Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Seeking help from my elders

My mother is one of 1/2 a dozen kids my grandparents had.
Grandpa died early, before I was born.
Grandma lived into her 90s.
My grandparents were black Carolina sharecroppers.

My mother in law (MIL) who we are trying to help and care for is none of these, a white woman with a teacher's pension, and two dead husbands.

Grandma's daughters got the hell away from her because Grandma was a difficult woman. Her sons, after doing the war (Vietnam) came back to the area and helped watch over her after her second husband died. Growing up I knew Uncle G and Uncle W handled her day to day affairs and took care of their mother, my grandmother. For 20 years she lived in subsidized senior housing and then after a fall and other health problems went into rehab and died.

Telling Uncle G of our situation and asking how he cared for "Mother" it seems they kept it simple. He had no idea if one of the other kids had a Power of Attorney. He assumed Aunt J had it, no when I called her to confirm what Uncle G said. He handled "Mother's" bills from an account that was in his name only and it helped that grandma had no money as a poor retired sharecropper. He and his brother got her to the doctor and checked in on her. Despite grandma being a difficult person who I don't think was all there..... but then I am probably being classist and an educated snob against her, getting things done was a matter of just getting her to agree. How did she get out of the apartment and into rehab? Uncle G claims grandma was talked into it and one of the aunts handled the paperwork. I just have to figure out which aunt because Aunt J says she didn't have POA or was that involved, but then again Aunt J has a selective memory.  I'm discovering all the girls have "selective memories" even my mother.

If I were to use my Uncle's way of care as a model my DH would have to believe his mother could do more. Yes there is plenty she can't do with her various conditions but she can technically still sign things.  However we have the problem of her being on the other side of the country. We might have to talk about bringing her here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Your Long Term Care Insurance will not protect you from elder abuse

When mentioning our woes to friends someone or two, usually a single childless adult, mentions having or planning on long term care insurance. Well there are things Long Term Care (LTC) insurance does and does not.

SNAFUs- Because of a series of things-- Medicare not recording a move, several address changes in one year, changes with banking; Mom briefly lost her Medicare. DH has spent about 1.5 months dealing with Social Security and Kaiser (her healthcare provider) to get it reinstated.  It was not a simple matter of writing a check. It was trying to explain to people what happened, while trying to make sure Mom never was without the meds that keep her alive. There are several moving parts and when a wrench has been thrown in, who handles that?

Stopping the Fraud- Elder abuse can come from anywhere. I've been reading about grown children trying to protect their parents from con artists, opportunistic neighbors, gold digging "lovers" and other siblings, as is our case. LTC insurance kicks in a person needs help with daily activities or have 'severe' impaired mental cognition. Someone has to be proactive in claiming the parent's mental state is impaired, until then the elderly person can get sucked dry of their assets and placed into deep debt.

Who is going to negotiate with the LTC company? The body that is supposed to pay out a large sum for your care gets to be in the position to determine when, where and how they pay it. Who holds them accountable? Not the elderly person who is too easily confused.

This experience is making me very doubtful about my own care when I reach that age and time in my life when my mind isn't as sharp as it is now. Considering the cost of LTC premiums, and the criteria required for it to kick in, I don't think it is worth it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Fantasy vs The Nightmare

Here was the fantasy:

Sister in law Sonya (SIL) would care for Mom (my mother in law) over in California and DH would offer moral support back on the east coast. Mom was living in a care facility, her 3rd one since she and her 2nd husband (not SIL or DH's dad) sold the house where DH & SIL grew up. By this last care facility, her husband died and SIL was complaining the facility nickeled and dimed Mom and she could care for Mom better and cheaper.

We were in CA to see Mom and SIL had us as witnesses as she became the Power of Attorney and other things for Mom. We all thought the general idea was great, it would be an opportunity for for SIL and Mom to reconnect (2nd hubby made their relationship difficult, he'd threatened to shoot her) and maybe save some money. Because of the 2 minor grandkids SIL used Mom's money to rent a 3bdrm house in a nice neighborhood. SIL's plan was to take care of all of Mom's needs, raise the kids, and maybe set up a small business to help support Mom.

