Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sibling Needs Help Taking Care Of Aging Parents, Receives Excuses

Dear Tazi:

I am one of ten children; I have six brothers and three sisters, all of us grown. My parents are both older, and are getting frail in their later years. It is quickly becoming obvious that they will be unable to live independently much longer, yet they are too healthy for a nursing home and would not be able to afford assisted living (and they outright refuse to allow me to pay for it). While a visiting nurse is a possibility, such services would not be available around the clock and are really not what Mom and Dad need. They just need someone to help with their meals and to look in on them during the day, and then to help with chores such as laundry and housework.

For the past several years I have been giving up my free time to assist Mom and Dad with the yard work and the bills, while my wife and two daughters help with the house chores and the cooking, freezing meals to be eaten during the course of the week. My daughters are in high school, and the eldest will be graduating high school this spring with her sister graduating next year. Both are planning on going away to school, so they will not be around to help. My wife, who also works full-time, has been offered a promotion that will require more time of her, leaving less time to help care for my parents.

Seeing the writing on the wall, I have asked my nine siblings to come together and think of a way to help Mom and Dad, either by taking them into their homes (the ideal decision) or by giving a helping hand to allow them to stay in their own home. All I got was excuses about why they could not take Mom and Dad in and why they had not the time or money to assist with Mom and Dad’s care. Tazi, I am completely disgusted!

I would take my parents in myself, but a home with two active teenage daughters is not the place for them. My father can be very rigid, and I can foresee issues cropping up around my daughters’ busy schedules and dinner being late because of them. I will not put my children through this, not during their last years at home with their mother and me.

Five of my siblings all have at least one spouse who is home during the day, and two eldest brothers are retired. All have refused to let Mom and Dad live with them, claiming that they just don’t have the room (in spite of the fact that all of their children are grown and have left the nest). One of my sisters actually said that she needed to keep her daughter’s old bedroom open in case a grandchild comes along. Tazi, my niece (her daughter) has frequently expressed her displeasure about children and how she never hopes to have any.

Mom and Dad are both close to 90, and I have no idea how many years they have left but I doubt it is going to be more than 10, probably a lot fewer. My younger daughter has offered to take a year off of school to live with and care for them, but she is a young girl with her life ahead of her – this should not be her responsibility!

While I cannot force any of my siblings to take Mom and Dad in, I can make life very uncomfortable for them. Of the ten of us, I am by far the most financially comfortable due to a very successful law practice and my wife’s income as a middle-manager (soon to be executive) with a large corporation. In the past, we have always offered financial assistance with no strings attached because we are family. When my youngest sister got divorced I not only paid for her attorney but I gave her the money to buy her ex-husband’s share of their house so she and the kids would not have to move. \

My other siblings have also been on the receiving end of my financial largesse, and until now I have never thought twice about it. Now, I am considering telling them that the Bank of Brother is closed until they step up for Mom and Dad. Like me, they all have kids who are in or headed for college and graduate school. I don’t want my nephews and nieces to suffer for their parents’ selfishness. My wife says we should just set up trust funds for the kids, ignore my parents’ objections and pay for the cost of assisted living, and write off everyone else. I rather like the idea of trust funds for the kids, but the rest of her idea is pretty drastic. What do you think?

A Lawyer In A Muddle

Dear A Lawyer In A Muddle:

Situations that normally appear black and white turn all shades of gray when our emotions are involved, don’t they? You sound like a man who is generous of heart and of wallet; your parents raised you well, and you are a credit to them. It is obvious you are very close to your parents, so perhaps you are unable to see their flaws as well as your siblings can see them.

You mention that your father is “rigid” and would not stand for meals being served late or for living with two active teenagers. Is it possible that his rigidness is what is keeping his children from taking him into their homes? Could it be that they fear he will try to take over as the Man of the House and turn them into children once more? There is more here than meets the eye, and it would do everyone a world of good to sit down and discuss the real reasons they do not want your parents living with them.

Your wife’s idea of disowning your siblings is extreme, but may also result in them buckling and taking in your parents – but at what cost to your Mom and Dad? You would essentially be blackmailing your siblings into taking them in; are you certain that they would make your parents feel welcome? There is nothing worse than feeling like a guest in what is supposed to be your own home.

You are an attorney, so I am going to make a wild assumption that you are used to negotiating, debating, and convincing opposing sides to come together in compromise. Try to think of your family as a box full of jurors who need convincing that your client deserves justice. Remind them of the fact that family members help each other, and that you are now asking them to come together and help their Mom and Dad. Do not lord over them the fact that you have given them large sums of money in the past; they are already very aware of this. If, in the end, not a single one can be convinced to assist your mother and father you will have to arrange to pay their expenses at an assisted living facility. If they balk, tell them it’s a loan and that their estate can pay you back when they are both gone.


P.S. If you want to set up college trusts for your nephews and nieces, make that a separate issue, lest it sound like a bribe.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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