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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
My Mom moved in with us with the understanding that my siblings would share in the costs. They’re not helping pay for anything – what should we do?
Perhaps everyone’s expectations about caring for elderly parents were not clearly discussed before the big move. A number of factors must have led your family to believe that your mother was no longer able to live alone. Given the current situation, it makes sense to review what you all agreed to then and work your way back to where you are now.
First, ask everyone involved to make a list of your mother’s needs that they believe necessitated her moving in with you. For example, does she need someone to either remind her or give her daily medications? Does someone need to prepare meals for her? Does she suffer from any form of dementia that causes her to be confused and makes it dangerous for her to be left alone for any period of time? Does she have doctor’s appointments that she must keep on a regular basis? Can she no longer handle her finances? Does someone have to help her with the tasks of daily living (grooming, getting dressed, bathing, using the toilet, eating)?
Once everyone has identified these needs, go over them and eliminate the duplicates to make a final, combined list. To the right of the list, add three columns headed “Who,” “How much Time” and “Costs.” Enter who will perform each task and the number of hours per week you think it will take. Then, enter an estimate of how much this service would cost if you were to pay for someone’s time to do it – usually about $12- $15 per hour for non-medical costs. Assign a cost even if you and your siblings will perform the task, as it will put the time spent into perspective for everyone.
Since your mother lives with you, many of the tasks traditionally associated with caring for elderly parents will likely be performed by you. By adding up the amount of work and assigning a price to it, your family will be in a better position to objectively see the costs associated with your mother’s care. In addition, your siblings will become much more appreciative of how much you do. This is a good time to get your siblings involved in sharing some of these tasks, because if you take it all on yourself, the stress of caregiving will wear you and your marriage down faster than you can imagine.
The next step is to assign a dollar value to your mother’s housing. For example, if one of your six rooms is now hers, you might “assign” one-sixth of your housing costs to her. In addition, it would be fair for your siblings to share in any costs associated with modifying your home to meet your mother’s needs (e.g., building a ramp). Because the move is about helping your mom, you should all pay a share of her housing expenses. In other words, if you have three siblings then add up all of these costs and divide by four.
You also need to spell out what contributions you expect from your mother toward her housing and care. Will she pay a portion of the mortgage commensurate with her living space in the house? Will she pay for her share of the groceries? Will she pay for medications, health care supplies and her phone, cable and laundry bills? The more businesslike and objective you are in your approach with your siblings and your mother, the less chance of emotional conflicts over what’s fair and what’s not. If you think your relationship with your family is too strained to do this exercise, seek an outside facilitator, such as a geriatric care manager or clergy person. You’re obviously a family that cares deeply about what’s best for your mother. You’ll find your way by focusing on what brought you here in the first place.
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