by Joy Loverde
As the author of The Complete Eldercare Planner and online elder care columnist geared toward people who are caring for aging parents, I’ve been asked some interesting questions. The depth of where our caregiving journeys will lead us never ceases to amaze me. This blog offers insights into the complex elder care process.
Question: My father is 90 years old and nearly crippled. My mother is 87 years old. She is in the beginning stages of Parkinson's disease. In November of 2006, she fell & broke her hip. My father had neglected getting her help before she fell. He did not take her to see the doctor for regular treatment of her Parkinson's. She very quickly lost the use of her legs & was wheelchair bound due to his neglect of her.
My father has some serious control issues and refuses to pay for care for my mother. She needs 24-hour care. One of my sisters moved in with them & worked round the clock to attend to our mother's needs. Our dad was consistently verbally abusive (this is his old pattern). My sister's health and well-being was suffering so she had to leave their home and return to her own apartment three hours away. My dad wasn't compensating her well and her debt load increased. Under my sister's care, our mom's health improved. Now she is seriously backsliding.
My dad has a home health aide come in for three hours a day. She gets my mom out of bed for one meal a day. My dad doesn't change my mom's catheter; he doesn't get her up for dinner. He doesn't change her diapers. This has been reported to Adult Protective Services.
There are several children who care about the well-being of our mother (who has been a battered wife for 65 years). We are wondering how we can declare our dad incompetent when it comes to caring for our mother & have access to their money in order to provide for her adequately.
Answer: I asked Chicago family law attorney, David V. Schultz (312-266-0629) to comment on your eldercare situation. Here is his response...
Your description of your mother's condition and needs, coupled with the fact that your father is clearly an inappropriate caregiver meets the criteria for appointment of a legal guardian. An experienced probate court attorney can set forth what you tell him into the proper legal document (petition) to present to the Court. You and your sisters can/should share the cost of retaining such an attorney. An interim guardian for your mother would immediately be directed by the probate judge to go out and personally interview your mother and investigate her living environment and existing care plan, and report back to the judge. Even if your father would try to block the appointment, it certainly sounds like he would not be successful. From then on, the appointed guardian would have to report periodically to the Court. Your parents' finances would also be analyzed so that the new Court-supervised care plan could/would be paid for from their own funds, not yours or your sister's.
The plan of action then is to seek legal representation. If you do not know of an elder law attorney, contact the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys to find local representation. The website is www.naela.org. Get references and interview more than one attorney before hiring.