My step-father shares a house with my spouse, me and two children. We are his primary caregivers and have seen him through three heart procedures and three strokes in the last five years. He has no interest in taking care of his personal finances or shared household finances...until out of the blue, he will start accusing me of spending “his” money. We have a joint household account. He has a separate personal account as do we. Bills are paid as my mother wrote out prior to her death five years ago.

My problem is his biological daughter who lives seven hours away. My step-dad is 85 and had a stroke a little over six weeks ago. The doctors, the Nurse Practitioner, the OT, and the PT asked if he was driving...which he was prior to the stroke. I could tell they were astounded, but my step-father often claims to my step-sister we are taking his car, spending his money, not feeding him, keeping him from name it. I made sure each person communicated to my step-father their honest medical opinion. I even had them tell him when I was not there. They all told him he could not drive, and this was based on their medical observation of his motor skills compounded by the fact he was a stroke risk. He was the one who told me what each person said.

Tonight, he was overheard by my daughter telling her we had told the doctors to tell him he couldn’t drive, so we could use his car. He did this same kind of twisting what happened and who initiated it four years ago when he decided to retire after his second stroke. (He’s a physician.) His office staff all took other jobs. Two days before the office was to close, his daughter came up from her residence and hired a new office secretary “because Daddy is just so sad that he can’t go into work,” (As reported to me...I was actually intentionally out of the country as I did not want to be accused of manipulating the end of his career.) I came home where he kept office hours for a week...but long enough to have a complaint filed with the Board of Healing Arts and a lawsuit filed against him. My step-father was mortified, but I got to deal with the investigators and lawyers. In the end, he declared his license inactive, the lawsuit was dropped after three years of legal maneuvers, and we closed the office. But revisionist history comes into play, and my step-sister feeds into it.

The icing on the cake was Christmas when my step-father drove back with my step-sister to her residence and gave her his truck to keep. He had a cardiac event which they both believed to be a heart attack. She put him on a plane to fly back home where he truly had a heart attack on the plane! He was taken off the plane, taken by ambulance to a hospital, and had two stents. My step-sister did not fly up to assist with his care...or even just be with her father.

We have suggested selling the house and dividing the sale to allow him to move in with his daughter or go to an assisted living facility. We could just walk away, but he’s truly not able to live independently. Financially, we would be walking away from our own equity in the home. We’ve offered to buy his half out, but that has been a no go.

I'm really tired of not only the caretaking, but also this feeling I have to be accountable to my step-sister for finances. She kind of waltzes in and stirs the pot, then waltzes out. My kids are the ones who make sure someone’s always available to stay in the house. His daughter didn’t even stay more than two hours after his second stroke...she’d just gotten back from a cruise followed by a trip to Punta Cana and was just “so tired.” I was coming off my mother’s funeral the week before.

I’m venting, I’m rambling, I’m tired, I’m frustrated. Thanks for listening if you made it this far! But I just feel so manipulated.

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This situation sounds bad, and likely to get worse. Your step sister has no way to know that her father is not telling the truth about you, and it probably sounds convincing. Does she even understand that now he is basically broke? If you don’t do something to change the situation, you will probably end up feeling exploited, resentful and with anger at both SF (or his memory) and your step sister. Step families are difficult!

What to do? You may have your reasons for being committed to SF getting half the value of the house you and DH actually own, but it sounds a bit crazy to an outsider. One suggestion would be to float the idea of a care agreement with him and with your step sister. He pays now for what is being done now – or it becomes a debt to be paid by his estate (or more probably being deducted from what you think of as his ‘share’ in the value of the house). Clearly neither he nor his daughter will like this at all, but what you put into the draft agreement will clarify what you are actually doing. Give your step sister the option to come up with better ideas for his care (including taking it over), and negotiate from there.

