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They're Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parent' Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy - by Francine Russo   Amazon | Borders | Barnes & Noble
       Random House | Indie Bound

“...a stunning book about one of the most complex but ignored times of human transition... unique in the field of close relationships…"

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Pauline Boss,  Author, Ambiguous Loss (Harvard University Press) 

"...Not to be missed ...More than a how-to book, this groundbreaking work illuminates a difficult stage of life..."

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Friday
Sep032010

Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney

People often write to me about family struggles after one sister or brother assumes control of their parents’ business affairs. Frequently it’s one of the siblings who did not get Mom’s power of attorney or become Dad’s trustee complaining about the one who did. But just as often, it’s the sister or brother who has the power and feels no matter she does, she just can’t win. Remember Frodo’s ring of power in The Lord of the Rings? Being awarded your parent’s “ring” of legal authority is something like that. A blessing and a curse.

When one of gets Mom’s POA, you may think you’re just “taking care of business.” Don’t believe it. In families, it always goes deeper.  These transfers of power, while our parents are alive (and after) upset the very foundations of our family as we know it. Parents are in charge: they make the decisions that affect us all. If you’re not the one who got Mom’s POA or trusteeship or who was appointed executor of Dad’s estate, you may feel: “What does it mean that my brother is making decisions that my parents used to make, decisions that affect all of us?  And why him? Why not me?” And it can be just as unsettling if you’re the one so “honored.” I remember one family where the daughter appointed had to field resentment from her sisters and brothers, but also had to deal with her own internal questions. “My siblings carped,” she related, “’who does she think she is, signing for Mom?’ But I was also asking, “Who do I think I am?

Even though you may feel flattered to get this job, it’s no picnic. I‘ve seen families blown apart by who gets the power and how it is used. In Chapter six of They’re Your Parents, Too! (“Who Put You in Charge?”), I offer specific suggestions for how to navigate this minefield. But here I want to share the story of a daughter and sister who did this well. Because even when the family gets along, there are dangers to watch out for and feelings for which you should prepare yourself.

Wendy Hart Beckman, a freelance writer in Cincinnati, wrote to me about the difficulties and satisfactions of being her Mom’s power of attorney and then, her executor. I don’t know that doing this primarily on her own, as Wendy did, would be the best course for others. I believe that hiring a good eldercare attorney could have eased this process, but she had an unfortunate experience with another kind of lawyer that influenced her decision to handle the matter herself. (She did, however, consult her mother’s attorney from time to time.) There were difficulties: her parents, both of whom had Alzheimer’s, had left their finances in a terrible mess that was very hard to straighten out on paper and with creditors and stock funds. Her siblings were supportive—by no means a universal situation—but some of her own emotions during this experience were perhaps the hardest part of all.

“ As I went through my mother's belongings,” she said, “ I found index cards, notebooks and Post-it notes full of reminders and comments and records of phone calls that Mom was writing to herself. It was the documentation of a mind falling apart, and that was incredibly hard to take as her daughter.

“It was difficult taking on a "legal" role without training, but I wouldn't have wanted an outsider to have done it. This was partly because I feel as if it was my last duty that I fulfilled for my mother, that only a family member would have understood what she really wanted. In her last few years, she had started to threaten to cut my brother or sister out of her will -- whoever she had argued with last. I checked with the my mother’s lawyer  because I felt that the lucid Mom wouldn't have really wanted to cut either one out.

“I feel that I grew personally as a result, too. It made me a much more patient person, especially with my own children. I am a lot less likely to get upset over trivial things and am more forgiving. I have a bigger picture of life now. I'm trying to also apply some of the lessons I learned about not hanging onto material possessions so much, but that part is coming slowly as I have my parents' possessions to go through still, like many decades' worth of photographs. An outsider would have approached it simply as a business function and it's always more than that.”

Eloquently said. Even when it’s about the money, it’s never just about the money. This entire life-passage, from the first signs of our parents’ aging to the last details of the estate, touches on our deepest feelings—as children of our parents and as human beings.

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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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    Who Wears Frodo's Ring of Power? Assuming Your Mom's Power of Attorney - Advice on Siblings with Aging Parents (and More) - YourParentsToo.com
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Reader Comments (2)

I've been researching information on power of attorney and just how to have this type of conversation with my parents. I found this website, ShareWIK.com, which has offered a lot of helpful suggestions and information. ShareWIK stands for Share What I Know, and the site offers information from doctors and other experts as well as stories and advice from people who've had to go through the pain of 'parenting your parent.' I just wanted to pass it along to anyone who might be interested.

http://www.sharewik.com/videos/1705225 (This links to a really interesting video featuring several individuals who share their experiences with power of attorney and other issues.)

http://www.sharewik.com/blogs/item/tips-for-a-smooth-transition-from-independent-to-assisted-living (This links to a blog post by a woman who shares her experiences transitioning her mother from independent to assisted living. Very insightful.)

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

-Breitling Montbrillant replicas“I feel that I grew personally as a result, too. It made me a much more patient person, especially with my own children.

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