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I'm new here and I feel like I found you all in the nick of time. My parents are in their 80s and their health has been failing rapidly over the past two years. This week both of them were hospitalized....Dad for seizures Mom for flu complications. They are both on tons of meds and have serious heart issues.

My parents are self employed, running a demanding small business that barely pays their bills. They have no savings Dad does not believe in putting money in the back) Years ago they should have made efforts to wind things down to a more manageable level but would not even consider it. The financial demands of the business are outstripping their ability to bring in revenue and it is causing them both terrible stress (they don't mind sharing that). They are both paranoid and secretive about their affairs and will not discuss what they might need in the inevitable event that they can no longer keep up with the pace that is required of them. They are leaning more and more on us for help but will not even consider making any meaningful changes. I gave up trying to talk to them about it a long time ago.

It is likely my Dad will no longer be allowed to drive because of his seizures and my mother is a real danger behind the wheel so the crisis has reached a critical point. I do what I can, but I live almost an hour away from them and I too struggle with a small business so my time and funds are limited.

Our family has struggled with dysfunctional dynamics for generations and is rife with mental illness. I have two siblings a brother and sister. I won't go into it, but I have had to learn to detach from them both for the sake of my own emotional well being. My brother is stepping in to help which is a nice surprise (he never really did before) but my sister has a very combative nature and at this time is keeping her distance.

I know things are only going to get worse and I am filled with dread. Both my parents are angry, demanding, stubborn people. They are deteriorating both physically and mentally but are in complete denial. If I even hint at trying to talk about planning for their future needs they act like I am sticking my nose where it does not belong. My Dad has always controlled their finances to the point where my mother is not allowed to even ask questions about it. She is actually fine with this and has told me on many occasions that she would not have it any other way. I can't even think about what will happen if she is left alone.

The train wreck is coming, of that I have no doubt. There is nothing I can do to stop it. I know it's not healthy to dwell on what is to come, but it's so hard when the writing is on the wall.

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Thank you so much MollySue I can't believe how well you understand this situation. Self employed people don't have access to unemployment or workers comp let alone a managed pension. We buy our own health insurance and there are no paid days off. There are no benefits period and all the people I know who free lance or run micro businesses live from week to week. There is never anything extra. My parents would have no clue how to access services they are so used to doing everything themselves. Thank you again.
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Trying My Best, I have such a heart for your post that I had to write and reflect that from your description of your parents- being small business owners so not able to go into a more traditional retirement-and in your own position as a small business owner...I am sure you have been self-reliant people. I work in social services and I just wanted to say that so many people in your situation panic, as they think there is no 'social safety net' for older people without means. But in my experience, there truly is....there is housing, medical and nutrition support that will kick in for your Mom should your dad die first. I know this will not be attractive to your parents, but I talk to so many people like you who come from a wholly 'private' background (not having worked for large employers where issues of pension/savings/retirement windows were managed for them, not ever having dreamed of applying for something like SNAP/food stamps or rental subsidies) - so without knowing about how county social services networks operate, they fear their parents will just be left with nothing and suffering. You can message me privately should you want to talk in more detail. I know it is emotionally painful but it does not have to be a despairing situation for you. You are in my prayers.
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If anyone can get such a 'traditional' dad to reveal their finances, it would be the SON. I hope that this brother is trying to help out of the kindness of his heart, and not thinking about what money he can take before they die. I guess I'm a little skeptical since reading so many posts on this website.
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Maybe with the Son coming to help, he can get your Dad to open up to him and possibility make some decisions now. It is difficult when we have to become the adults and make those tough decisions for our parents health, safety and wellbeing.

God bless!
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SO much good advice here!!

Sadly my parents business is not something they could sell but it is something my brother might be interested in helping them mange with the promise that he eventually take it over, that would be wonderful. My Dad might let him in as he is a male (our family is VERY traditional about gender roles) I got teary when I read your post jeannegibs, I felt a burden lift with your words that it is not my fault. I love my parents warts and all. I know they love me (warts and all too :) I admire their work ethic and independent nature and will always try my best to be there for them. I have already talked to my brother about how we can share helping them. It's a bit strange to me that he is so willing to step up now, he never was and has always complained bitterly about my parents. It has always been my sister and me who came running when they got sick or needed assistance. I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth though. I'm just glad he has had a change of heart.

