I am POA for my dad in a nursing home. We have a special needs sister that lived with him. A younger sister moved in the stay with her. I am one of 5 children and POA for my 93-old-dad who is in a nursing home as a result of a stroke. I am the oldest of 4 girls and 1 boy. After my dad's stroke my youngest sister moved in to my dad's house to stay with our special needs sister who has lived with my parents her whole life. She cannot live alone. The problem is the younger sister is, I feel, changing things too fast inside and outside of the house and it is upsetting my special needs sister to the point where she is becoming rude and sad. How do I approach the subject to both sisters that we need to take in to account her feelings first? My younger sister has replaced all our parents furniture with her own and has torn out and replaced bushes and items in the yard with bird feeders and flowers. Now she wants to rip up all the carpet in the house and have wooden floors. We have agreed to replace the flooring in the kitchen, dining room and hallway with something else but we cannot afford to pay for the type of floor my younger sister wants in the house. We have all ready had major expenses with the house by replacing the septic system and flooding in the basement. I don't want to cause problems with my family but it is enough stress being POA let alone dealing with this. Any advice?

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yes, she lived in an apartment. She lost her house years ago and has been divorced for over 20 years. I know she wants to make dad's house her own but she needs to take it slower because of special needs sister
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CM, good points, especially the first one.
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Very difficult. You're right to be circumspect about how you address this situation.

Two questions:

1. On what basis did younger sister (YS) agree to move in to the family home to be Special Needs Sister's (SNS) primary caregiver? Did anyone say anything reassuring about making herself at home, or anything like that?

2. How good and detailed an understanding of SNS's world view does YS have? Do you think she perhaps needs some education or guidance about SNS's perceptions?
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I think your sister is trying to make the house "hers" by changing out things to what she wants, surrounding herself with what pleases her while ignoring or not even understanding the needs of your other sister who's been in that house for years.

Did this sister live in an apartment? I get the feeling this is her "liberation" and she's making the house "hers". It's kind of like someone who gets her first apartment and wants to surround herself with items of her choice, moving on from the furnishings of her parents' home - a sort of freedom to choose issue.

It's hard to get through to someone how devastating, unsettling and traumatizing this kind of change-out can be to someone who NEEDS constancy and uniformity.

Maybe this advice from the trenches might help. I've done this, and found myself becoming disoriented from the rapid changes. The crew I hired was excellent, top notch, thorough, and asked me before discarding anything. I won't deny that some of the things (especially the old vinyl records) brought back memories I had forgotten about.

Suddenly I was thinking of childhood events, flashing through my mind almost continuously. It was traumatic, and upsetting. It wasn't easy deciding what to keep and what to discard. And I also had regrets afterward.

I would NEVER do it that way again, ever.

So I backed off, finished a few days later, and allowed myself time to become re-oriented.

Given that I felt this way, can you imagine how my parent must have felt? And your special needs sister is probably experiencing the same disorientation, frustration, and for her, perhaps a sense of being forced out while someone else takes over.

As an aside, and I don't wish to be critical, but I wonder if this sister is even capable of caring for your special needs sister, w/o some training.

The second time I hired people to help, we agreed to involve my parent and ask what he wanted to keep or discard. If he was unsure, we packed it in "consideration" boxes and put them in another room. We discussed and he agreed that when he wants to, or especially during winter, we'll bring out a box, fix some hot chocolate, and he can go through them at his leisure, but they're out of the way of the main living areas.

The next time I do this, it'll be on an even smaller scale. If my junky free cell phone took good photos, I would photo the items, keep a running list of which box they're temporarily stored in, create the list in a searchable database so an item that's hiding can be located quickly.

You can also tell your moving sister that an individual who's compromised physically and can't move easily is even FAR MORE in need of constancy. This applies to anyone with any kind of physical or mental issues. My sister needed to have specific things near her when her cancer became so advanced that her mobility was compromised. When a cousin volunteered to stay with her to give me some respite, the cousin began moving things around to suit her. She moved my sister's calendar, address book and other things desperately needed during her last months.

A lot of people don't realize that as we deteriorate, whether physically or mentally, we need to have things we really, really need, VERY close to us.

AS proxy for your father, you do have the right to demand that your sister stop making these changes, especially if she's spending your father's money to do so.

For your special needs sister, I would create a space around her where she can have everything she needs, whether it's a mirror, phone, address book, special stuffed animal - the goal is to create a little "bubble" w/o barriers, where she feels safe and protected. This is absolutely critical for her emotional and physical stability.

I also would have the remodeling sister provide a list of costs of everything she's replaced. In the meantime, create a budget by which she MUST abide. You do not have to, nor should you legally share financial information with her, but she can't spend money freely.

I would reconsider wood floors though; for anyone with compromised physical ability, they're much more of an injury risk with falls. Carpeting at least buffers some of the impact when someone goes down.

I would also create a realistic timeline of what needs to be done. As a gardener, I know that gardening can provide infinite healing, but everything doesn't have to be done at one time. I would buy some artificial or fresh flowers for your special needs sister, though, as they could provide some cheer for her during this turbulent time. Perhaps a flower with special fragrance would help - aromatherapy works wonders.

The term "nursing home" has been used by so many, including myself, somewhat generically, so I'm not really sure if your father is in skilled nursing or some level of long term care, or if he's in rehab for short term care.

If your father is in rehab and is expected to return home, he will be just as traumatized when he sees the changes.

I would plan to discuss this with the moving sister away from the home, if that's possible....someplace nonthreatening such as a restaurant, or on a walk, and start with your concern about the impact on your special needs sister, while also inquiring why she feels it appropriate to make such drastic changes.

If she wants to make the house more like her house, suggest she just do that in the bedroom and leave the common areas alone.
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Dear Dee,

I know you are bearing a lot of responsibility. Its good of you to take into account the feelings of both sisters. Its hard being the peacekeeper sometimes. I'm also the oldest of my sibling group and sometimes I think its a thankless role.

I would try to talk to younger sister alone and share your side and see how she reacts. I don't know if a family therapist, social worker or counsellor might also be needed. I know its hard to get one sister to see it from the perspective of another sister, but I feel special needs sister needs stability above all else. I'm sure your younger sister doesn't mean any ill will and probably didn't realize the effects of renovating the house would have. Gently talk to her and hopefully she will slow down out of consideration for her special needs sister.
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We all promised our parents we would never put our sister in a group home. She would be so devastated. At this point it is not an option. I have seen the group homes around here and I would not put my dog in one of those
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Does the special needs sis have SSDI? Does she work at all? If your sister has money coming in (SSDI), she might do loads better in a group home. But I do think that a group home for her is inevitable. Think about it, she would get the supervision she needs, the support she needs and be with people that are her speed. Group homes do go out for activities.
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