The fantasy lasted, oh six months. Then about 3 months later became a nightmare, and Mom despite mobility issues, ran away. No one knows how she managed that.

Between the fantasy and the nightmare:

Caring for old people is hard. Being in the middle of child care and senior care is harder. Throw on trying to start up a business and apparently not having a single brain cell for legit business is another thing altogether. Add to it self control issues on the part of the care taker and there is a disaster waiting to happen.
I'm going to try to be nice, but this is the view from the east coast. SIL did not have the personality, nor the head to care for Mom or her finances for any length of time. If SIL did manage to start a business I doubt it would have lasted very long before declaring bankruptcy. Her work life were a lot of side gigs and working for someone for a year or less. The medical marijuana probably didn't help, well it helped confirm my belief it is a drug for people who don't plan on accomplishing anything. Oh and then there was the new boyfriend who moved in. Yeah.
Oh and then there was the incident involving SIL and her son. Let's just say the home care aide for Mom ran away and never returned.

By December full nightmare was reached. SIL completely failed with her brick & mortar business idea. SIL has no job. SIL has a deadbeat live in boyfriend in the same house as Mom and maybe the kids. There is some child custody something or other going on between SIL and her ex. Mom has called DH to ask him to get her out of there. Probably knowing DH is not going to anything, Mom runs away, enter Adult Protective Services.  Oh, and SIL boyfriend punches her in the face.

In January DH starts getting calls from Adult Protective Services (APS), asking questions at first. Later they began making accusations against SIL, saying she was spending all of Mom's money and wasn't helping their mom. In the new year, there was still 3-4 months left on the lease on the house where SIL was to care for Mom. SIL was living in the house, Mom wasn't. By late March APS were calling DH every other day with accusations and demands that he do something. And thus began our nightmare of trying to care for Mom, on the other side of the country with little or no legal recognition or real assistance to do the things that need to be done.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Is middle class-ness an entitlement?

We are dealing with a family problem of a retired relative slowly going downhill mentally and physically. Having to deal with this from the other side of the country is hard, stupidly time consuming, and expensive. This post is not about our beloved (& difficult) senior citizen, but another relative who has leaned on the elderly relative for financial support.

I'm not going to go into the details of the elder's (Mom's) challenges, but just to explore a philosophical question of are any of us entitled to live a middle class life? I lean to the side of 'no', but live in an area where various activists don't seem to agree.

In Thomas J. Stanley's Millionaire Next Door books, particularly Millionaire Women Next Door and Millionaire Mind he mentions "Economic Outpatient Care." Economic Outpatient Care (EOC) is pretty much older adults still supporting their nueronormative/non-disabled adult children on a regular basis. EOC does not do the parent or adult child any favors.

Mom and her money are currently unavailable to EOC kid, and EOC kid logically asked us to fill in the gap since we are in the process of taking over Mom's finances. The quick answer was no.

The slow answer is no. We get that EOC kid was a SAHM (stay at home mom) who in the past few years has separated from her ex and now has to figure out how to live on her own. Yeah, that's bad, but it really isn't our job to keep her in the lifestyle of which she has gotten accustomed. Divorce is expensive for both parties, avoid when possible.

Keeping her in the life she's grown accustomed is not our job as siblings nor our job as a society. The middle class is a spot you earn. Yes, as a society we should clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless (local government have been sucking at this for decades), and care for the sick and disabled. But should it allow you to stay at home with your minor children for 18 years, in a 'nice' neighborhood, in 'nice' housing, with great schools? In addition, should shopping trips to non-discount stores to clothe the SAHM & kids be funded on someone else's dime? If that dime is called alimony, yes.

But she didn't get any alimony. So SAHM needs to get a job. Preferably one that is 40 hours a week, all year round. Yes, child care costs money. Mom can't pay that for you. We won't pay that. She needs a full time middle class job, to pay for the car, the clothes, the apartment, life. Welfare will get her a subsidized housing, food stamps, medicaid/ Obamacare?, maybe the odd voucher, but not the lifestyle she wants.

