Siblings Who Prefer Inheritance over Parents' Best Care

Caregiver, patient expert

When it comes to caring for aging parents, it's a rare family that doesn't find itself, at least occasionally, in disagreement over the type and expense of care the elders should have. If there ever was a time to bring up old sibling rivalries and pecking orders, it's during this decision making time.

Most of us like to give people the benefit of a doubt when these disagreements get heated. Jane wants Mom to have in-home care with some days at adult day care, while Sam wants Mom to move to assisted living and make friends with other residents there. Both have the needs of their Mom first in their minds, but they don't agree on which move is best.

Greedy siblings

There is a more sinister type of disagreement among siblings, however. There are some who would rather save their elder's money for inheritance than spend it on the elder's care. Few would admit this outright, but it can be evident in their suggestions and the spirit of their arguments when some care suggestions are made.

This is what's going on with Sue, the third sibling in this family. Sue knows Mom has some money from Dad's insurance policy and they had quite a few investments. Sam has Power Of Attorney, and wants Mom to have whatever is best for her. He and Jane agree Mom needs more care, but need to work out the issues of how to provide that. They will do that without ill will. However, Sue is the problem. She thinks Mom is okay at home alone, since she has good friends to check on her, and besides Jane lives nearby and can stop each day before and after work to check on Mom. Jane can also take Mom to doctor's appointments, so what's the big deal about in-home care or day care? And assisted living? That's out of the question. It's way too expensive.

All care options cost money. People like Jane provide millions of dollars of free care to their parents each year, often at great personal sacrifice. Many people quit jobs or go to part time in order to care for their parents. They do so out of love, knowing the parent is more comfortable with their care than that of a stranger.

However, many people like Jane can't quit a job or go part time. They would have no income. Jane is a single mother. The time she gives her own mother already takes away quality time from her own children. Her mother is aware of this and worries about it.

Sam lives too far away to help much, but he agrees with Jane that Mom needs more care. Mom has had two significant falls. After the first fall, they got a personal alarm for her. So, after Mom fell the second time, she pushed the alarm, and the dispatchers were alerted. Jane had to leave work to go check on her Mom. Everything turned out okay, but Jane's boss wasn't pleased and she can't get away with this often.

Mom is divided about the many issues. She just wishes the whole problem would go away. This  signals possible depression to both Jane and Sam, who are closest to their mother. They know changes need to be made. After some discussion, the both agreed that assisted living would eventually be needed, so they want to do it now. This would mean fewer changes for Mom down the road.

Sue rarely visits Mom even though she only lives 200 miles away. She has a very expensive lifestyle. Both Jane and Sam feel Sue's motives for keeping Mom out of assisted living, or even adult day care, are selfish.

Actually, Sue is quite open about not wanting to spend the money. In her opinion, Mom's getting old. She doesn't need much. The house is paid for. There's a nice little nest egg. She figures they should just keep Mom as comfortable as possible, with as little money spent as possible. If she then gets so she needs care, get her a double room so the cost is less. In other words, shelve Mom as a human being and just maintain her until she dies. Jane doesn't get that brutal with her words, but that is what is in her heart.

Power Of Attorney

This family is fortunate in that the person with Power of Attorney agrees that the best care possible is what Mom deserves. Unfortunately, there are families where the Power of Attorney is in the hands of a person who would rather inherit the money than spend it on the best care possible for their parents. This is when third party help is needed.

The article Family conflict over elder care can be helped by mediation tells about  several approaches to sibling squabbles. However, if one sibling is being just plain greedy, you may need to get an estate attorney involved. This attorney should be able to convince the sibling holding out that the Mother deserves the best care her money can provide.

If the greedy person holds the POA and will not listen to others in the family, it's still good to try mediation. Maybe the person can be brought into line. If the situation is so bad that the POA won't allow the elders' money to provide the best care possible, the other adult children may have to go to court so that one or both of them can seek guardianship. Generally, the person holding out to horde money isn't going to let it go that far. They know what is right, they just don't want to do it. A family mediator will usually be able to solve this issue, if a simpler form of intervention such as a family pastor or Rabbi can't.

The important thing here is the care of the elder. Any money left, after the best care possible for the elders is provided, is inheritance. If the elders' money is used up for their care, that's too bad. That's what it's there for.

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