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I finally met with my brother last night to discuss my elderly parents and their precarious financial situation. My sister opted out of the meeting but asked that we tell her how it went. The meeting was good but emotionally draining. Our spouses were there and they both provided outside perspective which was great.

We spent a lot of time sharing our experiences both recent and past. My parents, are very secretive and manipulative with a long history of divide and conquer tactics that have put wedges between us siblings.This is the first time we have honestly shared in such a profound way. We talked about how we would like to change the old dynamic Both of us believe that will be necessary if we are to work together. We talked a lot about the abusive behavior of my parents when we were being raised, about the scars and how that abuse continues to this day. We were surprised at how similar our experiences were. It became very clear that isolating us and playing one sibling against the other was something my Mom excelled at.

Our spouses were relived to see us sharing. They both have been baffled by the our lack of any kind of sibling bond or contact (outside a few holiday celebrations). My husband was especially happy, because he knows the loss I feel over this situation.

Although a lot of the conversation was more cathartic than business at hand we did manage to make some headway on where we would like to go regarding dealing with my parents. It is clear our folks are making some frightening and poor choices. It is also clear that they have no intention of changing that course of action. Although we are gravely concerned over the likely consequences, there is little we can do. Our parents have unreasonable and inappropriate expectations of us, particularly of my brother at this time. More and more they are relying on him to help prop up a failed business that is draining them of their assets. They are swamped with debt and it won't be long before their creditors start legal action. My brother said he needs to walk away from involvement in my parents finances for his own sanity. I couldn't agree more. It is probable that when he does that my parents will turn on him with a vengeance. They will see it as a betrayal. I can't stop that but I can support him in his decision and I believe my sister will as well. We seem to agree on our goals which is huge but we are hoping to find consensus on how to move ahead with this. That, we don't all agree on. For example my sister does not want my parents to know we have been talking together. I understand her concern, they are prone to see conspiracy, and this will surely trigger that. It will also make it infinitely more difficult to deal with them as their dependence on us grows. However I don't see any way around it and neither does my brother.

Last night we talked about finding an outside/unbiased party to help us, preferably someone who is familiar with elder issues. The big drawback to that is cost. My counselor offered to dedicate one of our sessions to this because it is such a source of stress to me. My insurance covers that. Maybe that's an idea. Meanwhile if any of you can suggest an inexpensive form of family mediation I would much appreciate it.

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"Your parents are probably best served by becoming wards of the state. You and your siblings can then step in as loving visitors and advocates. Try not o see this as a situation in which you've done something you shouldn't have."
I am inclined to agree Ba8alou . I also appreciate the sentiment.
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Gee, even more wonderful advice and support as I was responding! Thank you so much. I doubt my parents would allow their lawyer or accountant to discuss their business with us but we can certainly do some of our own research and prepare ourselves a best we can for what is to come.
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Thank you both. Your suggestions are very helpful. I agree that when we seek counsel we need to focus on moving ahead. I will, however, say that sharing our past experiences felt healing to us both.

To me everything healthy seems to focus on balance. I don't want to dwell on or ignore the past. The past is the path that brought me where I am and I need to acknowledge it's influence on my present thought processes. If I am aware of how the past has led me to follow dysfunctional patterns it will be easier for me to willingly let go and seek change. But I do understand the warning not dwell.
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"Eyes on the olive branch. Arrows at the ready." Love it!
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Trying, I'm so happy that you and brother at least are on the same page about your parents. There are folks who plan poorly, suffer from mental illness and who are beyond the help of mere mortals, aka family members. Your parents are probably best served by becoming wards of the state. You and your siblings can then step in as loving visitors and advocates. Try not o see this as a situation in which you've done something you shouldn't have.
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It's good to learn that this meeting has taken place and even though it was cathartic, seems not to have been as upsetting as you anticipated. I'll beat you felt exhausted yet relieved after it was over!

Moving forward...I think I would in conjunction with your brother list the issues that need to be addressed and for which solutions need to be developed, and categorize them as financial or legal, or other category.

It might help to have your attorney, or even your parents' attorney if they have one, mediate the legal issues, and your accountant, or parents' accountant, address the financial issues.

There's probably so much overlap that it wouldn't even hurt to have a joint mediation.

I really do feel strongly that it's time to bring in the big guns, not only because the business is sinking but also because of the anticipated reaction from your parents, and because you need to have a pre-emptive strike plan in the event (or when) the creditors become demanding.

(Eyes on the olive branch, arrows at the ready.)

What concerns me as well is how your parents will react, and if they will feel as though you've conspired against them, taken action behind their backs, etc.

So that's another issue that has to be addressed - regardless of what recommendations are reached, how can they be implemented if your parents resist and/or refuse to go along with the solutions recommended?

There is a positive in your sister's disagreement. As you wrote, your parents may see conspiracy if all of you are in agreement. If she's not, they can see that it wasn't an entirely unanimous plan. However, that does allow them to drive a wedge between you.

I'm thinking you and your brother, and sister if she wants to, should meet with your attorney and accountant first to discuss options, including the ones which you anticipate your father will present. Let the professionals without personal interests analyze the situation and make recommendations to your parents. They can handle the heat.

Before I have to present anything difficult to someone, I like to examine all the options, pros, cons, and have alternate recommendations, and line up backup support if needed.

If you could do this, then meet with your parents and the legal and financial pros, the meeting could conclude with alternate plans for your parents to consider. They might not and probably won't be happy, but at least their choices will be limited (and wouldn't include pouring more money into the business).

You might also ask the legal and accounting reps what to do when the creditors start or become more aggressive about collecting.

There are times when I've just had to tell my parent that I can't be involved if he's going to act (or not act) on certain issues, and that if he chooses to go forward, he can do it without me. I don't like to threaten, but pleading doesn't work. And it sounds as though it won't work with your father.

You may have to consider telling your father that neither you or your brother can continue under the stress that exists and that he may have to handle the whole situation himself. I would hate to see that done, but sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and let someone sink or swim to learn the hard lessons.

However, I do hope your attorney and/or accountant can help. And I really do think that they could offer solutions which we lay people cant'. You're into complicated issues with a failing business.
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The mediator is a great idea and will keep the meeting focused on the subject at hand. You can even contact social services or an in home health provider; many of them have mediators trained in this very thing.

I know how difficult this was! It is the only way to move forward and heal old wounds; now that you and your siblings need to be united in your parents' future.

Do a search at the upper right of this page for Family Meeting. Lots of good info there. Best wishes!
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Darn that we can't edit!

Make a list of your questions/ideas for how to move forward. Try to keep the meeting focused in that direction.
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Well, first, I have to say I completely disagree with your sister. What's wrong with presenting a united front? I'd say NOT doing so leaves wiggle room for sister to say, "I had nothing to do with it." And, mark my words, that's exactly what will happen. ;) And, indeed, it may be why your sister didn't make it her business to attend.

I think your idea of devoting a counseling session to the subject, with all three of you, is an excellent one. Frankly, I don't see a better alternative than that. I'd strongly suggest, though, that you forget about talking about the PAST and focus on what you plan to do to help your parents in the future. An hour goes very fast. You already KNOW the hurts and slights. Now's the time for action.

And don't let your sister weasel. ;)
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