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OT--Raising parents

Old 12-08-2016, 05:23 PM
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OT--Raising parents

As you may recall, we moved my dad and stepmom (they've been married 30 years) into assisted living this past summer. They moved from Arizona to back to their small hometown in Oregon. They went from a paid-up house to a fairly pricy assisted-living facility. They love it there and it seems to be a great place, and it was SO past time for them to have the necessary help.

I've never been especially close to my stepmom but it's now sort of become a necessity, as I handle all their finances, pay all their bills, handle most anything that comes up. She has five kids (two of whom are disabled), and we all worked together (the three competent ones, along with my brother) to get them moved this summer. Everyone was nice and cooperative.

Since I've been monitoring their bank account, I discovered stepmom is writing a $1,000 check every month to her daughter-in-law. I didn't say anything at first, but once the house was sold, I went through all their income and expenditures and discovered that they have been spending about $1,200/month more than their benefits each month. Then it develops that "they" have decided they want to give $10k to each of her three kids "because they haven't 'done as well' as you and your brother."

Now, it doesn't particularly matter to me or my brother whether we get any money--in fact, we DON'T need it--but I suspect the two of the three she wants to give money to don't need it, either. I don't know the situation of the family she's been giving the thousand to each month; I do know the son is a minister who has had to take a job as a truck driver (which usually pays decent money). The point is, even though the folks have a nice nest egg currently, they are 87 years old and if one or both of them has to go into long-term care, their money could be gone in 10 years.

So all of this is very delicate in terms of not offending anyone or taking away their right to spend their money as they want to, yet making sure they have all the pertinent info about how far their money will ultimately go.

I looped my brother in and here's what we strategized. We set up a conference call with the folks, my brother, me, and their financial planner, to go over everything--I sent the folks a detailed letter about their current finances. I sent an email to my step-siblings outlining the financial facts without mentioning any proposed "gifting" (in the hopes that some/all of them will say, "thanks but I don't need the money" if it's offered). We had the phone call today and I'm cautiously optimistic that my stepmom, at least, gets the gist--that their financial situation, while very good, is not unlimited and they still need to think about the future.

I'm exhausted from the emotional stress of walking this tightrope. I'm hoping this kind of eliminates the prospect of ongoing largesse toward relatives who probably don't really need it. I'm hoping we all manage to stay on good terms with each other. As I said, cautiously optimistic.

I'm gonna go eat dinner and binge-watch a few episodes of House of Cards.
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Old 12-08-2016, 05:48 PM
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Oy vey.

My dad once asked me if he could buy me a car. I told him point blank that I didn't need a car, It turned out that he wanted to buy my sister a car, but felt guilty about that, because it smacked of enabling. So he thought the enabling would magically disappear if he bought us both cars.

I think bringing the financial planner into the loop is a very good idea. I also wonder if your dad and stepmom are trying to minimize estate taxes by making contributions under the gift tax exclusion amount, just for the sake of minimizing taxes without thought about preserving the actual estate. My parents tend to absorb random tax advice from relatives and friends and just start acting on it without financial counsel, which totally drives me up a fricking wall.

Money and family, always fun!
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Old 12-08-2016, 06:21 PM
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Are your parents in the type of assisted living complex that moves them progressively as abilities decline, Lexie? You know, start out in a villa, then move into the "big house?" Cuz, as I'm sure you and bro have considered, that gets increasingly expensive. Might be a good tool to use going forward in the discussion. You have made a good start with regard to, hopefully, reining in expenses for the long-term. Btw, $1,000 a month! Yikes! That's a lot. Peace.
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Old 12-08-2016, 07:03 PM
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They aren't trying to minimize estate taxes (their estate isn't large enough to worry about)--it's more a feeling that they just got a big chunk of cash and I personally think she wants to help the one son's family but felt she needed to be "fair" and give the same amount to everyone (which is what really bothered me the most, I think). The gift, if they give one, would replace the regular monthly "help," according to stepmom.

We are all in our 50s or 60s, not little kids who have to make sure one sibling doesn't get a bigger present than the other. It's just all been sort of awkward because I don't know their family dynamics. Apparently my stepmom's ex was not a great guy (not sure what all his issues were) so maybe she's still affected by that to some extent--who knows.

All I can say is thank goodness everyone has been behaving like a grownup through all this so far.

And yes, this place will step you up to higher levels of care as needed. They are at the most basic "assisted" living, but one thing that drives me nuts is that my dad, who is paying for all these services, won't use most of them because he thinks he doesn't need them. And my stepmom, who's sort of passive aggressive in some ways, will just go along with whatever he says, even though he is now doing nothing but sitting in their apartment. He needs to go out, at least to the dining area, to interact with other residents. Instead, he sits in apartment and has my stepmom bring back his meals for him.

