Everything They Don’t Tell You About Taking Care of Aging Parents
In July of 2020, I took over my parents’ lives. To say it’s been tough would be an understatement. In addition to the emotional toll of having your parents suddenly become your children, all the planning in the world fails prepare you for all the unknown pitfalls in the elder-care system.
And “system” is a pretty strong word. Web? Morass? Circles of Hell? There is, in fact, no system at all; it’s just a hodge-podge of rules, regulations, shockingly high costs for above-board care, shockingly low costs for under-the-table care, with a dash of financial institutions that fail to honor perfectly executed power-of-attorney documents.
Here’s an incomplete list of what I’ve done over the last two years for my parents: put my father in an assisted living facility (which is harder than you think, it’s like getting someone into Langley); refinanced their home (because of the shockingly high cost of that facility); found homecare aids for my mother after she had a stroke, but refused to leave the family home and join my father in the assisted living facility; canceled their credit cards (I had to threaten to sue some of the credit card companies to do this); taken over all their finances (which also required some lawsuit threats, despite perfectly executed POA documents); taken over all their legal affairs; taken over their email accounts; taken over all medical decisions; and started repairing the house that they let fall into disrepair.
Then I placed my mother in the same assisted living facility as my father, which should have been easier the second time around, but was ultimately much harder. I’ve also failed at a lot of things. I still can’t get into their safe deposit boxes, despite the proper POA documents. Not sure I care anymore though; it’s a war of attrition and I’m not winning a lot of battles.
That said, I’m battle-tested enough to know a thing or two about how this all (sort of) works. Below is what I know now, and wish I knew at the start.
Statement of the obvious: while I’m a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer. Anything vaguely legal below is not meant to be legal advice, or…