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Help! No paperwork done
My mother started showing signs of dementia in 2018. She lives alone and still does. My sister and I convinced her to have some tests done and she "passed" but they told us to come back in a year - of course that didn't happen because we couldn't convince her there were any issues. I'm learning this isn't necessarily "denial" but that she genuinely must not think there is a problem.
Fast forward to today and my sister and I visit her for hours each day to keep her company, make sure her cat is taken care of, and to try to get her to eat and help her take care of herself. She doesn't really have any contact with anyone else - all of her friends have just kind of faded away. My dad lives in another country and they're divorced.
I have also started spending my own money when she misses a bill, and to
pay for things like phone service and internet that she refuses to pay for. I feel very lucky that I can do this, but it doesn't seem fair, and I know the day is coming when she won't pay me back for things like groceries, or bigger things like utility bills that she missed, home insurance, etc.
Even with 2 of us this is so draining. I can't envision her living with either of us. I work, I'm in my early 30s, and it's painful to think about living with her instead of furthering my career and hopefully having a child in the next couple years. It really feels like I have to choose between my mom or the rest of my life. I feel so cruel just typing that out but it's really how I feel.
I feel like we need to get a DPOA for her so we can start directly handling her medical care and her finances. She was recently at the doctor's again and they suggested a care manager come visit the house. Depending on the outcome of that, will that make getting a DPOA easier? I also have a letter from her doctor that she should get a DPOA but I'm not sure she can really consent at this point?
I consulted a lawyer who explained that if the person can't consent to a DPOA, then you need to seek guardianship and that involves going to court. Is this correct? And would having the 3rd party care manager involved help with that?
I feel stuck and don't know how to get her help!
Welcome, Stephanie. Yikes! Yes, you and Sister do need to get control of this now! Read a lot of threads and follow the advice about seeing an elder attorney. Make up a plan for assisted living and eventually memory care. You need to start planning finances now. It's great that you already understand about anosognosia.
Hi Stephanie - welcome to 'here'.
Is your mom on fixed income, but does have the finances to pay her utilities? You will need to get POA in place first, but we were able to get MIL electric and phone/internet service put on direct pay from her account. This has helped SO much! Two less things to worry about. Her SocSec goes directly into that account, so we know it is there for the electric and phone/internet service. my DH has POA, but also has her debit card - for groceries only. (and just in case anybody would care to check, we do keep her grocery receipts.)
Yes - guardianship has to go through the court system. It may vary by state as far as actually having to go to court, but the court-system is still involved. You could google it for your state. As M1 stated - do check with an elder-care attorney to see exactly what you need to do.
I punched in guardianship/POA - and it says this: In most cases, power of attorney is preferred to legal guardianship
because more control is retained by the person being protected.
However, if court supervision is needed, guardianship may be more
appropriate. Guardianship also gives the guardian court-ordered
authority that third parties, like banks, must recognize.
Once you have Guardianship (or POA) also get HIPAA rights.
Thank you so much everyone!
Susan, yes, she receives Social Security every month into her checking account. She only has a checking account and savings - no debit or credit cards. She pays for everything with checks. A couple times she's lost her checkbook and that's when I end up paying the bills. She's kept it in the same place for a couple months so I think we might be ok on that now but she still needs help and reminders to pay bills.
I've noticed it's also becoming more difficult for her to write checks. She also offers to pay me for things multiple times after she already did, so she's just ripe for the wrong person to take advantage of her. She's also convinced her bank never sends her statements but I've seen them, and I or my sister check her mail every day so we know she's getting them.
I have tried to get her utility bills on auto-payment, especially her electricity & gas because those are every month, but she refuses. She thinks that if she sets that up she won't get a monthly statement. I feel like I should just tell her we have to set it up, it's a new thing that the electrical and gas companies require, but I feel so guilty lying to her.
She is not well-off by any means, so I expect what will happen is we'll spend all of her savings on care until she can qualify for Medicaid, hopefully. I can't find any info directly from our state (Michigan) but I think to qualify for Medicaid you need under $2,000 in assets. She has less than $200k in savings. On the income side she qualifies as she receives less than $1,000 per month. I have a huge fear that I will be footing the bill for in-home care or assisted living at some point until things get worked out.
