How to know when to take over parent's affairs?

Avatar for deenow17
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-2004
How to know when to take over parent's affairs?
Tue, 09-03-2013 - 2:32pm

So I'm struggling here being my parent's caregiver. I won't bother with our relationship details but rather sum it up & say that I'm an only child who feels responsible to ensure that Mom & stepdad are taken care of physically but because of many issues with my Mom's alcoholism & my poor relationship with my stepdad, I'm not interested in a close personal relationship these days.

We signed up to move them into a brand new retirement home only 15 mins from me instead of the hour plus that there was before. This was done 14 mths ago & the building of the retirement home has been delayed & delayed. They moved out of their previous retirement home on Feb 4th & the owners of the new retirement home have been paying to have them live first in a resort then in another retirement home. They were to move into the new retirement home last Sat but 2013 isn't our lucky yr. On Thurs, their 2nd floor apt & most of the home's 1st floor reception & dining room were flooded due to a plumber's error. They are now in a 3rd retirement home until this damage is fixed. So right now their physical needs are being met & because I'm not inhuman, I spent most of Fri & Sat with them getting them settled into the new place. I will be there the next 2 days as Mom is having dental surgery.

As I was trying to get their insurance claim set up, I find out that they hadn't changed their address so I am praying that the claim will be valid. I asked Mom twice & was reassured she had done this both times. So now I'm pretending to the insurance company that they moved their furniture in last week. I called to confirm the dental surgery tomorrow as Mom has no phone where she is right now. They don't have a copy of the ecg she had done. There was a problem with the req & a different dr supported the new retirement home had to provide a new req. It seems that Mom never mentioned that the dental surgeon was the one who needed the results. So I'm on the phone for 2 hrs trying to get through to the med clinic who did the test only to be told they can't release to dental office, then I have to track down dr's office who have no idea what I'm talking about because there was nothing in her file requesting this. Finally, they found the report in the to be filled pile & faxed it. Mom didn't know name of clinic & since this wasn't her family dr but someone associated with the retirement home, she only knew her as Amy. So I'm the one researching these people before I can call them. Thank goodness for the web.

These are just 2 examples of events that if I had been allowed to handle in the first place won't have taken as much time & effort. There are many more. But my Mom says she is fully capable of handling her own affairs but then expects me to handle when things become difficult. She has a severe hearing loss & so phone conversations don't go well. She lip reads but sometimes gets facts wrong then or forgets stuff. She is too stubborn to tell someone she didn't hear or understand what they said even though she has been hard of hearing her whole life.  

I get caught between their need to be independent & having to clean up their messes & my husband's frustration because he feels they are "using" me. Unfortunately here, I can't just invoke the power of attorney I hold unless my Mom is deemed mentally incompetent & my conscious won't allow me to walk away.  There were lots of books to read when I was raising my kids but I haven't found anything really helpful in dealing with my aging parents.


Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997

I don't know how to help but did want to send hugs your way. My mom was the one who kept things going before she and my dad passed and I was 300 miles away and couldn't help much other than over the phone, when she did give me a code word so I could call some shots when they thought she was losing it and wanted her in a psych ward (artifact of the meds they had her on).  So I didn't run across issues like you had other than that oddball one that one time.  Best wishes - that has to be hard.


Avatar for shirley_v
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2000

Being the only child must make it hard for you, Dee, since you don't have siblings to even discuss what to do, besides sharing in the implementation of whatever needs doing re your aging parents.  With my two brothers and sister, we could share in just that when it came to deciding when my father needed help and could not manage on his own.  I don't really have any good advice for you.  We did arrange for my father to be assessed by social workers (whomever was in charge of this sort of thing) for them to determine whether he was a candidate to move into assisted living care (which he was), even though when they interviewed him, I knew he was trying hard to sound competent with his answers and even acted insulted by some of their questions.  Of course we knew he couldn't live on his own at that point as he was needing more care to be bathed and wasn't to be trusted to remember if he had left anything on the stove cooking, and that sort of thing.  He was at the time in a senior's apartment but it did not offer much in the way of assistance and he only ate one meal in their dining room.  It was a small place. If there was any paperwork to be done, one of my brother's took care of that side of things...I don't know if I would have been able to competently do that sort of thing. 

Anyway that was my experience, not the same as with you and your parents, so not much help to you.  However, like Sue, I give hugs to you and hope others will have helpful advice to offer.


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009

This mess up sounds more of a mess up by the retirement home/ the doctor where the ecg was done.  They should have known/followed the instructions to fax the ecg results to the dental clinc. Even a much younger person, requiring the dental surgery, would be confused.  It is suppose to be seamless for the patient and, by the way, the doctor at the retirement home is suppose forward her test results to her family doctor.

I wouldn't worry too much about the change of address on her dental insurance forms. They are not going to say that the claim is invalid because she moved.  People move. I would, if I were you, make sure that the address is corrected so she can get her rebursement check.