So in conclusion, don't get dependent on your parents, one day they will get old and a sibling will have to care for them and won't give you more money. And as a Catholic I need to add, don't get divorced if you can help it. Don't get divorced if you are economically dependent on your husband and there is no abuse.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You don't know what you know till you get it in writing

DH had to deal with Mom's bank again.
Earlier this week DH emailed his contact at the bank regarding some other problem. Today he got a call from the bank from another person, not his contact person. This person, last week, alerted us to a liability we were completely unaware of, let's call her C3. We'd (really DH) been working with our #1 contact (C1) and a secondary contact (C2) for the past 2 months. Lots of back and forth calls and more recently, back and forth emails.
Well C3 comes out of the blue about a liability that C1 & C2 completely failed to mentioned the existence of in the past 2 months.  When we found out about this liability, DH emailed C1 and later at my insistence, called customer service. Unfortunately, the problem or getting some concrete info was above customer service and their manager's pay grade. C3 calls again wanting DH to do something about the liability to find out C1 and C2 are out of the office for the week. Also C3 claims that DH was informed of the liability last month.
Uh, no.
The problem with the numerous phone calls is and has been whatever information is transmitted about Mom's accounts or whatever is whatever DH happens to scribble down or happens to remember from the conversation. The only thing we know is he got a call or he made a call, the contents of the call are unknown unless the NSA would like to provide us with a copy. There is nothing in writing; nothing in email that alerted us to the existence of the liability. Well nothing until DH decided to write the bank about it this weekend.
SIL (sister in law) left a mess when she decided she was done with the care of Mom. Well the whole plan to care for Mom was a disaster from the start, but that is just my opinion. When Adult Protective Services got involved you have to wonder what went wrong (Mom running away from SIL). However we really don't know what went wrong because we have to go on what people are telling us and the story keeps changing, even from the same people. I'm trying to impress upon DH he needs to get it in writing, whatever anyone is saying, get it in writing, because it can change next week.

Spend it down & mental support

I attended church with DH this past weekend, we belong to two different denominations, so once a month I attend his church. I'd been pressuring him to talk to an elder or the pastor, particularly one elder who is professionally knowledgeable. But, for obvious reasons he's put it on the backburner, and so I took it upon myself to talk to two deacons who also happened to be friends, and tell them what is going on.

Prior to service, friend deacon, let's call him D1/. Deacon#1, was supposed to be greeting. My DH was teaching Sunday School and so left me in the foyer with D1 and coffee/tea. D1 is a bachelor with parents in their 80s and so he also talked about the challenges  to attempting to look out for his independent living parents. As people milled through, heading either to snag a seat in the sanctuary or arrive late to Sunday School, Deacon #2 (D2) arrived and joined us. D2 is also a bachelor but his parents are deceased and he had to take over and care for his father before he passed.

D2 told me that with his father the nursing home his father was supposed to go to from the hospital approached him regarding a long-term financial plan. We sorta, kinda have a place in mind for Mom, but since DH hasn't signed or committed to anything, this was the first of us hearing such a thing. Our concern was that there wasn't enough money left for years of care (and we would like her to live as long as possible). D2 told us with his father the nursing home talked about a spend down program. The idea is that you spend down all the money that is left, down to the last $1,000 and then Medicare takes over.

I'll have to research this, but it gave me a sense of relief.

Yes, Mom won't have anything left to pass on to her kids or grandkids. But that's okay, the main point is that she will be cared for and that's all we care about.

After service, I kept an eye out for an elder, not the financially savvy one, but the one DH loves best. DH joined D1 & D2 in chatting as I scolded crazy kids who were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. We talked some more about our situation with Mom and D1 & D2 provided more advice and emotional support. When I saw that the elder I was looking for disengage from another post-service conversation and walk over to his wife, I signaled to DH that he should go to that elder. DH was able to make an appointment for later this month to talk to the elder.

