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Trying the Do Everything Option

This is the second scenario regarding how Family Caregivers respond to the needs of their declining parent. Last week we discussed Adam’s method, which was doing nothing. Today we discuss Beth, who takes the polar opposite approach. Beth has taken it upon herself to do everything. Can she?

At our office we have seen both. Which is the closest to your situation?

Do Everything Option

Beth lived in the same town as her Mom and checked on her regularly. Although Beth’s Dad died several years ago, Beth’s Mom has thrived at home alone, with minimal assistance. But recently things have changed.

Beth’s Mom suffered a series of health events, which seemed to start when she fell at home and bruised her hip. She didn’t suffer any broken bones, but after this event, Beth noticed that her Mom started to decline. She was forgetting things, like taking her medicine and even forgetting to eat.

Help was Needed!

Seeing that a little help was needed, Beth began stopping by Mom’s house each morning on the way to work, and each evening on the way home. Even though she had a very demanding job and a family of her own, Beth loved her Mom and “didn’t mind” the extra time required for her to make sure that her Mom had everything necessary to remain comfortable at home.

After a few months of providing assistance, Beth’s Mom declined in health even more, which required even more assistance with getting in and out of bed, transferring to the toilet, bathing, meal preparation and all household tasks. At this point, Beth was spending 2 hours every morning before going to work and 4 hours every evening before going home. After a busy 8 hour day at work, this made for a very long day for Beth.

Beth talked to her Mom about bringing in non-medical home care to help, but her Mom refused. She said that she didn’t want any “outsiders” in her home – she only wanted Beth to help. Although she had four other siblings, two lived out of state and did nothing to help. The two other siblings who lived in-state were “too busy” to help. As a result, Beth did everything.

Problems Arising!

Soon, Beth started to develop health problems of her own. She gained weight, injured her back lifting her Mom, and began suffering frequent headaches. She also began to experience frequent chest pains, but “didn’t have time” to go to a doctor to get it checked out.

Beth rarely got to spend time with her husband, kids or grandkids and felt that her life was spiraling out of control. She had taken all of her vacation time, sick days, personal days and other off-days graciously allowed by her employer so she could help Mom. She was calling to check on Mom several times each work day and was leaving early whenever possible.

All of this was starting to have an effect on Beth’s job performance. Although her employer had been very understanding, Beth’s problem was now becoming the employer’s problem. He needed someone that he could count on to actually be there and be focused on the work that needed to be done.

Support Starts to Take its Toll

However, Beth’s employer really wanted Beth to stay – but he wanted the “old Beth” – not the Beth he had now. As a result, Beth’s employer asked Beth to take a couple of months of unpaid leave to get her “house in order”. He asked her to check back in with him in two months. If she had been able to get things in order, she could return to her job. If not, he had another person in mind who could easily take her job.

This was also starting to have an effect on Beth’s marriage. Although her husband loved her, the only time he saw her was when he stopped by her Mom’s house to help after his work day had ended. Beth’s husband was also spending several hours per day helping Beth to help her Mom. Since he was the only other one to help, his help was necessary. Beth’s husband wanted their old life back, but saw no relief on the horizon.

What are Beth’s options?

Doing everything for Mom comes at great expense – the expense was the toll that it was taking on Beth’s life! Beth needs to count the costs before the costs add up!

The Cost of Trying to Do Everything

We can see that trying to do everything was taking a toll on Beth. Specifically, it was taking a toll on:

Beth’s health

As mentioned earlier, Beth was starting to develop health problems of her own. She didn’t have time to visit her doctor, or to address any personal needs. Now Beth was beginning to realize that if she didn’t take care of herself, she would quickly be in a position where she can no longer provide help to her mom or anyone else.

Beth’s job

Best boss had been very patient, understanding and forgiving, but all those things have limits in the world of business. The truth is that there were several other very qualified people that were standing in line ready, willing and able to take Beth’s job on a moment’s notice. Beth knew that to keep her job, she had to get back into action immediately.

Beth’s marriage

Beth’s husband had also been very helpful and understanding as he watched her try to do everything. But Beth has been away from him and her entire immediate family for months now. The strain on her marriage and family relationships was starting to show. Beth knew that she had to take action immediately to prevent further deterioration in relationships that mattered the most to her.

Beth’s Questions and Concerns:

Should Beth let her health, job, and marriage go down the dumper because Mom adamantly wanted just Beth all the time?

Although she had mentioned it frequently, Beth had not insisted on non-medical caregivers because (a) She suspected that she would have trouble finding one that could get along with Mom; (b) She knew that Mom would not be friendly toward the new caregiver; and she knew that (c) Mom didn’t have enough money to be able to pay for in-home care for very long anyway. Beth checked and there was no state funded assistance for non-medical care in her area. (d) Since Beth was on unpaid leave, she couldn’t contribute financially.

Mom still had her cognitive health and told Beth that if she put her in a Nursing Home, that she would “just give up and die”. Beth knew that this was probably true and didn’t want that on her conscience.

When parents start to decline, proactive planning is critical. Even though Mom may insist that one of the kids do everything, while the other siblings are “too busy” to help, best results can happen when the family engages in a Mom Centered Family Meeting (MCFM). Beth realized that she had put off the family meeting for way too long. It’s now time to rally the troops and go through the MCFM process. It’s time to craft a going forward plan for Mom and for all of her adult siblings.

Your Next Step

I implore you to talk to your family members about creating an estate plan and a healthcare plan. At the next family gathering, you can share your concern and the proactive steps that you are taking to prepare yourself. Contact your local Elder Law Attorney right away

You have probably already taken several steps to make the life of your Loved One better. Hopefully you have picked up a tip or two from this article to help even more. However, we can’t stress enough how important it is to plan. Let this story, albeit fictional, encourage you to read our FREE eBook as you get a jumpstart on your (or Mom’s) financial planning. We hope to hear from you, allowing us to help you avoid costly estate planning mistakes!

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We have covered some legal topics in this edition and as always, I want to emphasize that (1) the law is different in every state, so if you live in a state other than Arkansas, just know that the law may be totally different in your state; (2) your situation is unique, so one size doesn’t fit all – meaning what we discuss herein may not be right for you; (3) we have purposely over-simplified many of the topics above (otherwise this would be many pages long and unreadable because of all of the legalize). It is imperative that you meet with your attorney (hopefully us!) and get a plan that will work for you. Please don’t attempt DIY Estate Planning based on what you read in this (or any) article AND don’t try to go it alone. Please consider this, get your questions answered and take action.