*sigh* Wish I lived closer. I'm going for a short visit in Feb., but they are in such an out of the way place that it takes all day to travel to or from, from where I live.
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:08 PM
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The gift, if they give one, would replace the regular monthly "help," according to stepmom.
Ugh, how much you want to bet it won't work out that way?

Tricky situation Lexie, I don't envy you walking the tightrope between their right to do as they choose and what may be bad choices. It's great you're all being civil and cooperative. I thought my three brothers and I would be like that during my mom's recent health scare and it turned out quite differently. One of my brothers apparently has the ability to really go off the rails. I honestly didn't know that. Not a happy lesson.

We do our best. It's good you are such a help to them. It's hard when our aging parents are far away. ::hugs::
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:09 PM
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I know what you mean. My mom, as a result of a fall (she's fine. Nothing broken) got referred to local Community Nurses, who have been wonderful! Exercises to help her get stronger, personal care, light housekeeping. She really doesn't want any of it! I cannot get her to understand that she needs the help, the help is there, so let's take it. I have become tough in my approach, telling her that she needs to be able to get out of a chair without help and to be able to navigate around her home in a safe and stable way. Of course, she won't use the walker. The good (and bad) part of this is that I am there to help. In fact, I moved closer to her to be able to help. It's hard when they are far away. But..we do what we can.
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:24 PM
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Good for you for being involved and trying to keep an eye on their best interests. Family dynamics are complicated for sure!
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Old 12-09-2016, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Maudcat View Post
I know what you mean. My mom, as a result of a fall (she's fine. Nothing broken) got referred to local Community Nurses, who have been wonderful! Exercises to help her get stronger, personal care, light housekeeping. She really doesn't want any of it! I cannot get her to understand that she needs the help, the help is there, so let's take it. I have become tough in my approach, telling her that she needs to be able to get out of a chair without help and to be able to navigate around her home in a safe and stable way. Of course, she won't use the walker. The good (and bad) part of this is that I am there to help. In fact, I moved closer to her to be able to help. It's hard when they are far away. But..we do what we can.
Same here. When my dad was falling, back when they lived in AZ, I found services for them (which they could well afford), but they weren't using them. I had to go BACK a week after I left, on my last visit there, because it was pretty clear they couldn't be left alone. I couldn't help my dad shower (and I had to STOP my stepmom from doing it--I said, "Suppose he starts to fall and grabs you and pulls you down with him? Do you want side-by-side beds in the hospital?"), so they eventually let them come in while I was there, but good grief. We couldn't leave them alone till we got them packed up and moved. The other sibs (most of whom I had met maybe once or twice) were very helpful. We all pitched in and it truly was a joint effort.

I just got a text from the one daughter-in-law I've gotten to know the best, asking what they could do to help; offering to call to discuss. At this point, I told her, I think things are under control--told her about the conference call. I really don't want to get into the issue about giving money to the one family because I suspect the others don't know and I don't feel like it's my place unless it's critical. If I need to, I'll spill the beans, but I'd rather not put anyone in an awkward position if I can help it.
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Old 12-09-2016, 07:18 AM
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Dear Lexie
I think it is clear that if they continue in this direction, it will eventually affect you directly. To be blunt, they will be short on funds, and you will be supplementing their income. In effect, you would end up having paid your step-siblings out of your pocket.
You seem to be one of the most level-headed people on this entire site. You are an inspiration to all of the rest of us, and one I would flee to for advice about matters like this.
Your situation sounds similar to my family's where my late parents were supplementing one of my sisters and her family. Of course, they had helped us all out from time to time, but my Mother kept paying my sister after my Dad died. Eventually my Mom got short on cash and I had to step in a little. Thank God I had it at the time!
Have you thought about setting up a trust of some kind? Would that be feasible economically?
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Old 12-09-2016, 07:34 AM
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Good plan. We have done all that we can to help my mom stay in her home for as long as possible. But, really, it's day to day. My friend helped her parents sell their house and business and moved them closer to her. Her dad is much like yours. Doesn't want to go out, just sits, watches tv, and smokes. It's sad, but my friend has given up trying to help make changes. As with so many things in life, we can't make people do what they don't want to. Just know that you are not alone. When I go to any gathering these days, i invariably end up in a knot of people who are caring for elderly parents in some way. It's almost comical. The other day I was discussing the benefits of lift chairs with someone. Lol.
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Old 12-09-2016, 08:41 AM
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Falling, ugh, the bane of getting older! My FIL had a lot of falls, was really very lucky to have not been injured more than he was, despite our pleas for him to use a walker/cane/ ANYTHING to provide more stability. Just too stubborn.

He just came back from a short hospital stay - unrelated to falling - but thank God the doctors saw how unstable he is and sent him home with a walker and orders to USE IT. He does, at least so far.

My mom was also sent home from rehab with a walker. Never used it once. Thank God no falls and she's doing pretty good but it's concerning.