My beloved DH tends to keep things close to the vest, not saying anything till it is complete or he has all the information, which could be never. So without prodding, he probably would not let on to anyone at his church that anything was going wrong. Which is absurd, because he knows how the church supports its members who are going through challenging things, with assistance, counseling, and sometimes money from the Deacon's Fund. It was good just to talk to D1 & D2, they were very helpful and supportive and I think we are in a better place because of them. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Someone Needs to Write an Eldercare Advice Book for Disfunctional Families

When I started looking for how to help DH for dealing with his mother's finances I looked on line searching for how to locate an elderly parent's accounts and assets, I found nothing helpful for us. The advice given on the eldercare, retirement, and authoritative sites was to talk to the elderly parent and make a plan with them.

That's great if you have one of those Hallmark Card families where everyone is open and honest and not suffering from dementia.  It is even better if you 're not dealing with step-parents who don't trust you or even like you and think it's none of your damned business. It is horrible to say, but thankfully that step-parent is dead. But that step-parent is the reason why we could have never ever had a nice little heart to heart sit down to "make a plan" regarding their finances and the future of my mother in law's care. It was never going to happen. My mother in law (MIL) has since had a stroke since her 2nd husband's death and among her other health problems her memory is not so great, so even approaching MIL about her finances since the death of hubby #2 (aka the step-parent) is a no go, 'cause she doesn't remember jack.

So MIL can't remember what accounts she has or had, or what accounts she and her 2nd husband had... I should note 2nd husband was a paranoid nut, so he probably hid money somewhere. So now what? I starting looking at divorce websites. Now Google probably thinks I want to leave my husband, I don't. But I thought, okay who would be looking for hidden assets? Divorced/divorcing women. I learned something, those sites saying they can find accounts may not be all that they are cracked up to be. It will cost some real money to locate assets and I don't think MIL or 2nd husband had that much hidden away.

All this has me worried about taking care of an aunt who is the same age as MIL. Auntie is relatively healthy, active and fiercely independent. I have dropped hints that she should have a plan for when it is time for me to care for her. I've gotten the 'none of your damned business' vibe from her. She is of the belief that one day she'll be active and running around and then the next day dead, no nursing home, just in her condo with stairs and then in the ground dead. She's fine with being dead, she's not too keen on being frail and having to have long term care.

I am still looking for advice for dealing with our situation for something that looks like our family.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Kaiser Permanente's phone people need training

We are Kaiser members.
DH's Mom has been a Kaiser member for decades and decades.
So silly us thought Kaiser, which is normally awesome and forward thinking and convenient would be all those things and a bag of Xanax.
Nope, nope, nopey, nope. Well at least on the phone.
DH has seemed to fix for now the problem of the dropped Medicare Part D (thought it was part B) that was due to sister in law not paying the bill back in January of this year. Because he is the conservator he is trying to get electronic access to her Kaiser account so he can make her appointments, check on her meds, see test results, all the normally cool stuff you can see on .
Well yesterday DH discovered that:
1) West Coast Kaiser computer systems don't talk to East Coast Kaiser computers
2) The people on customer service phone lines give contradictory information and need more training

DH has been on the phone with West Coast Kaiser (California Northern) asking how to get online access so he can manage Mom's health care from the Mid-Atlantic region. First encounter, the computers were down or the system was down and they couldn't make it happen. Fine, we understand as we've experienced computer problems in our own work. Call again, then they discover we're all members so he is told all he needs to do is go to a local Kaiser facility and talk to the in person customer service. So DH takes his forms proving he has conservatorship and his ID to his local Kaiser, and the customer service is not open. So then he went to the one downtown, because there are several Kaisers in the DC metro area. They are open, but the Mid-Atlantic Kaiser computers don't talk to the Northern California systems. This was discovered when they looked for Mom's patient ID number in the system and could not find it in the system. So he was told to get a form we saw online to request access and mail that in. *Sigh*

When DH came home he was upset and frustrated. Part of it relates to other things he's trying to do, part of it Kaiser related. Regarding getting Mom's meds for her Parkinsons and diabetes and getting access to all of her current and past medical information he has been told conflicting information. He believes the people who do customer service via the phone should have more training.