I think the next step with this is that she's going to the doctor again on Tuesday and a care manager will set up a home visit. After that I want to have a frank discussion with the care manager, and give them all the details of everything we're doing for her right now, and to see if they can help me with the DPOA process or provide documentation or something that I can take to the lawyer. The lawyer I've started talking to is not a CELA, and I wonder what the difference is there, but they were recommended to me for this issue.
The lawyer is correct. Competency is a requirement when turning over responsibility. It is a protective requirement.
All of my and my husbands papers were done by an estate attorney. You just want to be very certain in choosing an attorney who has expertise in your areas of concern. I don not think and Estate attorney would be much use in helping with the possibility of needing Medicaid.
This is a good article to read;
As to convincing your mother that she has any problem I suggest you give up. Everyone need to have a DPOA in place. Why not all go and get them done.
This would be a good time to investigate a facility that starts with independent living. Also look for some senior programs in the area. Having you and your sister is a blessing for her but being with active people her own age would be one too.
Pick one utility and tell her there’s a discount, or a free gift (which you magic up if that works) to sign up for the direct pay.
Get your own stuff done with an elder care lawyer, at the same time, tell her everyone does it. Get her to be a deputy for you and vice versa (and take her off yours quietly straight afterwards). It’s a new scheme to help people with x,y,z. What if something bad happened to you, do you want the state taking over your affairs? Because that is what will happen. Not a big risk at your age but say so anyway. It’s the smart thing to do.
Once I got some of this stuff out of my mom’s hair, she relaxed a little and got much easier to deal with overall.
I’m still struggling months later with banks etc even though my mom agreed to let me take over bills and become a signer on her account, so I wish you luck and resolve.
I hope this helps, to be fair I think mine has vascular dementia and less of the progressive anosognosia.
I was appointed conservator of my aunt in July because she never took care of any of the paperwork and she wouldn't relinquish any control, even though she wasn't able to keep up with payment of bills, manage her property, or handle her day-to-day needs. I'm relieved that nearly everything is in place now. However, if I'd had the ability to do this through DPOA, I would have. Conservatorship is arduous and not cheap. Everything has to be approved by the court (she is in CA), which requires involvement with an attorney. You would think financial institutions would know what to do with conservatorship, but few do (it took me 6 months to get Bank of American to accept the conservatorship - and I can't tell you how many calls and meetings). On the flip side, I'm also taking care of my mother's finances and with POA I've been able to quickly and easily manage everything she needs. But others are correct, there is a bar for competency and an elder care attorney will help you determine if she can still sign. The good news is that it sounds like you and your sister are on the same page - that makes a huge difference.
In the end, I'm glad I did conservatorship, so I don't want to scare you about the process- I just want you to be aware.
Wishing you all the best.
Stephanie, my partner has similar issues, and it took some therapeutic fibbing to just tell her that various companies only accept electronic payment now and will no longer take checks. I reassure her that I know she doesn't like it, but that's just the way business is done now. My partner also complains that her bank doesn't send statements, when the fact is that they do, and the real problem is that she cannot read or interpret them any more. Some discussion of these items is a daily ritual at our house.
We have also had mutliple issues with my partner writing and mailing large checks to animal charities---I have taken a number out of the mail and torn them up, and she is never any the wiser. She has now lost her checkbook, which is just as well--I tell her the new checks have been ordered but there's a backup because of the pandemic. She hasn't caught on yet, ditto with a credit card for which the replacement never showed up and she hasn't missed it.
Very difficult issues for someone who was a very successful independent businesswoman and has always prided herself on her financial acumen, which was in fact impressive in its day. No longer.
A lot of bills that I pay I just pay and no longer even tell her about them, and she is none the wiser--this includes some fairly large payments for farm work and home repairs. She clearly just doesn't remember that they are even owed. Took me a while to learn to just act and keep my mouth shut, because of course the natural instinct is to share and be open about what you are doing.