Maudcat, I end up in those discussions too. It's difficult and will only get more so.
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Old 12-09-2016, 08:59 AM
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I know! My mil has a state of the art walker, very zippy. If anyone should be using it, it's her. But....no. Doesn't need it "yet." I look for the blessings. Both mom and mil are doing okay, as in not bedridden, no congestive hear failure, no copd. You know, really, really sick.
Yet.
And they are both reasonably cheery, not too grumpy, and pleasant to be around. And appreciative, for the most part, of the help that I, my spouse, my bro, and my sil offer.
But, yah, it will get worse. I know. Peace.
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Old 12-09-2016, 09:02 AM
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Lexie, this has become the "caring for elderly parents" thread. Despite its kinda downer nature, I am liking it. Maybe we should create our own club, like the Whiners, of which I am a proud whiny member. Best to you.
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Old 12-09-2016, 10:04 AM
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I think that's a great plan Lexie.

You might talk to the assisted living facility, though. We wen't through this with my grandmother. She had a really nice nest egg, but as you know, those places are costly! The nest egg was burnt up in the last 3 years solely on payments to the facility. In Montana at least, the government allows each facility several "spots" for Medicare (I believe) supplement. Basically, after savings are exhausted, you fill out an application and I believe its Medicare (my mom and uncle did all the legwork there) steps up and pays the balance so they do not have to move. Grandma didn't expect to live to 90, and there is help for her to stay in the same nice place.

You might want to check into that for a plan B if parents are hell bent on the payments to the kids. The facility should be able to tell you if such a thing exists in OR. Good luck, the role reversal is difficult with parents!
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Old 12-09-2016, 10:32 AM
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I believe that is true in many states, Lexie and firebolt. My former sil is in the memory care section of an assisted living facility because she has early alzheimer's. She is in her late 60's. The facility is several thousand dollars a month, so she is definitely going to run out of money. My nephew has applied to the facility for a medicare slot for her when one is available.
Not something to count on, but definitely a possibility.
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Old 12-09-2016, 11:14 AM
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We are in Massachusetts, btw.
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Old 12-09-2016, 12:45 PM
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Hi Lexie!

That sounds like a sticky situation, but it also sounds like you are handling it quite well.

It does stink to have to parent your parents, but at least they seem to be in a good place right now.

Hugs!
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Old 12-09-2016, 01:05 PM
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this has become the "caring for elderly parents" thread. Despite its kinda downer nature, I am liking it. Maybe we should create our own club, like the Whiners, of which I am a proud whiny member.
Can I join?

My mother, after her radiation, had to use a walker. As she started recovering, she graduated to a cane.

And then gardening shears.

As the weather got warmer, she would go outside and garden. Inevitably that involved a fair bit of pruning. She would wear flip-flops and use her gardening shears as her cane. And with each stab into the ground she would occasionally get a little too wee close to her foot. I would inevitably throw fits, and told her point blank that she wasn't going to die of cancer, she was going to die of blood poisoning.

She would laugh and tell me that I was funny. Grrrr...
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Old 12-09-2016, 01:22 PM
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I know. It is kinda funny when they laugh at you. Peace.
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Old 12-09-2016, 04:16 PM
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Oh, I'm in contact with the Assisted Living staff. I talked to Dad's assigned nurse this week and she is calling me back this weekend to try to strategize how to get him out of the house once in a while. I'm also going to have a serious talk with my stepmom about whether she wants to hasten his decline by just passively letting him sit in his chair all day every day.

I'm not really worried about the spending getting out of control. I can monitor their bank accounts online, and I can see copies of every check they write. I know my stepmom isn't wild about that, lol, but I've caught some major problems in their finances and spent hours and hours on the phone getting back money that was owed to them by companies that overbilled them, and she LIKES that. So my nosiness is something she sort of has to put up with for the sake of the other help. And she does express her appreciation for it.

This is a woman who had NO CLUE about ANY of their finances but I've been working hard to educate her. I don't expect her to be a whiz at this stage of her life but she does need to know what they have and where it goes, in at least a general way. I had to give her lessons on how to use an ATM. It's best that she learn some of this stuff now--it will be harder later as my dad continues to decline.

I'm truly thankful, though, that they are now living where there is help right down the hall if they need it. My dad never wanted to use his emergency alert pendent when they lived alone because the ambulance arrival embarrassed him. He uses it here, and friendly staff hurry over to see what he needs. Much less fuss.

My brother has been helping out with details when things get to be too much for me, and I feel like he's got my back when I need it. He's a good guy, but he's got a lot on his plate career-wise at the moment, and I try to call on him only when I need him. But he's great at helping us communicate consistent messages to them, and he's always willing to help me think through strategies. He gave me some great advice on how to approach certain issues.

I just needed to vent a bit. We're actually very fortunate when I see what some families are faced with. This is really not that big a deal. Getting through the sale of the house and disposition of the proceeds was a big stressor but we're coming out on the other side with everyone pretty much intact.
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