As you know from my last column, mom moved to a retirement community recently. My dad is still living at home in Atlanta. (My parents divorced when I was 15 years old.) We now have caregivers for dad 24/7. My brothers also live in Atlanta and are coordinating dad’s care. This is a time when different siblings’ perspectives come into play.
One of my brothers pays my father’s bills. Both of my brothers participate in taking care of his “things.” My brother, who is the bill payer, is penurious, a nice way of saying very tight. Dad’s unpaved driveway at the lake house needed new gravel. One brother ordered the gravel all the way from the county road to the house. My penurious brother got upset as he would have only ordered the gravel for the turnaround at the house. There is not a right or wrong answer, but rather just two different perspectives; or maybe three as there are three of us children.
When one brother cleaned out the storage house, the other brother (also known as a pack-rat) got upset because things were being thrown out or given away. Of course, some of those things had been in the storage house for more than 25 years without being used. Again, there is not always right or wrong, but rather different perspectives.
As the out-of-town sibling, I am very appreciative of everything my in-town brothers are doing for our parents. Something that helps us is to clearly define whose role is what, and accept the actions of one another. I would not always do things for my parents in the same way that my brothers are, but I am appreciative that we are able to work together.
Of course, the better you can communicate and keep each other appraised of the situation, the better the outcome. But also understanding how you each communicate is important. E-mail is my preferred form of communication. However, one of my brothers only sporadically reviews his e-mail. It finally sunk in that I needed to call and talk to him about things.
When it comes to financial matters, you definitely need to trust one another. Years ago, The Trust Company established an investment account for someone with the proceeds of the sale of her mother’s home. We then paid her mother’s nursing home bills and other expenses from that account. I questioned why she was paying our fee for this service. She said that number one, she did not like paying her own bills, much less someone else’s, and number two, her brother lived out of town. The Trust Company providing monthly reports to both her and her brother eliminated questions about how money was being handled.
In my parents’ situations, we all have a different role to play in handling their finances. We have had open discussions about who is doing what, and the reporting that we want provided to one another.
This also is a time in life when we realize that our parents can be easily influenced by whomever was there last. Caregivers can be very influential. There are lots of examples of bank accounts being changed that might or might not have been “undue influence.” Being transparent with financial activities as it relates to our parents is the best way to avoid current and future conflicts.
All that said, conflicts will happen, and hopefully families will learn to work together for the benefit of their aging parents. Heck, with any luck, we are all going to be there one day.
Pryse, chairman and founder of The Trust Company, may be reached at email@example.com.