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Looking After an Elderly Parent or Relative in Their Home

Updated on October 20, 2016
Glenn Stok profile image

Having experienced caring for an elderly Aunt, Glenn Stok shares what he learned about the legal and social issues before and after death.

This article serves as a guide for the caring of an elderly relative. Based on my personal experience, I discuss hiring health care aides, dealing with elder care agencies, and the need for having legal power of attorney.

My dear Aunt passed away at the remarkable age of 98. The last few years were not easy for her.

She was a very trusting woman and people took advantage of her because they saw she never thought a bad thing about anyone.

This trust has lead to really difficult times as the years progressed. You may never know if people are taking advantage of an elderly relative until it’s too late.

The time came when she asked me to help her with paying her bills and hiring help. I loved her dearly and was pleased to offer my assistance.

Some people place an elderly relative in a home so they are taken care of by people who dedicate their life to elder care. I couldn’t do that for two reasons...

(1) She wished to live out her remaining days in her apartment.

(2) She still had a clear mind and it would be silly to take her away from her happy life despite the fact that she herself said she lost her quality-of-life as her body deteriorated.

Maintaining the Well-being of an Elderly Person

My Dear Aunt at 96
My Dear Aunt at 96 | Source

I helped with everything to maintain her well-being. I paid her bills and managed her health insurance. I handled the budget so that her social security and pension payments covered her expenses.

I used to visit her once in a while throughout my adult life. However, in the last several years of her life I was visiting her almost every week to help with affairs that continuously needed attention.

When I took over I discovered that her stockbroker purchased investments that guaranteed income, but lost value. She had insisted on having income to cover her expenses. That is exactly what the broker did for her, but he didn’t care if the balance of the account kept shrinking.

He was still making money from commission, and my Aunt trusted him. He told her at her age she needed to have secure income. He set up her account with income-producing investments that were losing value over the years and she never knew it. She was just looking at the income, which stayed consistent.

I tried to explain to her “what good are 10% dividends if the value of the principle drops.” I never could convince her because she had an advisor who said it doesn’t matter if the principle goes down to zero. It will still pay out the 10% dividend.

She couldn’t look past that stupid remark because she never really understood investing. I left her investments as they were rather than upset her, but I made sure the total of all her income covered her living costs. The main idea was to avoid going into a nursing home. As long as the aides could be paid she could stay in her apartment.

I visited and brought food for lunch on weekends. Many times she invited one or two friends of hers and it would be like a party. I enjoyed chatting with her friends and getting to know more about her past.

I found it strange how little I knew about my own Aunt while growing up. I only wish I had taken the opportunity to talk with her about things that happened in her early life. My Aunt was a holocaust survivor and held a lot of secrets that she didn’t want to talk about. I feel I was at fault for not pushing for information. It would have helped after her death, as I had never imagined how crazy it was about to become.

The Role of a Health Care Aide

As I mentioned, she had previously hired aides to help her get around. They took her to the grocery store, to the beauty parlor, museums in the city, to the park on nice days, to the doctor when she had appointments.

The problem was that she trusted them too much and I discovered problems with almost every situation.

Video - List Your Eldercare Needs

Dealing with Abusive Health Care Aides

Her aides went shopping for her and she needed to take cash out from the bank to pay what they needed for groceries, staples, etc. I noticed that the requests for cash were steadily increasing.

They took advantage of her by telling her it’s because of inflation. She was always so gullible and believed everyone. This made it even more difficult for me when I told her I had to put a limit on how much cash we are taking out from her bank account.

One of the aides was always listening in on her phone conversations. My Aunt was becoming hard of hearing so she needed to use the speakerphone rather than hold the phone to her ear. Of course the aide could hear everything.

One time my Aunt asked me how she was doing with her finances. She was worried that she was running out of money. Aides are expensive. You’re lucky if you can work out deals around $12 an hour. This is not live-in. They work their shift and go home. Live-in aides are cheaper, but then you need to share your home with them entirely. My Aunt only had a one-bedroom apartment.