My folks do own their own home as well as an old broken down building they use as a warehouse. They have a mortgage on another piece of property they bought a few years ago which is now worth a lot less than they bought it for. They are not willing to apply for any kind of aid if it means revealing their finances, part of their paranoia.

I needed to be reminded how unhealthy it is to dwell on things I cannot change. That has been a rock in the foundation of my emotional stability for years... funny how fear can knock me back to square one so quickly.

Thank you all for taking the time to respond. You have made me feel more hopeful than I've been in a long time.
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I had the same dilemma with my mother a very determined and independent 92 year old. That feeling of dread I have felt as well it is a premonition of what you know might happen and I hate to say it but for me and many others it's usually an accident or a fall. my mom like your parents refused to listen to my pleas to have some help come into her home and she would not live with me. I could see she was not taking her insulin, pills eating or doing anything (normal} I could see the writing on the wall.I n my situation my mother fell the basement. The doctors and social workers said she could no longer be alone . The social workers said ( we)= me would need to make some major decisions since the brain injury and dementia she was incapable of making decisions. I found out I had power of attorney and my mom has been living with me since that time. Anyway I would talk to a social worker in the hospital who would in turn give you input as to what you could do or at least where to start. I wish you the best please take a little comfort knowing that so many others have shared the same feelings you are experiencing. God bless
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Trying, be sure to call your brother and ask how you can help. I know you're dealing with dysfunction, but he's going to need to know that you're willing to pitch in.
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The handwriting is on the wall. The train wreck is coming. And here is the number one fact you need to keep in mind about all this: It is Not Your Fault.

One sibling may help. One sibling may make matters worse. And their behavior is Not Your Fault.

Your parents' situation is a result of decisions they have made over the years. They are facing the consequences of prior behavior. They had every right to make those decisions. That they turned out not to be in their own best interest is Not Your Fault.

(It may not have been entirely their fault, either. Secretiveness, paranoia, dysfunctional family life -- this suggests the possibility of mental illness. If that is the case, that too is Not Your Fault.)

I am not suggesting that you abandon your parents. There may be things that you can help with and that they will eventually allow you to help with. Help them out of love and respect. Just do not do anything out of fear or obligation or guilt. Don't make sacrifices thinking this is somehow your fault. It isn't!

You mention that they are "leaning on you" more and more and yet won't make changes. Realize that you have decisions to make and that they will effect the quality of your life when you are old. If you live an hour away and are running your own business, there are realistic limits on the nature and extent of help you can offer.

Since they won't allow you to help in meaningful ways now, try to go about your business, and tune back in when there are things you can productively do. It really isn't healthy to dwell on what you can't change.
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If your parents are in their 80s, there will be some changes coming. Are they receiving social security and Medicare? Those things help a lot. I don't know what you can do about their finances if they are unwilling to accept your help managing their money. Unless they are deemed incompetent, no one will take away their right to manage their own affairs. So it just leaves you to worry.

There are a couple of things I wonder about. Do they own their own home? If not, you may want to look into affordable senior housing for them for when the time comes. You can try to help find options for their future. Knowing what the options are will help you prepare for train wreck. It may turn out that it is not a wreck at all, but what many of us go through. The cost of living and long-term health care costs have outpaced the savings of most seniors, so we have to do what we can to stitch their lives together. You don't have to share your information with them until it comes time. That will keep their anger and resistance down.
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Wow, they are in their 80s and still run a business? You have to give them some credit for managing to survive all this time. would someone be willing to buy the business (or maybe your brother would take it on if it is viable). is it a business where an apprenticeship might work for a graduating student or a returning soldier who could help them out while learning. . If not, do they have an attorney or accountant who is advising them? if yes, Sounds like your brother might be the best one to approach them about doing some review and planning and consulting to determine what they have financially and how to plan for their future and what they need to do to qualify for any programs like medicaid, etc. if they can't fund their own living expenses anymore.
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Please, please, please contact a lawyer immediately to find out what your options are as far as a "physision's affidavite" from their doctor tp declare them unable to make decisions on their own. You also need to look into Power of Attorney. I don't know if you can do this without your dad knowing. I was able to convince my mother to give me power of attorney while she was still cognative. She has Alzheimers. Look for a lawyer that deals with "Elder issues". Contact the bar association in your state if you can't find one on your own. Good Luck
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