Caring for an Elderly Parent Without Ruining Your Relationship

Caring for an elderly parent can strain the relationship. Keep these issues in mind to protect your relationship while caring for a parent.

Caring for an elderly parent is not easy.  If you have elderly parents, you might have to provide caregiving services at some point.  Whether that concept means hands-on personal assistance with things like bathing, dressing, grooming, and feeding, or handling their finances and making decisions for them, this change in your roles can be challenging for you and your parent. If you enjoy a great relationship with your parent, the initial conversation about these issues may be easier and you may find the suggestions I made in this Kevin’s Korner very helpful.  https://youtu.be/UI8mMp2ZnWg

But even if you don’t, its important to realize your parent’s condition may affect your relationship, and you want to be prepared so you can care for your loved one without worsening your relationship.  Here are some issues to consider about how to help your elderly parent without ruining your relationship.

It’s Usually Not “Leave It to Beaver”

Many people grow up seeing fictional families on television and wishing their parents and siblings got along better. No families measure up to the imaginary ones of fiction.  In fact, quite a few people have strained interactions with their parents.

Relationships carry the baggage of the past. It is not helpful for people to tell you to forget about the past. Your parent is the same person with whom you have had conflict, which means he or she will continue to do things that upset you. If your parent was extremely authoritarian or independent, it will be difficult for him or her to accept someone telling them what to do – especially one of their children.

Patience versus Doormat

You should try to be understanding of what your parent is going through, losing independence, feeling less valuable or powerful or no longer acting as a primary decision maker for the family. He might get confused and forget you already did things, he now accuses you of not doing. He might also be dealing with chronic pain and other health issues.  Some diseases such as dementia cause paranoia, and your parent might become suspicious of you because of it.

You should, however, set boundaries. Getting old does not give your parent a right to be physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive. Be firm with your parent, if any of these things happen. Being a dutiful son or daughter does not include being a doormat. Calmly inform your parent of the behavior that is not acceptable. You might need to have someone in social services arrange for counseling to help your parent adjust to the reality of aging and needing assistance.

Get Help

Caregiving takes a toll on the financial and physical health of the caregiver.  Understand that even though you love your parent, you don’t have to do everything.  Consider speaking with a care manager who can work with you to establish a care plan for your parent and help you hire other service providers to care for your parent.  This will relieve some of your burden, and give you a sense of comfort knowing your parent is cared for.  See this blog for more details.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/long-term-care-whats-it-all-about/

The Silver Lining

For some people, this stage of life is a time to deal with unfinished business. You can talk out problems or questions. You might be able to resolve conflicts that could have caused you regrets down the road. The best approach for this goal to tread lightly. Remember that your parent might be frail no matter what they might think, and you should not assault them with a long list of criticisms and complaints.

Address only one piece of a small issue in a visit, and do not dredge up unpleasant topics in every visit. You do not want your parent to dread seeing you. Be the kind of person you might wish your parent had been when you were a child – kind, compassionate and nurturing.

Those of you who have enjoyed a happy, healthy relationship with your parents can deepen your mutual affection and interaction. Since your parent is no longer rushing around to work and raise a family, you can have uninterrupted conversations and create memories to treasure. People who have had strained relationships might reach the point at which they have pleasant times and treasured memories with their elderly parents.

References:

A Place for Mom. “Parenting the Parent: Caring for Elderly Parents.” (accessed August 21, 2019 ) https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/caring-for-elderly-parents

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Power of Attorney: Planning for Incapacity

Powers of attorney let you plan for your incapacity.
A power of attorney names a person to make decisions for you under rules that you establish, and ensures someone can handle your affairs if you cannot.

Without a durable power of attorney, helping a family member or loved one who cannot act on their own becomes far more difficult and stressful. Powers of attorney, also known as POAs, typically give the agent specific powers to conduct the principal’s (person creating the power of attorney) financial business, explains the Aiken Standard in the article “The durable power of attorney.”

For financial powers of attorney, there are different types, including non-durable, springing and durable. A non-durable POA is time limited.  It either expires at the end of a set amount of time or upon the death or incapacity of the principal.  Non-durable powers of attorney are typically used for specific circumstances, such as real estate closings or for transferring car titles.

The durable power of attorney is in effect from the moment it is executed. It is not revoked if the person becomes incapacitated (hence the term “durable”), nor by the passage of time. The person can alter or terminate a durable POA at any time before he or she lacks capacity, however, and it does end when the person dies.

Springing powers of attorney become effective at a future date. They “spring” into power, according to the terms of the document. That may be the occurrence of a particular event, like the person becoming incapacitated or disabled. They can be problematic, as there will be a need to prove that the person has become incapacitated and/or disabled.

The advantage of the durable power of attorney is that it remains in effect even after the person has become impaired. You can choose to let your agent act right away or make it springing as described above.  It is often prudent to make them effective immediately so that if time is of the essence (i.e., there is an emergency that requires quick action), there is no need to prove incapacity or that a condition has occurred.

In addition to a financial POAs, there’s also a healthcare power of attorney, which is a separate document that gives the named person the authority to make medical decisions when the principal is not able to do so.  There are also several other documents which plan for incapacity, such as living wills and HIPAA releases, which should be considered as well.

In Texas, powers of attorney rules are strict, so how they are drafted is very specific.  They provide for many powers or restrictions to the agent which the principal should consider when preparing a power of attorney, such as whether his or her agent should be compensated, whether the agent can make gifts and naming successor agents if the first cannot serve.

Power of attorney documents should be created and executed, along with a complete estate plan, long before an individual begins having problems in aspects of their lives.  These documents are essential as part of planning for incapacity.  See my past article for more detailed information.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/estate-planning-when-faced-with-a-serious-illness/

When they are signed, it is necessary for the person to have mental capacity. They have to be able to be “of sound mind.” If they have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is necessary that all these documents be prepared as soon as possible.

Without a durable power of attorney, family and friends won’t be able to make important financial decisions, pay bills, make healthcare decisions and engage in any kind of Medicaid planning. If a person does not create a power of attorney and then suffers a health problem which makes them unable to handle their own affairs, anyone who wanted to take on any of these responsibilities would have to go to court and be appointed the person’s guardian. It’s much easier to tackle these tasks in advance, so that the family can act on their loved one’s behalf in a timely and effective manner.

Reference: Aiken Standard (August 24, 2019) “The durable power of attorney”

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