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Dad has dementia and both parents are broke

Two sisters face the challenge of caring for parents who are unable or unwilling to care for themselves.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2010 7:59PM

Shtinkykat” and her sister face probably the biggest challenge of their young adult lives: Their parents subsist on Social Security and a tiny pension in a rental after years of financial irresponsibility. Not even a modest home to call their own.


Now, their father is suffering from dementia. And adhering to a pattern she's consistently followed, their mother has left him in charge of the finances and is trying to lay a heavy guilt trip on the girls (which they resist). Sample One: "Oh, now I see you and your sister just want your dad and me dead!" Sample Two: "I've sacrificed EVERYTHING for you girls and this is how you treat me!"


If that weren’t enough, Shtinkykat said, “She also blames her parents for ‘forcing’ her to marry a ‘loser” like my dad.”


“I really want to take a ‘not my problem’ attitude that my mom was all too happy to take over the years,” Shtinkykat wrote. “But I know the longer I ignore this and don't take control, things will only get worse. And my sister and I will have to clean up my parents' avalanche of a mess.”


The most compelling personal-finance bloggers give their readers entry into their own financial lives, with the hope that we can learn from their trials and errors. Shtinkykat’s posts about her father’s deteriorating medical condition and her parents’ finances (and her mother’s self-pity) are both heartrending and instructive for those who have to care for aging parents.


Among the actions she and her sister have taken so far:

  • Made copies of the parents' durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney and health care directive. “My mother has made it clear with her actions and words that she has no intention of being my father's attorney-in-fact or agent. That means my sister and I have to step up to the plate,” Shtinkykat wrote.
  • Had her father sign a consent form so the doctors would consult with the sisters about his care.
  • Took her father to the Division of Motor Vehicles to surrender his license after he totaled the car, and replaced the license with a state-issued ID card. Also, they dealt with the insurance company, and signed both parents up for reduced fare on public transit.
  • Toured an adult day care for their father, although they haven't yet figured out how to pay for it. It's $72 a day.

Among the items next on the list:

  • Review the parents' financial records to determine if they qualify for Medicaid. It would cover long-term care and other services not available with basic Medicare.
  • Contact the parents’ tax accountant to make sure their tax returns are current.
  • Sign them up for any available programs that provide assistance for living at home, and also see if they qualify as disabled to get priority treatment from the Dial-A-Ride service.

If Shtinkykat takes control of her parents' finances, “for once, perhaps, my sister and I can force them to live within their means,” she said.

As Bette Davis once famously warned, “Fasten your seat belts,” because for Shtinkykat and her sister, it’s going to be a bumpy life for a while.


Readers, do you have any advice? How have you coped with a similar situation?


Related reading:

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