Mom is 93, lives alone in paid-for house, drives, cooks (well, microwaves ready-made stuff) and is in good health except for some hearing loss. All her marbles, no falls so far, and still enjoys fiddling with her yard and plants. I see her about once every two weeks, when I take my daughter’s two little ones over to visit for a couple of hours, which she enjoys. That’s really all the interaction we have; she and I have never been close, and as she seems okay, I don’t feel any need to do more.

My younger sister adores her, calls her daily (sometimes more), and accompanies her to any doctor appointments that involve an out-of-town drive. They have always been much closer, and, frankly, that has been fine with me. I have been perfectly happy all my life with our assigned roles, i.e., I was/am the brainy, unsentimental one, Sister was/is the cheery, lovey-dovey one. Suited me then, suits me now.

Well. I recently learned that, unbeknownst to me, Sister took Mom to visit a retirement place—nice, good reputation, not one of the over-the-top, outlandishly-priced country-club sort, but certainly expensive. It is not a care facility; really, just old-folks apartments with a restaurant-style dining room. And, I guess, activities and such.

When I found out (Mom told me, after the fact, and mentioned the monthly fee) I called Sister and said, “You realize that a place like this will not accept Medicaid, and if she sells her house, she will have too much cash to even APPLY for Medicaid, and by the time she spends it down—“ that’s as far as I got. “She will NOT need Medicaid!” gasped Sister. “I would never, ever put her in one of those horrible places that accept it!”

”Well, if she has spent all her money on this apartment place YOU decided she should visit, then gets sick, falls, and needs a different place, where will she get the funds for something that meets Your Highness’ lofty standards?”

A few beats of silence. “Well, from US, of course. That’s what children do for their parents, isn’t it?”

This is not a problem yet, but of course, could be any day now. Mom could easily live to 100 (genetics strong and oh, Lord, medical science can keep the old darlings hanging on forevvvvver these days), and when her money runs out (house is all she has) she will HAVE to have Medicaid, or go private pay, and the bottom line is, I vote the former, and Sister is clearly going to be Hell-bent on the latter.

i don’t think there’s a compromise, is there? I am unwilling to ask my husband to dig into our own (ample) retirement funds to bankroll what could be a very long, drawn-out gig. If my sister wants to spend her own money, that is her business, I suppose.

I dread the next few years. Has anyone else been utterly at odds, philosophically, with a sibling about this issue, and how did it pan out?

Personally I don't think you are at the compromise stage yet and yes it will become a problem...a big one. Start right now letting your sister know that you two are a universe apart with what you see as your expected roles. Let her know that her statement "that's what children do" is nothing more than her opinion, which you do not share. Become clear in your mind what YOU feel are your responsibilities/duties towards your Mother and let that dictate what you choose to do or not do. Then live what you decide.
I could say so much more but I think this might be a good place to start. Best of luck and know there are people here for support.
Helpful Answer (18)
Reply to Tryingmybest
AlvaDeer Sep 19, 2019
I agree with this from TryingMyBest, letting her know that you are a world apart, that honestly you do not feel that your funds saved by you and your mate for your own retirement, should be used up in the care of your parents. That would leave your own children if any to pay for you? That isn't a great way of doing it. If the Sister knows this, then the mom who sounds pretty hale and hearty right now with just her caring visits, can stay independent while she can. When she needs care her home can be saved for the care. I would leave most of this, including POAs and etc in the hands of the sister most close to her, most involved, most readily available, just as it is now. But making it clear I would not be giving funds in all likelihood in the future. Mom is of an age, and may well have enough with her home for a comfortable last years, but Sis has a right to know now that the costs won't be shared, so any funds should not be squandered. Seems only the decent thing to do. Do it gently, but say we see it very differently. She may want to make you the Bad Sister. But that's fine. Just own it and wear it proudly. What can you say when someone chooses to label you?
You've received some good answers, particularly about finding a nice place that offers a continuum of care.

Obviously, you are under no obligation to be involved any more than you wish. I haven't been there yet, but I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have navigated similar situations. Based on my observations, the siblings who disagree have eventually found workable solutions if they can manage to treat one another with respect.

(Gently.) I'm sure that there is a back story, but please consider refraining from sarcastic questions and statements when discussing the emotional issue of seeing to your mother's living situation ("your Highness' lofty standards"). Most people shut down when someone speaks that way. Your sister has made assumptions -- it seems that you have, too. We all do that. She obviously assumed you felt the same way she does. You don't, which of course if fine, but snark won't improve the situation. Your sister is close to your mom and wants "the best" for her, and she has made the mistake of assuming you would also be willing to help out financially.

You dread the next few years? You might make them better by educating your sister about the way this stuff works. Help yourself by helping her to understand how to plan for Mom's future. You can still stand your ground, and you don't have to be "lovey-dovey". You are not required to finance your mother's remaining years, but an offer of assistance to help your mother and sister to steer the course wouldn't go amiss.

Those of us who have children need to remember that they are watching. Even folks with ample financial resources need help in their old age.
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Reply to TXGirl82
Emma1817 Sep 19, 2019
TX, I didn’t actually call her Your Highness. That was creative license...:):)
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Sister needs to look at some nursing homes that take Medicaid - my dad was in one and they took great care of him. He loved the staff.