Do you have both powers of attorney for your mother?  There is one for personal care and one  for finances. According to my DH, you can also get them joint with the person, for those not totally incapable of managing their affaires.

Does your mom have a Living Will?  Have they pre-arranged their funerals? How about for step-father?

I think Dee a visit to a lawyer, if you haven't gone to one already,  would be a good idea especially since you are only related by marriage to your step-father. The joint powers of attorney might something you may want to explore with your mother.

I know only too well how difficult it can be when parents and/or in-laws become increasingly not able to care for themselves. When it was happening to my in-laws, I asked myself "how would I want to be treated if it was me". 

Sorry to be blunt but in the not so distant future, it will be us.

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999

Marie is right.  As hard as it may seem, that big karma wheel means that whatever goes around, comes around.  The point of that is, you do need to take charge, and try to not begrudge the need.  If your mom cannot hear, then she is barely capable of running her own affairs, let alone those of her and her husband.  And even if your stepfather is capable, he 's only going to get older, too.

You can't be part way in.  You either ARE responsible, or you are not.  If you accept that you are responsibile, then you are going to have to do constant followup, unless you prefer damage control. 

I think the suggestion of a visit to a lawyer is a good one.  Talk to your parents and tell them that if you are responsible for making sure even SMALL things, like dental appointments, go smoothly, you don't want to get caught red-handed again.  Or be put in the position of having them SUDDENLY incapacitated without you being prepared.  If they balk at that point, then THAT is when you say, all right then.  I am out of your life.  I will take you to a lawyer so he can get a court appointed guardian for you.  Then THAT PERSON can arrange your dr visits, make sure your bills are paid, and make the decision to move you into a nursing home, or pull the plug, when the time comes. 

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998

{{{{Dee}}}}, I'm so sorry that you are having to deal with this mess---one thing after another and on top of each other and I'm sure it seems endless.

Did their personal belongings get damaged in the flood (I assume that is the claim part, is it renter's insurance or is there some special insurance for retirement homes or ? Does the retirement home and/or the plumber have insurance to cover it, in case your parents' insurance denies the claim?

When is the new expected move-in date for the new place?

About your initial question, how to know when to take seems like a joint POA would be ideal, if you think your mom is still capable enough for that. Do you ever accompany her to her visits with her family doctor? Would you be able to talk to him about being more involved? Would he be able to convince your mom that its time to let someone younger (you) take over?

You should probably document all of your mom's mishaps and miscommunications and forgotten tasks, so you have evidence of a pattern or a decline etc. Meanwhile demand proof that things were done, such as viewing the change of address form for the insurance company etc. Or just start doing these things yourself. If there's a duplication its better than something never getting done, the property insurance issue illustrates that. I realize that its a lot of extra work for you, but may end up being less work in the long run if you don't have to try to resolve problems.

If your mother absolutely will not grant you POA yet in any form, then talk to an attorney about a guardian. Also, a good point was made about your stepfather, will you have legal rights regarding him? I think you've mentioned before that he has dementia? It may require an official assessment of their capabilities but there's not much room for your mom to argue if the courts or the province or whomever makes such decisions says that she needs somebody else in charge.

Here in the states we have a govt org called Area Agency on Aging that offers all kinds of resources to the senior and the caretaker. Is there anything like that in your province?

I hope that you can get all of this straightened out soon. Even if we are not able to give you the advice you need, please feel free to vent here.

Avatar for nora_mcl
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-30-2011

Oh Dee-you truly have my sympathy-and is somewhat simpler being "an only".

My mother comes from the generation/life style that says males are automatically smarter than females. So she named 2 of my brothers as POA-one lives about 250km away & the other is well known as the family bully. When she needs help-she cannot ask the one to drive here & the bully won't-so it falls to me. I provide the ears & memory for appointments-with the other 5 siblings who will use the internet to critique what is said/decided or interpretted. Supposedly my sister &  I have Power of Care-but she works full time so I get all the appointments, & of course-Mom will not take taxis or buses.

Those who live in other towns will spout their opinions such as "It isn't Pride that makes her pretend to hear & thus agree with doctors-it is Dementia"-really, she smiles sweetly & says "Oh yes, I do that" & after we leave she asks me what they said. (but if I tell her before we leave the room, I get snarled at-as if I were 16 again).

Dee, I think you need to see the lawyer to confirm you have POA for both your mother & stepfater, have it with you when you take them to appointments-most won't ask to see it, but you can bring out the envelope & show it (we had to confirm it with Adam)-just sort of flash it. And if necessary interrupt & say "excuse me Mom-but I think you are a bit mixed-up but ..."It will make her angry-but it will make her care a bit better. And her chart at her Residence should have a note on it that she is a known alcoholic plus hard of hearing-not to stop the drinking but to explain some of the behaviours. Just quietly talk to the Director, & explain it should be a note on her admissions chart. IMHO

Good Luck with it all-Nora

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009

Dee, sorry if my my post may have not sounded very sympathic. I do sympathized. We went through this with my in-laws about 10 to 15 years ago.

