Role Reversal

For those of you who are also dealing with this:

When you have sick relatives and you are the one mainly in charge — whether because of love, obligation and/or by default — there are no simple tasks, are there?  There is no streamlined order of command or ways to pay bills, right?  Or get the important mail sent to you?

And that power of attorney or trustee status that was the answer to these problems?  It only allows you to untangle SOME of the mess.

I know, I know.  All of the planning, those hard conversations, and the tears when the car keys were taken away were all supposed to get us to a point where everything that we COULD control was IN OUR control.  So, our parents and we didn’t have to worry about THESE things.

Parents are not good at giving up the control over finances, medical issues, etc.  And why should they? They have been doing for themselves for more than 60, maybe 70, years and doing fine.  Yes, but then time and age crept up slowly for some, and brutally fast for others, and all wasn’t fine anymore.

And because you needed us.  We, your children, your nieces and nephews, your dear friend’s children.  And we stood up.  But you don’t quite understand that you need us.  That is part of the disease or the injury.  You can’t keep up.  Things are going unpaid.  The house is looking unclean.  You are looking disheveled.  We need to get help in the house and we need to make sure the bills get paid.  Because we need you need to live in dignity, even if giving up decision-making is itself an indignity.

But parents are used to taking care of themselves, no matter what.  And a power of attorney or trustee status cannot prevent an elder from acting on his own, even to his detriment.  Dad called yesterday because people confused him on the phone about his credit card and his long term care.  He called me to contact these people to make it right.  I called him back after I made all the necessary transfers and reminded everyone again that I am the contact and my power of attorney is on file.  Dad didn’t tell me (did he remember?) that his muscle memory took over and he transferred funds over the phone and took care of it.  Maybe he didn’t understand what he did nor can he remember to tell me.  So I duplicated his efforts and while that isn’t bad necessarily, money moved at cross-purposes and, today, there was a crisis.

Trying to sort out the mess was an hours-long process.  Because every institution has its rules.  And every subgroup within an institution has its own inane rules.  So, while I am the designated person for financial decisions, not every bill or statement comes to me.  While I am designated as a notice party, nobody calls or writes.  And while part of the company accepts my status, the other part of the company has no record that I exist.  But maybe I would be interested in a Mastercard?  And, by the way, can I answer whether I was provided with excellent service.  Are you kidding me?

Too big to fail?  That isn’t the relevant question.  Too big to help?  Absolutely.

I requested fund transfer forms because I was going to yank all the money out of this behemoth.  Because I don’t have time for this.  Then the issues disappeared.

Give me a local bank, a local pharmacist, a local butcher, a local anything.  Because I need people who know my family and who can help me navigate the difficulties of trying to help Dad maintain his specter of “independence” (however much that independence is, in truth, circumscribed by his loving children).

His pride and my sanity are on the line.

P.S.:  Tomorrow we will discuss how we live with TOO MUCH information about our parents.