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Anyone have experience with guardianship/conservatorship of just one parent of 2?
Old 10-01-2012, 03:29 PM   #1
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Anyone have experience with guardianship/conservatorship of just one parent of 2?

Here's the situation. (Sorry it's so long)

MIL and FIL have lived with us part of the year for the past 5 years. They also have a share of a jersey shore house and are there 2 months of the year, and have a home in Kentucky. The six adult children live in 4 different states - 3 of whom live in PA, where MIL/FIL are from. MIL wants to move back there - but the support network (from the adult children) is really not there. Lots of reasons. Lots of excuses. But it's a fact.

FIL is in a wheel chair from a badly repaired broken hip, aphasia from the time of the hip surgery, and many suspected strokes since then. (CT scans indicate more strokes since the last head CT scan a few years ago.) FIL needs assistance with pretty much everything except feeding himself (if food is in front of him.) He needs help transferring to/from chair to bed. He needs help toileting, etc. He's 89 and getting weaker and less mobile. Cognitively, he's hardly there. He doesn't talk at all - hasn't for years other than grunts. He recognizes people, can play card games, but doesn't really engage with people around him other than smiles. His joys in life are food and old movies on tv. He's 89. Despite his mobility and cognitive issues... he's otherwise healthy. Good vitals, etc. He could outlive us all from that point of view.

MIL is 86 and getting weaker. She's getting more addled, but probably not enough to be declared cognitively impaired. She pays her bills on time and until recently was able to keep up, completely, with the care of FIL - with some assistance from my husband and sister in law (depending on which state she was in.) She would probably pass any psych test for cognition... She's "there" enough for that.

They own a home, free and clear, in the state my sister in law lives in - a few miles from my SIL's house.

We built an accessible detached 1 bedroom house on our lot to make it easier for MIL to care for FIL. It has worked well - but MIL doesn't want to be in California, where we live. When she left earlier this summer for her "annual migration", she informed us she was not coming back.

They are currently in Kentucky. Things are now approaching full crisis mode. We have an appointment with an elder care attorney later this week. But I'm looking for insight so I can ask important questions.

FIL ended up at the hospital because MIL was not administering his antibiotics and another ongoing prescription. She's distrustful of doctors and medicines and felt she knew better. The hospital is insisting on in-home health care or that he go to a nursing home. He had other issues that show she's not able to adequately care for him.

She flat out refuses either option (nursing home or in-home care). She feels she can care for him better than any doctor/hospital/nursing home. She does not want "strangers in her house". Adult Protective Services (APS) is in the picture because this is the third hospitalization in less than 3 months. He is being released tomorrow - AMA, because they want help in place before he's discharged... but also want to turf him to free up his bed. APS has mentioned making him a ward of the state if she doesn't comply. (Worst option.)

I've been reading up on conservatorships/guardianships. We're reaching a point where one of the adult children will need to get medical guardianship of FIL to make sure he's cared for. This is not optional. But MIL is blocking us at every turn. If she refuses in home care, he needs to be in a nursing home. Period.

She has full control of their assets.

But - with medicare spend down rules - she needs to actually PAY THE BILLS for in-home care or a nursing home. We're not at all certain she will. She is threatening to leave with him - to avoid APS and doctor's orders that she get help.

Has anyone dealt with guardianship of one parent, when the other parent is in the picture and not on board?

I've read through Nords very long thread about his issues with his dad. And talked to several friends who had guardianship - but it was always a single parent... never one where the community spouse was still in the picture.

Any advise/experience of what questions to ask the eldercare attorney?
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Old 10-01-2012, 07:09 PM   #2
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I've been guardian twice. Once about 5 years ago for my grandmother (who unfortunately passed a couple months later) and currently for a great-aunt. In both cases they were single so there was not the complication that you describe.

From what you describe, DH or one of his siblings may need to file for guardianship of both FIL and MIL. MIL will be mad as hell, but better that she be mad and safe than happy and unsafe.
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Old 10-02-2012, 09:16 AM   #3
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I have been a guardian and a conservator once and I will never do it again, for anyone. I was lucky and everything worked out fine, but many do not. There are reasonable odds that you're going to work very hard with little help, will get no thanks, and end up with a lot of folks p*ssed at you.

There are many ways of helping without being legally liable for unfortunate outcomes. So, from someone that's been there, time spent learning the potential legal pitfalls will be time well spent. Only you can decide if the rewards can compensate for the risk. Good luck!
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Old 10-02-2012, 09:41 AM   #4
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Sad situation. I feel with you and DH.
This might be a case where tough love is required.

All the adult kids should talk to her/them with one voice: "time to move dad to a nice nursing home. If you do not want him to go, APS will send him. If you do not pay the bill, APS or the home will sue you. If you do not understand the importance of this, it might be time to file for guardianship for both of you".
(like pb4uski wrote)
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Old 10-02-2012, 10:26 AM   #5
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Thanks for the input.

