• We can learn from one woman’s personal experience. Family stresses often move into high gear as a parent moves into very old age.

    She reports, “I’m studying to be a guardian. I’m taking an online guardianship training class offered by the Idaho Supreme Court to prepare me to become my mother’s guardian. This preparation is in response to a court petition by my bi-polar sister who is asking the court to make her my mother’s guardian. This move blind-sided everyone including my mother’s long-time attorney and my mother…who had been telling my sister for months that she didn’t want a guardian.

    All this happened after my mother fell at home and broke a hip. After hip-replacement surgery my mother spent nearly three months in convalescent care. When it came time to make a move from there, my mother decided to slide over to the assisted living unit in the same facility. It was a difficult decision not to go home but that became less of an issue since my sister meanwhile had torn out the farm house bathroom for a remodel. The project wasn’t finished. Other issues complicated a move home. Among them that my mother’s doctor said she needed 24-7 care to keep her from falling. The cost of that care at home would have been around $11,000 a month. Assisted living is running more like $4,500 a month.

    While my mother still wishes she could be at home, she’s telling me that she “prefers” to stay where she is. When she falls…there’s someone there to pick her up. That happened twice in the past 10 days.

    Meanwhile my sister’s petition to be mom’s guardian is alive in the local court system. I’m expecting there will be a hearing in January. The interesting thing is that in most, if not every state, all attorneys involved in such a case can submit their fees to the estate of the person (my mother, in this case) who would become a ward of the guardian. My sister’s attorney, my mom’s attorney and my attorney (oh yes, I’ve got to have my own lawyer) all are paid by my mother’s trust, now managed by a bank.

    The bill will be at least $10,000 but could be much more if we get into a “court like” contested hearing. The sad thing is that mother has tried to do all the right things….setting up a power of attorney, if she needed that. Setting up power of attorney for health care decisions. Putting her assets in a bank trust. An ordinary family would typically have come to some agreement about what was best for mom with her as a lively participant in the decision. Does she need a guardianship? If you look at the history of the past several years: There’s been “serial” rounds of power of attorney assignments. There’s been undocumented spending out of her checking account. She’s not had control of her check book for a year. She doesn’t know how much money is in her checking account and can’t see well enough to read documents or know what she’s signing.

    At 96, she probably does need a guardian. The court will decide who that is.

    Posted copyright permission: Julia Anderson

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    Article by: Julia Anderson

    After a 30-year-career working in print journalism, business news editor and columnist Julia Anderson founded www.sixtyandsingle.com, a Web site geared to women on their own over 60. Among her topics are money management, retirement planning, investing, aging parents, late-in-life divorce, new relationships and travel. Now semi-retired, she works as a freelance writer.

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