No way should you deplete your retirement to support mom. Hold firm.
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Reply to Kimber166
SisterSue1949 Sep 21, 2019
Kimber, I'm curious if Medicaid paid your father's facility in full or if you still had to be out-of-pocket for a portion. If paid in full, was it a locked unit or a skilled nursing facility and would you tell me what state you're in? Reason for my question is in Florida we would still have to pay $1000 or more a month for a memory care unit. Wondering if other states are different.
I'm the sentimental sister in your scenario you just described.

I hate to say it but I would have most likely been on your sister's side if I thought my siblings would have pitched in financially. I never even asked cause I know which way the wind blows in my family.

I guess it boils down to what you just said. Your sis and mom are extremely close and you said it's okay with you. You've accepted your role as the not as close to your mom daughter. So I guess you'll never know where your sis is coming from and she probably will never know where you are coming from.

I get your logic but from an emotional standpoint, I get your sis's logic too.
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Reply to Gershun

When you have made it clear that you will not spend your retirement money (and I agree that you shouldn't), your sister will have a choice to make. Either she can entirely fund your mother's continued stay in the AL, your mother can apply for Medicaid, or your sister can move in with your mother (or vice-versa) and be her fulltime caregiver.
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Reply to CTTN55

It sounds as though you and your sister need to get on the same page about financial expectations.

I participate in a financial forum ( recommend it highly! Lots of folks there who feel that providing financially for parents is a non-starter; equal numbers who are shocked that the rest of us don't think that this is our duty.

Sometimes, these differences can be due to cultural differences, but in the case of you and your sister, probably not. Is she a financially astute person? Is she independently wealthy? Sometimes, when there is a huge disparity in the resources that siblings are dealing with, this can lead to a difference of opinion. Sometimes, of course, one sibling simply hasn't thought about just how much money we're talking about, and for how many years.

I would urge you to sit down with your sister, alone (i.e., not with mom; possibly with spouses, if she has one) and lay out, calmly and unemotionally the fact that you are not going to fund mom's old age. You need to make this clear at the outset, otherwise you are going to be on the hook for saying "well, no, not now, maybe a little money, oh well...". Don't do that. Get it out in the open.

It's a reasonable position and a legal one. Just tell her and get it over with. If your mother is offended, that's really just too bad. Money and love are not equivalents. And bad care can be had in expensive facilities too; my mom was in a facility that accepted Medicaid and her care was just what she needed.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn

These were very good responses: thank you all. For now, with her doing fine, I think I will leave it alone. She wasn’t 100% thrilled with this retirement place, mainly because she is not a people person, and there seemed to be people everywhere! And she is slllllllow to accept change, always has been, so she will need to “think about all this” for a while. Meaning, she will dither back and forth, and probably not want to move. So, fingers crossed, perhaps she can stay just as she is, and die suddenly in her sleep, as of course we’d all like to do. Or have a health crisis/fall that makes a move unavoidable, in which case, THEN will be the time to have that Medicaid talk with Sister.

Caregivers in her house? No way. Medicaid won’t pay for that, as I understand, and without selling that house she couldn’t afford two months of what I know they cost! If that. Sister has a husband, so her moving in with Mom won’t happen. That’s rather a shame; that would suit them both. Mom could move in with Sister, but they downsized to a house that would make that a tight situation. Well, not my circus.

That continuum-of-care place advice was the best, thanks. If something happens, that would be the only reasonable option.

My husband is a lawyer, and suggested we consult an elder-care lawyer (not his field). This is probably what we will do if things move into dangerous territory later on. Sentimental Sis and Practical Me definitely need a neutral mediator!

Thanks, again.
Helpful Answer (10)
Reply to Emma1817
Jada824 Sep 19, 2019
go for the mediation now before it’s too late. My sibling & I used to be very close until it came to caring for our elderly mother. He did nothing to help until she could no longer handle her finances & then started to tell me how I was going to do everything- he had POA. Needless to say, we no longer speak & he took my mom with dementia to amend her trust to benefit himself removing me completely.
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Just let the other sister take care of the mom and stay out of it. You are then worry free.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to robin4gsltw

I'm not sure I'm following your logic. This apartment is for her own use, it isn't a gift. If mom has a remaining pot of money from the sale of her house she will be able to use that to pay for her care until it is gone regardless of where she lives, she is allowed to spend her money for her own needs.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to cwillie
Emma1817 Sep 19, 2019
Yes, of course, but her money from the house would be gone long before SHE is, if the place is costly enough and if she lives long enough. THEN what, is my question to Fate!? Well, no point borrowing trouble while things are quiet for the moment.
For myself, reminding myself, that it is about the patient, not the sibling' s conveniences. I am looking at this thread for help with similar issues that I cannot disclose. Watching the siblings argue for 4 years about "our" loved one.

Emma, there will be what's best for your Mom!
I think you will either agree, compromise, or fight for Mom's best care.
I like that you are leaving it alone, watch and observe for awhile.
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Reply to Sendhelp

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