As I wrote, normally Kaiser is really good and this has been terribly disappointing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Caretakers should not combine bank accounts

I'm under no illusion that we could have stopped or prevented the mess we are in now.

SIL (Sonya) was going to get the Power of Attorney with or without us. SIL was going to rent the big house designed by the mafia don, using Mom's money with or without us. And she was going to "combine" her income and Mom's income regardless of if we said anything about it. I put "combine" in quotes because when I looked at the bank statements I saw very little of anything they may have come from unemployed unmarried SIL.

Supposedly SIL as handling the affairs of Mom, taking her out of the adult care facility to a SFH in the burbs that she rented with Mom's money. SIL put her name on Mom's accounts, and that's where the problem started.

My DH and my SIL both suck at money.

If SIL actually had an income, she should have had a separate account for her own expenses. Then maybe she wouldn't have attracted the attention of Adult Protective Services. So when SIL decided to take a vacation to a vacation spot, it wouldn't look like she was stealing money if it came from her own account. But because she used Mom's account it looked like she was stealing money.

DH and I are keeping our accounts separate from Mom's.

It helps that we are both year round employed people who have been working full time at places we've been at for more than a decade, so we don't need to use Mom's money except to care for Mom. We will however need to be reimbursed for the trip DH took out to the West Coast and for the $5000 we took out of our emergency savings for the lawyer. The $500 for the Medicare that we paid from our funds, we'll eat that.

DH name is on the new account to serve Mom. He will not be funding his trips to Panda Express from her account, because trips to Panda Express do not help Mom. He has paid rent money from Mom's account, because it went to pay for Mom's rent. In the place where she is currently living. It does not pay for our mortgage.

Simple lesson for honest caretakers, keep your spending and the person you are caring for's spending separate. Otherwise, it looks like you are stealing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dealing with Lawyers tip- email don't call

My husband, who is trying to take over the care of his mother from the other side of the country is dealing with lawyers, very expensive $150-$300 an hour lawyers, who specialize in elder law. He wants to call them about this that and the other thing.

Voice is a lovely thing, however at $2.50 or $5 a minute a guy who punctuates his speech with a lot of "and um, and um, ums" and pauses while he gathers his thoughts should stay the hell away from the phone with people so damned expensive. But he loves talking with people, even if he doesn't know what questions to ask.

These lawyers have email. It is just a matter of getting my wonderful husband to use that instead of expensive calls.

Don't I sound frustrated?

If I could actually do something I would, but I have no legal standing in any of this.

The other problem is all this is confusing so a phone call seems like a waste when you need the lawyer to explain, AGAIN, what the heck you need to do. In an email, you can go back and read the email.

However, email isn't the end all. You can get forms but you can't send them back to the lawyer via email. We were trying to be careful with Mom's social security number, which I've nearly memorized. So at $44 a pop we mail things via FedEx to the lawyer that can't go into a drop box where we hope the folks at the law office doesn't email to someone in their office.

The lawyers tell us that Mom's estate or the "conservatorship" will reimburse us.... well when we thought there was money left, we believed that. But it appears there is no money, and we will have to dip into our own savings. I'm going to get pissy, my savings, as I'm the breadwinner and it was my system of saving and my larger earnings that made that saving possible. Financial management is not my husband's strong suit, nor his sister's.

We already ate through the $5000 retainer and he's been told there is another $5000 bill waiting for him when the lawyer's work is done.

What is this?

These, when and if I bother to post them, are my observations of a family drama that is unbearable to watch.

I hope that whatever I do post will help someone else  in the future.

I want to be honest, because there is too much dishonesty, lies, deception, along with vagueness and bureaucratic CYA-ing that we have found ourselves dealing with. This thing is like an iceberg, we know what we see on the surface is not all of it and what we don't see will sink us.