She's tentatively agreed to in-home care, starting tomorrow. We'll see. Hopefully it will resolve without the need for legal steps. (I'm not optimistic, though.)
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Old 10-02-2012, 12:10 PM   #6
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Like others, I'm sorry for the stressful situation you are all in. And I agree, as much as possible, that you try to speak with "one voice" (the children) to her in these conversations. When everyone but her has consensus, she may be more willing. Maybe.
Hoping for the best for everyone.
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Old 10-02-2012, 12:29 PM   #7
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Having all their children agree is very important.

You should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law to learn what options may be appropriate and any ongoing responsibilities to the court. In Oregon requires/required a conservator to appear before the court annually to demonstrate that they have been judicious with their finances. State laws differ.
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Old 10-02-2012, 01:12 PM   #8
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Thanks for the input.
She's tentatively agreed to in-home care, starting tomorrow. We'll see. Hopefully it will resolve without the need for legal steps. (I'm not optimistic, though.)
You need to go see a lawyer-- if for no other reason to get educated on the steps and the timeline now. When your skepticism proves to be prescient, you're not going to have the time (that you have now) to know how to do this.

Your state probate court may also work with a non-profit association dedicated to helping prospective guardians & conservators. (Start with their website or talk to the court clerk.) The association will have volunteers who've seen it all and can advise you on the options. At a minimum you'll find some sort of website or PDF that will help you learn more about it.

Probate courts also use professional guardians/conservators for situations where a family member can't (or won't) step up. Many of them are quite happy to spend an hour or two consulting with you. At $100/hour it's far cheaper than a lawyer.

Learning about it now (and maybe even setting it up) while you have the time & energy: priceless.
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Old 10-02-2012, 02:17 PM   #9
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Thanks, Nords.
I fully agree with your advise to get the knowledge/procedural information now. Unfortunately, my husband and the two other likely candidates for roles in this think we have time. As an "in-law" I can only push so far. I've been doing the research, offering advice, but it's not my parents. (Even though they've lived with us for half the year for the past 5 years, and I'm very close to them.

The 3 main siblings are all on the same page that they'll do this if necessary. The remaining siblings will likely go along, not fight it, as long as they aren't tapped to be responsible in any way. They seem to be great at pointing out problems, but uninterested, unwilling, or unable to be involved in a solution.

I'm going to try to talk my husband into going forward with the eldercare attorney consult - even if the other siblings aren't ready to do that. Info is important.

In the meantime I'll look up what I can from the state websites.
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Old 10-05-2012, 04:47 AM   #10
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Nolo has some information that could be used as a starting point.
Caring for Seniors, Elder Care, Elder Abuse & Hospice - Free Law Resources - Nolo.com
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Old 10-05-2012, 03:06 PM   #11
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Thanks, Chris.
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Old 10-09-2012, 04:06 PM   #12
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Meeting with an eldercare attorney tomorrow along with hubby and sister-in-law.

Hoping to some how avoid the worst case scenarios, but need to know what the legalities are, just in case.

MIL is talking about moving to PA. The term "Filial Responsibility" and PA have terrifying implications. We're hoping to talk them back to CA but are meeting resistance. (CA has limits on filial responsibility - PA apparently doesn't.... They're current state is in the middle.)
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:13 PM   #13
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I suspect that the 'Filial Responsibility' may only fall upon their kids who reside in PA. Check on that.

Give the attorney a heads up on the PA issue so s/he can do some research in advance of your arrival.
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:39 PM   #14
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I suspect that the 'Filial Responsibility' may only fall upon their kids who reside in PA. Check on that.

Give the attorney a heads up on the PA issue so s/he can do some research in advance of your arrival.
We talked to an attorney last week.

The PA filial responsibility thing crosses state lines. (That's part of what's so scary).

There was a case where they sued a daughter who lived in Florida for the mother's care. The medicaid claim was denied and the step dad took a hike. The lawyer, hired by the daughter, was able to resubmit the medicaid app and get it approved, before it went to court.

The good news is filial law is not an issue in Kentucky or California. PA is a case unto itself.

We're still at an impasse. I've got nursing home options lined up in 3 states. And in home care lined up here in CA. We're hoping to get them to come to CA and either get in home care here, or have FIL in a nursing home and MIL live in our granny flat.

MIL is blocking us at every turn. Not sure if it's dementia or obstinance. It's frustrating, whatever the reason. If guardianship crossed state lines it would be easier. DH is willing to be guardian of both parents. SIL, who lives near them doesn't want to do it. Kentucky will insist the guardian is local.

It's a mess.
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:56 PM   #15
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Does SIL live in PA? Their filial responsibility law may be enough incentive for her to her advocate for Kentucky or California.

Basically there is nothing that can be done unless all of their kids join forces or medical/social services goes forward with a neglect charge.
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Old 10-18-2012, 05:46 PM   #16
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SIL is not in PA. The siblings in PA are not encouraging/helping. SIL doesn't want to be left holding the bag in KY. She's starting to accept that might happen, though.

We are pushing for CA (which would leave us firmly holding the bag - but we're ok with that.)

MIL's bright idea is that she ships FIL to us, and she goes to PA. But she doesn't seem to understand she loses a lot of assets if she does that. If she moves out of her home in KY, it becomes part of the spendable assets. We'd have to file for guardianship - claim his assets... She has less than if she stays put.