Your need to do something, or this is going to get more and more toxic as he gets worse and worse.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen

You can't be a doormat unless you allow yourself to be. Put him in a facility, sell your house and put his half toward his care. Wash your hands of it.
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Reply to katiekat2009
Riley2166 Jun 10, 2019
Bravo - I could not agree more!
I am hearing nothing about his son, your husband, and the sister-in-law's brother. Where is he in all this.
Time for a family conference with an elder law attorney. I am assuming someone has financial and health power of attorney. If not it is time to do that now. I think with a meddling long distance sister in law it is time that the father goes into assisted living either where she lives or where you live.
If there are not financial funds for that this could have repurcussions for the home ownership after his death. While I don't think that medicare can recover on his home assets while you have some ownership and live in it, (not sure) they likely could upon sale of it as to his portion of the proceeds. In California if one entity owning a home wants to SELL the home, the other owner MUST comply and sell the home. That may be for the best.
It is more or less now up to your husband and his sister. If they cannot agree who should have financial power of attorney the court will appoint a paid guardian. But the Elder Law Attorney and family conference is step one, as the father has dementia and his accusations are not at all unusual for dementia, will continue, and with the meddling member of the family not there to see his daily deterioration there will be argument. Again, I would leave this in the BROTHER and SISTER hands to get together and come to a conclusion or to argue daily. And if you are to be primary caregiver (it sounds like it) then you have a decision to make now, as this will not get better for you. It will get tougher and you will field more accusations as time goes on, and after his death.
UPDATE: I just read your response to another and I see that your home is yours. That is a good thing. I do worry that your father is still in charge of his own funds. He is in no condition to be, it sounds like, but I am unclear of what his diagnosis is. The accusations of "someone is stealing my money" is typical of this disease. There should now be a financial power of attorney. And again, I think assisted living may be the answer for him. This won't get any easier for you. And I hope your husband is fully involved and engaged with his sister. If not, time to hand him the phone when she calls.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
NYDaughterInLaw Jun 9, 2019
Just to clarify: poster is talking about her step-dad and her step-sister.

I do agree that a man who was never a saver and who seems to be in cognitive decline - or deep depression, which also impedes cognitive functioning - should not be in charge of his finances.
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Ruthie -

I never would have agreed to move to help care for my inlaws if my husband did not have POA. Make an appointment with an elder law attorney. It's time your stepdad deals with important end-of-life decisions and paperwork. Someone needs durable power of attorney for him both medical and financial. In my opinion, it is a very bad idea to take on the responsibility of caregiving without having the authority to make decisions. If your stepdad wants to give your stepsister POA and she agrees, then it must be made clear to both of them that the consequences of that decision include living with or near her. He has no money and his being a physician does not absolve him from being a spendthrift.

I read your update about ownership of the house. It is your house and if you and your husband determine that you want to sell it, sell it. Your primary obligation is to your husband, children and grandchildren - not to your step-dad.

You can be generous and still be sensible regarding money. "...I would most certainly never leave him high and dry by not giving him half of the sales." Do not *give* him half of the sale; he will squander it or, like his gold, not want to use it to pay for his own long term care. He could live another 10 years and his needs are only going to increase. Find an attorney to help you sort through all these different but related issues. But first, you and your husband need to decide what's best for you both, your children, and your grandchildren.
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
ruthie1460 Jun 9, 2019
Excellent points.
No wonder you are feeling tired/ are being taken advantage of completely!! You feel manipulated because you ARE being manipulated!

You have honored your mother's wishes in caring for her husband. My question to you is would she want you to continue? Would she choose this life for you? Could she have foreseen the impact that his care would have on your life and your family's life?

You have done more than enough to care for this man. Time for his daughter to step up and care for her father. You ARE allowed to step back.

My husband and I (mostly me) took care of my in-laws for years. My SIL was good about helping with her parents when she could but she lives two hours away and has her own health problems. My BIL (not her husband) was next to useless. Many excuses were made by everyone for his poor performance so my husband and I just did what needed to be done.

As we knew at the time, we were the path of least resistance and did WAY more than we should have...with little to no recognition for our time/efforts/expenses. Sadly, this path leads to regrets, resentment, burnout, etc.

You do have choices in his needs and are allowed to put boundaries into place to care for yourself in this process.

Whose name(s) is the house in? Are you able to sell it without his consent if it got to that point?

I hope I haven't come across as a hard nose person. But, it sounds like you are trying to do it all against some mighty great resistance.
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Reply to metoo111
ruthie1460 Jun 7, 2019
You certainly haven't come across as a hard nose person, and you have certainly made me feel less anxious. I try really hard to remember that this is an 85 year old man who was once "The Doc." And now his world is very, very small and every day there seems to be one more reminder that he's just getting old. No pats on the back for diagnosing someone's illness, no great times with my mom or their friends as they have all passed away. There's just this group of people in the house that probably almost seem hostile.

