Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What happens when mom breaks a hip? First take a deep breath.

Editor's note: Among the many challenges facing 60 & Single women is the care of elderly parents. I've written several pieces on this topic and the related issues of mental illness within the family. Here's my latest installment. - Julia

Dear bank trust managers of my mother's assets,
You may already know that my 96-year-old mother fell in her kitchen last week and broke a hip. She successfully went through hip replacement surgery and is now in convalescent care. I've spoken with her several times and find her making good progress, more alert every day and in good spirits. My sister and I have been in touch. I have yet to speak with mom's doctors but my sister tells me that the care facility folks expect mother to be with them for as many as 100 days...all that Medicare will cover.
My hope is that if mother recovers enough to leave the care unit that she will agree to go to another facility rather than return home. Her balance is such that she likely will take another fall and would need someone continually holding her up.
Having said that I doubt that's where she'll want to be and will try to go back home. I'm certain that my sister will want to make that happen with a bed in the living room and some sort of 24-hour care through a home care company. Frankly, it's a crazy idea.
During my recent visit to the farm, mother signed a contract with the home care business for "occasional overnight care, as needed." Whenever my sister went home she was leaving mother alone without notice. A hospice social worker facilitated that contract when she met with my sister, my mother and me. This week she notified me that my sister revised the contract to "24 hours per day as needed" and had mother sign that change. In my conversation with the home care people we agreed that they would bill the bank trust department directly for any care they provide and be directly paid by the bank, not through my sister. I'm sure that she will also want that changed.
With mother in nursing care for likely the next two months, how do we manage things? The real issue all along has been my bi-polar sister who is on mental health disability. Does the bank continue to give my sister the $1,100 a month stipend? Does the bank continue to allow her to pay herself $2,000 a month from mom's ongoing checking account where mom's Social Security and pension money are electronically deposited? Does the bathroom rehab project at the farm house go forward?
Does the bank continue to pay for all the at-home services that mother is no longer using such as cable TV and Internet hook-up? Do we finally have an estate sale and clean up the house so that if mom can come back home it will be livable? Or, if she can't move home, can we clean it out and rent it, since cash flow now will be an issue?
I realize the bank is not the police.
So how do we move forward with these tough decisions regarding my mother's care and my sister's co-dependency? Do we actually also need a conservator or a guardian?
I'm inclined to let things go for awhile until we see how well mother's recovery is going.
My last visit to the farm three weeks ago went relatively well with my sister. There were no shouting matches, no calls to the police. But I remain intimidated in her presence and find every conversation with her (other than about shopping, food or cooking) to be an argument. Mom's house is becoming a hoarder's death trap with boxes, papers, magazines, food, garbage, store purchases in bags stacked everywhere.
If I could have it my way, My sister would return to her own unoccupied home, my mother would be in a care facility and we would clean up the farm house. Alas none of this will likely happen.
I write this out of frustration, not anger. Please forgive me is this sounds otherwise. I love my mother and want her to end her days in a state of loving care, not chaos. I continue to appreciate the work you are doing on my mother's behalf.
All the best
For more on this topic:
Aging parents and elder care, click here.
Becoming a parent to your parent at USA Today.
National Center on Elder Abuse. click here.
Banks in Illinois get new tools to prevent elder abuse. click here.
How to prevent elder abuse, click here.
A family problem that awaits rich and poor alike, from the NY Times. Click here.
Insideeldercare.com - a resource guide for families.

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