That's part of the problem. I have no problem with the medicaid spend down. But there are ways to do it that will preserve more assets for my MIL than what she wants to do.

I'm on the phone with my SIL about 3 times a day these days... and at least once a day with my MIL. It's crazy.
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Old 10-18-2012, 10:19 PM   #17
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Odds are MIL can no longer analyze the consequences of her decisions. This will need to be an artful transition.
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Old 01-07-2013, 03:56 PM   #18
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Update... Not sure how artful it's been.

MIL agreed to in-home care... for a while. Then she cut it from 3 days a week to 2 days. Then fired them in early December.

So hubby talked to all his siblings, and agreed to be the fall guy. Everyone was on board and all siblings signed a legal document saying they would not fight him for guardianship. (This allows him to not need a surety bond for emergency guardianship.) Getting the signatures on the document was interesting since they live in 4 different states.

Hubby flew out this weekend and was in court this morning. He was granted emergency guardianship of his father. Emergency guardianship is somewhat limited. But it will allow the big things to happen - like a nursing home.

He's now at the nursing home getting the ducks in a row to have FIL admitted. We got lucky - the nursing home with the best rating on the medicare.gov website is the ONE nursing home that had a bed today. They are reviewing the app - and if all is good, he'll be admitted tomorrow. The two other homes I'd talked to in the past don't have openings. We needed a medicaid eligible home.

My MIL is pissed. But confused and not convinced this is legally binding (even though she was in court, and the court sent an attorney to talk to her and FIL over the weekend.) We had told her several times a week for several weeks what we were doing, and what was coming. She'd change the subject.

Hubby will have to go back in 6 weeks for the permanent guardianship trial. (Full jury trial in that state.)

Hubby will be applying for financial guardianship for his mom, too, at that point. She's definitely showing signs of dementia. He tried to talk her into a power of attorney... she refused. Biggest concerns right now are that she's not paying her bills and losing important papers (like treasury bonds.)

Just re-reread some of Nords' posts about how he gave a bio to the psychologist for fact checking. We'll do the same. She's very good at changing the subject if she doesn't remember the answer to something. But she puts on a VERY good show. The county attorney that talked to her said it wasn't a slam dunk to get guardianship of her. (It was for FIL.)

For now - she's considering this a "respite care" move... give her a break from caregiving. She doesn't understand this is the new normal.

It's a mess... but at least hubby has the legal authority to do the right thing for FIL. I wish it hadn't come down to a legal confrontation.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:16 PM   #19
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Just re-reread some of Nords' posts about how he gave a bio to the psychologist for fact checking. We'll do the same. She's very good at changing the subject if she doesn't remember the answer to something. But she puts on a VERY good show. The county attorney that talked to her said it wasn't a slam dunk to get guardianship of her. (It was for FIL.)
For now - she's considering this a "respite care" move... give her a break from caregiving. She doesn't understand this is the new normal.
It's a mess... but at least hubby has the legal authority to do the right thing for FIL. I wish it hadn't come down to a legal confrontation.
The best face I can put on this is that you're spending thousands of dollars now to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars later. Your state will hopefully have a guardian manual on the website and perhaps even a non-profit association to help with the process.

My father can still carry on a coffeeshop conversation for 30 minutes before people begin to realize that he's repeating himself.

We paid $3670 (nearly four thousand dollars) for my Dad's evaluation. The neuropsychologist did a three-hour interview and needed another 10 days to write up the results. They repeat the typical mini-mental state exam questions like orientation and "remember these three words for later". They'll also ask the classic "draw an analog clock and show the hands at 1:23".

But then they dig into questions like "Show me how you'd dial 9-1-1." "Let's balance your checkbook." "Tell me the streets you'd drive on to go from your home to your grocery store." "Show me what you'd do if you cut yourself with a kitchen knife." "Draw a layout of your home and tell me about it." It's all everyday functional questions, with maybe an occasional trick like having to dial 9 for an outside line or remembering a password to login to an online account.

To be fair, it's loaded against the subject. If we had to spend three hours answering these questions then I'd be worrying about passing too, and I'd certainly get cranky/nonresponsive.

But when the neuropsych opinion is filed with the court, there's not much the subject can do about it... especially if they also have caregiver responsibilities for others.
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Old 01-08-2013, 04:05 PM   #20
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Hmmm. I'm not sure if she'll pass or fail that type of exam.
She's having trouble keeping track (location) of bills, let alone paying them.
And her cooking (used to be phenomenal) is highly questionable these days. (Italian woman who now tosses a half a can of tomato paste over half cooked pasta and calls it good to go. Sometimes forgetting to drain the pasta.... calls it soup.)

But she'll pass with flying colors the phone and checkbook questions. I think.
Not positive though - she couldn't do her 1040A taxes last year. (She worked for the IRS - so this is a big deal.)

As for the expenses... In theory the more solvent of the siblings have agreed to split the costs. (2 of the 6 kids have no money of their own and won't contribute.) The remaining siblings are just glad they don't have to be guardian.

Hubby used his new court order of guardianship for FIL to get snapshots of their local bank accounts today. So that's a good first step. I wish I was there to help.
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