One thing that my in-laws did was to give the power of attorney for their personal care to a lomg-term, good family friend. My DH had control over their finances. At the time, I thought it was strange but it was the kindest gift they could have given their son. DH did not have to make the difficult decisions at the end,like removing life support and not fighting infections vigorously. The friend knew my in-laws' wishes and acted accordingly based on their Living Wills.

We did however have a very good relationship with this friend and also with the nursing home.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2013

It sounds like you have your hands full!  I don't have any specific advice, but I do have a couple book recommendations for you  Smile

Complete Guide to Caring for Aging Loved Ones - Edited by Henry Holstege and Robert Rickse

Caring for Aging Parent - By Richard P. Johnson

Setting Boundaries with Your Aging Parents - By Allison Bottke

Hope these help!!

Avatar for deenow17
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-2004

Thanks to everyone for your support, kind words &  feedback/suggestions. I'm pleased to say that I'm ahead on many of the suggestions. I do want to say that just become someone can't hear doesn't make them incapable of handling their own life. If it did then both Mom & I shouldn't have had successful careers as we have had severe hearing losses since our teens. We are expert lip readers but were also taught to hide our disability because of the lack of acceptance prior to the last 10 to 15 yrs. For Mom, it is so ingrown in her that she just won't admit when she doesn't hear something even though I tell her that at her age, it is expected that most people can't hear.

I started to assume responsibility for Mom & stepdad's well-being about 14 yrs ago on a short term basis when Mom agrees she needs help. This started when Mom had a serious heart attack. At this time, I had stepdad diagnosed with dementia & saw Mom through a triple bypass surgery, then 7 yrs ago when she had surgery for a circulation problem. I stepped in when she broke her hip 5 yrs ago & again 3 yrs ago when it became apparent they couldn't live independently & needed assistance.  I moved them into a retirement home & a year later took Mom's car away & had her licence revoked because I didn't feel it was safe for her to drive & her doctor agreed. I go to many of Mom's & stepdad's medical appts & coordinate their extra support to ensure that their quality of life is the best it can be. Right now, I'm just not interested in visiting, having them to my place or just chatting on the phone. Mom feels that what I do is just busy work but that she handles all the important decisions, their finances & actions required in their life. She insists that she can handle her finances, the booking of their appts, their meds (I have made arrangements to have this taken over once they move into retirement home & she is livid), etc.. She believes my job is just to drive them from place to place & to pick up groceries, meds, etc.. I try to make appts, handle things but she deliberately doesn't tell me stuff.

Back in Feb, Mom, stepdad & I met with first the funeral home to arrange their funerals & then with a lawyer to update their living wills, POA for both financial & care, their wills & to establish a trust managed by me if one of them dies before the other. So all the paperwork is in order. I am the one listed on everything with the exception of stepdad's will. He does leave a small % to his daughter & specifically renounces any claims from his son. The rest comes to me. This is actually an improvement on his previous will where he left nothing to either of his kids but I managed to get him to leave his daughter something in this one. It's actually funny because they have so little money left that I may end up subsidizing their retirement home costs if they live another 10 yrs.

I had a long talk with the lawyer who explained it isn't easy to use a POA if the person who granted it doesn't wish to have you do so. They can revoke it at anytime & you can't invoke it against their wishes unless you can have them deemed incompetent. It isn't easy to have someone deemed incompetent. I know as we tried a few yrs ago to have this done for my stepdad when he was really having issues that turned out to be caused by drug combination ordered by geriatric specialist. She did all the mental testing with him & he passed even though at the time, he couldn't dress himself or remember to go to the bathroom all the time.

My Mom is very well read, is up to date on world affairs & anything you can read in the paper or see on the news. She has no problems paying their bills but it seems that new "things" or "changes" are creating problems for her. Example, she cancelled their cable when they moved out of last retirement home which is a normal part of moving for her but then she used this account to pay her new cell phone bill to the same company but it wasn't the same account. She didn't realize that they were 2 different accounts because she just expected them to be the same. After today, though I suspect she may decide to allocate more things to me. They do not have insurance coverage for the damages caused by the flood. She did call the insurance company last Feb when they moved from previous retirement home as they provided me with the details of her call which they wouldn't have known unless she talked to them. They also had it documented that she was told that she would NOT be insured until she was in residence with her furniture & that she was to call them when she moved into her new place. Right now, she is extremely upset. Thankfully there isn't a lot of serious damage & nothing that they can't live with but it would be much nicer if their things were fixed. I am working with the retirement home to have them covered under the retirement home's policy. They believe this is possible but are confirming. So I may have found a way to get Mom to give me control as this situation has really shaken her belief in herself & her ability.  

One final comment & I will then end this book, as mentioned we are getting older & need to worry about how we will handle things. When we recently rewrote our wills, we had it added that our kids could invoke the POA if our family doctor agreed we were incompetent. This was done to simply the process for the kids & since it takes 2 of them to have this done, we aren't too worried. lol