In my numerous years in long-term care I have witnessed several battles between siblings over a parent’s money. Yes I have even encountered those who were more focused on what could be saved for their inheritance than on what could be spent to keep mom and/or dad happy in their final years. I have even seen decisions made that did not reflect the wishes of the parent and that disrespectfully kept the parent out of the dialogue.
In 2003 when a client of mine died I met relatives who were arguing for the deceased’s belongings even though I had never met any of them during the 3 years I managed her care. Thankfully while alive a local elder-care attorney was in charge of her finances and ensured the every best care was provided.
Families indeed have difficult decisions to make. Thankfully there are enough resources available in the marketplace to educate families about how best to proceed. In addition there are really mature and experienced home care, adult day care and assisted living providers who know how to work with families in order to maximize the preferred care for a longer period.
What must be avoided at all cost is intermingling personal funds with those that belong to the parent that should be set aside to honor their preferences. Some make the mistake in believing they can borrow from these funds, etc. especially if a power of attorney is in place. However, beingauthorized to act in someone’s incapacitation or unavailability is not a license to misappropriate or misuse their personal assets. It is not hard to cross the line of exploitation and the legal consequences can be incredible. Of course for most of us, hopefully the moral consequences are equally if not even more important.
To get it done right:
1. Sit down and make the focus of the conversation what is best for the parent.
2. Don’t be a brat hoping for what you feel you deserve at death. Greed has no place in the dialogue.
3. If sufficiently lucid, ask the parent how they wish to be cared for.
4. Look for long-term care cost experts and case managers to help guide you through unfamiliar knowledge areas.
5. Do whatever it takes to keep the parent from feeling totally disconnected from what they once called “life”.
High-mindedness and greed will work against the greater good in every instance. With a focus on what is best for your parent, this can be avoided and everyone sleeps well while guarding assets to honor preferences.
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