February 15th, 2006

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Aging parent questions

Has anyone had to go through getting durable power of attorney or living wills for their parents?

I downloaded some forms from an aging council web site, and it looks like I just need to fill them out with my mom and get them notorized. Do these need to be 'filed' with anyone in the state to be valid?

We need to get this done before my mom's competence comes into question. The roles have truly reversed. I am now the parent. She has already handed me all of her paperwork - birth and death certificates, insurance policies, cancer policy, stuff like that.

Last night, I spent a good hour on a three way call between her and a creditor. He called my house because he didn't have a valid number for mom, but couldn't talk just to me because I didn't have durable power of attorney. It seems my mother has been 'forgetting' to pay bills. She doesn't mean to, she just loses them, forgets to mail out checks, or thinks she has already paid it. One of her cards went into default (way too soon, in my eyes. Last payment was in December, 2005) and is with collections. I must say this was the most respectful and helpful creditor I have EVER dealt with, and I've dealt with quite a few in my time. He worked out a great plan, with low payments because she is fixed income. The payments will be charged direct to her debit card so she doesn't have to remember to make the payments. By the end of the call, when mom needed to give the number on her card, she was crying so hard she couldn't see the numbers. The guy was even nice enough to offer to let us off the line, I could get it from mom when she felt better and I could call him back with the numbers. She did end up getting it out and we got this one resolved.

It just kills me to see her becoming more and more helpless in her life. I'm working hard with my therapist to come to terms with this, that my mother will never change, and that her mental and physical state will only decline from here.

I think at some point, I might have to take over her finances - make sure all of the bills get paid and give her a 'spending allowance'. It's a sad state, and I know that if it happened to me, I would feel like all power had been stripped from me. I try to stay out of her business, unless I see that it is something she doesn't understand or that she has gotten in too deep with.

God, why can't we stay alert until the day we die? Physical problems are something that can be dealt with. But at least you can spend your time with your family, know what you are doing, think clearly, and do some things you enjoy.

How do you tell your mom that you think she is incapable of handling her own finances and business issues, without making it sound like you think she is completely insane or senile?