The other response asked about the house situation. Legally, the house is totally ours outright. We are now on the title as the sole owners. There was a reason for this...but no use putting down my step-dad more than I already have. We have always considered the house to be jointly owned...and I will not take advantage of the fact that, if it went to court, we actually own the house legally. My parents and my husband and I paid for our halves of the house, so I would most certainly never leave him high and dry by not giving him half of the sales.

Unfortunately, my step-dad was not a saver. He made doctor money, and he was very generous with EVERYONE. So, no, there is no savings other than what he draws in social security which goes directly into his savings where he can spend it as he desires. He also invested in gold...but he won't touch that for anything! So there's money for him to take some trips...but I truly think he cannot physically handle the traveling.

Thanks for letting me vent. I'm more even-keel today...and don't feel as if I'm crazy for feeling taken advantage of. I will soon get a break as I'm leading a mission team to another continent far away, and my husband is traveling with me. So...there's good in my life. I wish I could find the key so my step-father felt there was good in his.
You have my sympathy with this horrendous situation. I cannot see that this is ever going to get improve, in fact considering the heart attacks and strokes he has had I would have thought he wouldn't be here that long before one or other causes his passing. Do you have POA over health or finances (in the UK they are separate, sorry I don't know about US). If you have the POA I would request copies of all medical reports to be sent to your step-sister, if not I would try and persuade him to agree to this (and see lawyer about getting POA). One can to some extent understand his potential frustration or anger over not being capable as he once was, but this lying and denying sounds like a loss of cognitive function so the sooner you can get legal cover to make interventions the better then you can start to consider ways forward as opposed to being stuck in this difficult position.
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Reply to TaylorUK
Isthisrealyreal Jun 9, 2019
TaylorUK, the POAs are two different forms in the USA as well.
Me, I would place the home up for sale, uses his proceeds to place him in assisted living or turn him over to his daughter. You have fulfilled your obligation to this man and are entitled to a life of your own. If his daughter takes him watch how fast she will be crying the blues.
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Reply to DollyMe


Step families are truly a trial.

She should be eternally grateful that you have taken care of her dad for these many years. Shows you what kind of person she really is.

You are awesome and don't let any of them tell you different.

May God keep you safe and victorious on your mission.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
ruthie1460 Jun 9, 2019
Thanks! My mom would have been disappointed if we had not taken care of my SF. And, when he was able, he was VERY generous to us all...the only grandfather my kids ever knew.
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You wrote this comment in response to metoo111...”I wish I could find the key so my step-father felt there was good in his." Ruthie you are not responsible for finding nor orchestrating the key to his happiness. Surely you know that. I understand why you would want that as it would make you and him feel better. I so oftened wished I could wave a wand and make my dad appreciate what he had instead of what he didn’t. The sad fact is we can’t. The way to get past it is to accept it and realize living a long life can be cruel. It does sound from your description of his comments to his daughter that he has signs of dementia from the fabrication of lies and paranoia.
It is not your or DH fault that he wasn’t a saver. But I certainly hope if you don’t have POA you get it ASAP. And if you do have it, you DO NOT have to reveal any financial facts to his daughter.
My thought is to let him move in with her to share in the caregiving. Just tell her you all need a break. But then I don’t see you doing that based on what you’ve written. He could live another 10 years. Are you ok with the situation remaining the same? If not you need to seriously have a plan B. By the way...who is taking care of him while you are on your trip?
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Reply to Harpcat
ruthie1460 Jun 9, 2019
My daughter will be his caregiver.
He father her problem. My stepsister pulled the same garbage. Literally came once a year to pick up her holiday money. My mother was his caregiver with my help. Guess who got the majority of his 6 figure estate ? ( my mother was married to him 20 years but neither of them ever changed their pre marriage wills) I loved my stepfather and certainly didn’t mind helping due to that but his daughter is a pill and needed to be responsible.

people only walk all over us if we lay down and let them do it.
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Reply to Jannner

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