Questions and Insights


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: Father needs power of attorney for incompetence but unwilling to do so.  What do we do when he is not paying bills?

Answer: If your father’s incompetence can be established medically then it matters not if he is against your involvement. Discuss your concerns with your father’s primary physician. Regarding your father not paying bills, you are under no obligation to pay them with your own money in his behalf.

The next step is to begin a court proceeding for guardianship (not power of attorney). Establishing yourself as your father’s guardian will allow you access and control of your father’s assets in which to pay his bills. Also, guardianship of your father may include assisting him with his personal well being.

Question: My 83 yr. old Dad is beginning to loose it a bit. I take care of all his needs. He has a substantial amount of money which is all to be given to me but not until he dies. What can I do?

Answer: Hopefully your father has not been officially diagnosed with dementia of any kind by his doctor. If that’s the case, ask Dad if he would be wiling to discuss the process of planning for incapacity and establishing you as power of attorney. If he agrees to this, make an appointment for both of you to talk about options with an attorney.  While your father’s will states that you are to receive his money upon death, there’s a real good chance that much of these funds will be needed to finance housing and long-term care expenses.

Question: My parents live in Kentucky and I live in Maryland. My mother is 68 and in generally good health and my father is 74 and an alcoholic with heart problems. He is verbally abusive to my mother and he has gotten to the point where he doesn't eat can barely walk he falls constantly and can not get up. Can not even make it to the bathroom don't know if it's because of health or too drunk to walk.

My mother is not able to pull on him to get him up when he falls but when I suggest to official steps to get him put in a home or to move closer to me and my sister she doesn't want to discuss it. He has gotten to the point where he is pathetic I am ashamed to say.

Are there legal steps I can take to change this situation? I feel so guilty being so far away and not doing anything.

Answer: Are you familiar with the legal case of Terry Schiavo? She was the unfortunate woman who was the focus of a family battle between her husband and her parents. The upshot of the case is this; adult children and parents are powerless when there is still a spouse in the picture.

Even under these facts, your goal is to somehow convince your mother to seek having your father declared a "disabled person" requiring a guardian appointment. Use all of the influence you and your sister can muster to see your mother during this difficult time. Surround her with people who love and care about her well being -- your mother’s siblings, close friends, clergy – anyone you can think of who may have success “getting through to her.”

At the same time, expect major resistance from your father. He'd probably fight it. And don’t let that stop you.