Questions and Insights


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 wife and I are the sole caregivers for her mother. She is 90 years old and nearly blind and unable to walk. She lives in an apartment near us and we visit daily. We are both in our 70`s ourselves and get no cooperation from mom allowing us to get assistance. Don’t know where to start but she will not cooperate on any matter including paper signing.

Answer: My heart goes out to you. Both you and your wife are bending over backwards in an attempt to be helpful, and yet your Mother-in-law refuses to “allow” you to get assistance. That being said, there are several strategies to consider.

Next time you visit Mom, bring along a “friend.” As you go about your usual business in the apartment, the friend and Mom can spend time getting to know each other. When you leave, of course your friend leaves, too. Let a few days go by, and bring the person back with you during your next visit with Mom. Hopefully Mom will form a bond with this person and eventually allow him/her into her home without you being there at the same time. The premise for this approach is to not ask Mom’s permission to get the help you deserve.

On the other hand, if you feel strongly that introducing a new person into your mother’s life is out of the question, you may want to consider how helpers can assist you – running errands, cleaning your home and grocery shopping in your behalf.  Hiring professionals and tapping into volunteer resources will undoubtedly lighten the load on your end.

To find reputable helpers, start by asking friends and neighbors for suggestions on people they know who do the kind of work you are seeking. Check references before hiring anyone. You may also find helpers by tapping into the following resources:

  • local area agency on aging
  • church groups
  • senior centers
  • support groups
  • community college
  • nursing agencies
  • women’s groups
  • family services

Regarding Mom’s unwillingness to cooperate on other matters including paper signing is a sure sign that her trust level is low and her fear level is high.  Perhaps enlisting the help of others whom she regards as authority figures (doctor, clergy person, attorney) may help overcome her irrational fears.

Question: I moved in with my parents 5 years ago to help take care.  After learning there was no will, my parents agreed to do so and for elder law reasons the house was deeded to me, since I was to inherit it eventually. My parents are granted life tenancy.  Mother died two years ago and father is suing me to force me out of the home.  Can he evict me?

Answer: I have consulted with a lawyer on your question. Here’s what David V. Schultz, attorney at law had to say:

Property laws vary from state to state; so, for an authoritative answer, you would have to consult with an attorney locally.  That being said, in general terms of property law . . .

If, as you say, the house was deeded to you, you are the owner of the property.  One of the rights of ownership is the right to possession (residency, in terms of real estate)--unless, you have contracted away that right for any given period of time, under a lease, for example.  In your case, a life tenancy was included in the deal.

Ordinarily the assumption is that the life tenant has the right to possession of the property exclusively during his lifetime, and that right is superior even to the holder of legal title (in legal terms, you are the "remainderman," the property reverts to you after the death of the life tenant).   However, since you have shared possession of the property with the tacit approval of Dad, you could argue that he had waived his right to exclusive possession.

Bottom line: Dad could prevail in a court battle--but, surely, there must be a better way--some sort of compromise--where both parties could maintain their dignity and not completely sever the familial relationship, which is what happens when litigation heats up.