A reader’s story reminds us of the importance of getting legal and medical powers of attorney (along with end-of-life wishes) in place while your loved one is mentally able to consider and sign the orders. And, when things change, to take care of yourself.
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT. By the time I decided that Dad could not live on his own, it was too late to put Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney in place. I had to go through the process of becoming my dad’s court-appointed guardian. Families should look at the financial and medical powers of attorney as much as a will, living will, or trust account. Dad would have been willing to let his children have those powers but we just were too slow in getting something in place. I had a full-time job, lived over two hours away, and visited two weekends a month until I realized dad needed more care. By then, he clearly would not have been able to sign the legal documents needed (in good conscience on my part). Take care of the finances, discuss them openly, and be prepared for push back. My siblings were very willing to let me take charge and live with dad as long as their inheritance was not touched. It became clear it was an important factor as I asked them about paid care for dad. None of them were willing (or able) to bear those costs, but didn’t want to give up their “stake” in the estate.
SELF CARE. I could not cope with the stress of taking care of dad, managing his affairs, managing my own affairs, and working part-time to keep myself sane. I ended up going to my own primary care physician and getting a prescription for an antidepressant. Then a stronger one, then a stronger one. I stopped eating, went to town only for groceries or doctor appointments, and was isolated. I wouldn’t answer calls or texts from friends; I barely communicated with my children. I needed help with dad and, even though I am a reasonably intelligent woman, I could not dig myself out. Dad’s death was my release. I tried to find resources to help with Dad, but there just isn’t much in my county. What there is takes forever to book an appointment. Families need to build a good support network and not be afraid to ask for help and have back-up care regularly scheduled as well as for emergencies. I didn’t have those resources and they are essential.