lawyer.  Personally, I have no problem with this.  This is who they have choosen to handle their affairs and I respect that.

The problem comes in with my mother-in-law.  The home health workers visit both the homes (aunt/uncle and in-laws) three times a week.  The home health workers have told my MIL that she needs to report this man to their lawyer.  They believe he is just trying to exploit them financially.  The home health workers have told her over and over again that they see this all the time and they can spot folks like him.  Aunt/uncle have changed their will to include him.  I am also fine with that.  I don't want nor do I need their estate.  The home health workers feel that his motives are less than ethical and he should be reported and have told my MIL this.  Now she's all upset and wants to call their lawyer.  This will only cause a rift in the family and at their ages, I just don't see the point in all of this.  I have told my MIL this and so has my DH. 

I do have huge concerns about the home health care people discussing this with MIL.  It is upsetting her and she's not sleeping.  She is in poor health and does not need this stress.  Another concern I have with the home health care people discussing this, I believe it is a violation of aunt/uncle's HIPPA rights.  And if they are discussing things of this nature with MIL, who are they discussing MIL with?  Certainly not their son, who is the Power of Attorney for financial and health reasons.  We've never heard the first word from them.  There are times they leave instructions with MIL to call doctor if something happens but they never tell DH this.  MIL loves her home health workers and I do believe we could have much worse so don't really want to have them reassigned.

First question, am I taking the acquaintenances actions too lightly?  Should we call the aunt/uncle's attorney and risk alienating them from the only remaining family they have?  One of us does check in on them every few days but we honestly can't handle an estate this size and we can't take on the responsibility of overseeing another person's health care. 

Second question, should we report the home health workers for HIPPA violations? 

Thanks for your thoughts and input.  My husband is an only child and basically so am I - we truly have our hands full.


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Fri, 09-27-2013 - 11:15am

If I were you, I would call the attorneys and just repeat what the home health workers said and let them decide what is the appropriate course, i.e. call the company that employs the home health workers and tell them not to gossip (or make sure that they send different people to the uncle and your MIL), check on the young man, etc.  It is entirely possible that the attorneys can deal with the issues without disclosing the source of information, i.e., you.

As you said, you don't need extra stress and take on more responsibility.  Let the attorneys handle what they are paid to do.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Fri, 09-27-2013 - 12:15pm

I would probably have your dh speak directly with the home health workers first. Tell them that his mother is upset by things she has been hearing, and to please stop telling her things that will disturb her. The concern with having the lawyer become involved with any reprimand of the workers is that they could just be fired or reassigned---and getting new workers could be disruptive to your elderly relatives, and the new ones could be worse.

I would probably listen to the concerns of the workers, ask for specific examples of the POA's exploitation--MIL may not be relating the info correctly. Then contact the attorney, tell him what was said, and ask him to look into it. 

While I agree that the workers should not be discussing their clients with other clients, your MIL appears to also be "next of kin" so maybe they think she is the most appropriate person to tell. Overall I think its better that the workers are telling somebody when they see a potential problem.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Fri, 09-27-2013 - 2:21pm

You don't mention if the home health care workers have been instructed to contact your DH of any issues related to his mother.  So I would say the first thing that should be done is to ensure they know that all concerns, issues, etc. should be directed to him, and not to the person they are caring for.  He can at that time, also ask about their talking to his mother about his aunt/uncle.    Again, if they feel that there is something going on with this man (and have witnessed anything untoward) they need to contact a relative who will be able to process the information and deal with it (again, this is probably your DH).  I think this can all be dealt with in a positive, caring way.  Thank them for their concerns, but also let them know that anything needs to be directed to your DH. 

 It might be a good idea to meet with the home health care workers every now and again just to check in, and to make sure they know how involved you and your DH are.  If they persist in talking about these things with your MIL, you may need to contact their supervisors.  This is incredibly innapropriate, no matter how well intentioned.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Fri, 09-27-2013 - 5:21pm

The home health workers have told my MIL that she needs to report this man to their lawyer. 

This sounds very odd.  I have a hard time imagining a health care aid talking to a client about another client, especially if elderly, and even if related.  Don't they have someone else they should be telling?  I guess I question it all since you are not hearing any of this first hand. 

BUT, if it is true, I guess my first thought would be to have your DH talk to the workers.  Guessing he has authority to do so???  I say this thinking that regardless of what the workers are, or are not saying, something is upsetting his mother. 

Although the poster who mentioned to simply let the lawyers do there job may be correct, I think I would be curious what the health care workers had to say before I took any other action, if any. 

Let us know what happens! 

Avatar for jamblessedthree
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001
Sun, 09-29-2013 - 4:06pm

This is a lawyer question.  And FYI, an acquaintance can be selected as a poa.  What has the home/health care people said?  What are you skeptical about?  I wouldn't place yourself in this one unless you think there is some serious abuse going on of which you'd have to have documentation for.  For all you know, the home/health care could be stirring up trouble. 



iVillage Member
Registered: 01-20-2005
Mon, 09-30-2013 - 12:14pm
Thank you all for your very good comments. I truly don't know what the home health folks think needs to be reported other than this man may not have the purest of motives. I've not seen or been told of him doing anything that isn't in their best interests but then again, I'm very deeply involved with their affairs - know only what I'm told by folks all over 80 w/ failing health and minds. you are correct in that DH needs to talk with home health workers regarding contacting us about his parents health or any other concerns they have. I just can't get him to do this. Getting him to understand that the roles have reversed is like pulling teeth from a mule!! He's great at doing things physically like mowing the yard and repairing the plumbing but when it comes to making decisions and showing an interest in them as people he either doesn't see the need or doesn't know how to - still haven't figured out which. So basically when I initially wrote this, whenever I used "we" I probably should have said "I". He has POA so I don't have the legal authority to do anything but I make the decisions, take care of paperwork, etc and have him sign. I absolutely hate the position this has put me in put. Anyday now, someone could say the same things being said about our neighbor about me. It's also very difficult to be the one making decisions to begin with and then add to it the complication that I don't have the right to ask questions or do anything. I've talked with DH about this repeatedly and only get any interest when one of our DDs steps in and says "dad step-up". And then it only lasts until that crisis has passed and we're back to the same routine. I will discuss with him again the need for him to become more involved with the home health care folks. He is retiring in a few months (job being eliminated so he has to retire at 55) and he's very depressed about this. He has an eating disorder and it is starting to show up again and I tend to try to protect him from stress. I am doing much better at forcing his involvement on some things so I guess I'm just going to have to push a little harder. Getting tired!!!
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 10-03-2013 - 11:31am

Most places have a Dept. of Elder Affairs.  Maybe you could call & ask them what to do.  I am actually skeptical as to whether the lawyers are actually overseeing this guy's spending at all.  If they aren't co-trustees, they probably wouldn't be.  Or if the aunt/uncle went to the lawyer with this guy and asked the lawyer to draft the POA document, the lawyer just assumes that they trust him, so why would they be checking up?  Not to mention there's really no one to object if the closest blood relatives are other elderly people with families.  Would anyone care if this guy was tranferring a bunch of money to himself?  I don't think I'd ignore it--yes, it's probably some kind of violation for the health care workers to be talking behind someone's back--but HIPAA really only covers people's confidential medical information which they aren't talking about--maybe they have seen something over that doesn't seem quite right so I think I'd be concerned enough not to ignore it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-12-2013
Thu, 03-27-2014 - 2:15am

Excellent entry! I'm been looking for topics as interesting as this.