Anyway, I had to answer her question on the phone in such as way that wouldn’t scare her. I didn’t want to give her a heart attack, so I said “Your doing fine. You have enough money.” Well, the aide heard that and I think she told the other aide that they could get more out of us because within days both asked for raises.

After I told them we have already negotiated and we also have a tight budget, they began increasing their purchases of staples and food. None of which could be accounted for. My Aunt couldn’t have been eating so much and using so many of the items being purchased. They must have been taking them home for themselves. This is something that needs to be monitored carefully.

Over time my Aunt started complaining that one of the girls was yelling at her and losing her temper. I guess she was frustrated that she overheard me on the phone and thought she could get more money. I had to find new aides, and this time I'd use a contract.

How to Write a Contract for an Elder Care Aide

Independent Contractor Elder Care Agreement
Independent Contractor Elder Care Agreement | Source

I knew I needed to get new aides who I felt I can trust to take care of her. First of all I needed to get it clear in my own head what I expected of them. So, I created an elder aide contract that I would have the new aids sign so we all knew what to expect from one another.

The contract had to make it clear that the aide is an Independent Contractor. It also needed to specify the work to be performed by the aides.

This is what I wrote for that clause:

The Patient and the Independent Contractor agree that the Independent Contractor will perform the work as Home Health Aide with the following Elder Care Responsibilities:

  1. Provide patient with help moving in and out of beds, baths, wheelchairs, or automobiles, such as for transportation to doctor appointments.
  2. Personal Care such as dressing, grooming, and maintenance of hygiene.
  3. Administer medications as instructed per “Technical Direction” below.
  4. Preparing healthy meals, Local Errands & Shopping.

Working with Elder Care Aide Agencies

Now that I was prepared to find better aides, the time came that I needed to fire the two aides causing trouble.

I needed to find a better agency. I did my due diligence by asking for references and also doing Google searches to see if anything negative could be found.

On the Internet you can also search for court judgments on companies and on individuals. These are important steps to take.

I hired two new aids and it took some time for my Aunt to adjust to them. That is to be expected. Happily, after a warm up period she ended up loving them.

No one is perfect and one was better than the other. Ironically one day early before dawn the better one called me and asked why she was being fired. I was shocked to hear that question and I told her if anyone were doing any firing, it would be me.

It turned out the agency told her not to come back and they were sending another girl that morning. I called and yelled at them. How dare they switch people like that and expect my elderly Aunt to be comfortable with a stranger all over again. And without warning!

I told the agency that I want the girl to stay and I mentioned that I already told her to ignore it and come in as usual.

My Aunt could have died from heart was so difficult to have her accept the last change. I didn't want her to go through that again.

I found out later that the agency tried to fire the aide because they make more money placing her with another elderly person. The first week with a new client needs to be paid twice. One to the aide and one to the agency. By moving them around they get more of these extra payments. Not all agencies get paid extra for the first week, but it is something to check into.

Video - Hiring An Eldercare Aide

Why You Need to Have Control as Power Of Attorney

Durable General Power Of Attorney
Durable General Power Of Attorney | Source

There were a number of times that I hit brick walls when trying to help her.

One time I had to call customer service of her credit card to discuss a problem. They didn’t want to talk to me because they didn’t have my Power Of Attorney on file.

Another time I had to handle litigation after firing one of the aides that abused her.

Having a General POA is useless because banks don’t accept it. Banks usually want one to file a POA with their own forms.

In addition, it's important to have one made from a standard form that can be used when needed. There are many good sites where you can purchase legal forms that you can find with a Google search. You can download a standard power of attorney form.

The form has options to check off that show you have permission to handle various legal tasks. One that I originally left out was to have litigation rights. You never know when you might need that. I wrote another article about my experience with that issue.

In either case, you have to get it notarized. In my case this required bringing my elderly Aunt to the bank in a wheelchair to get it notarized.

In Conclusion

These can be the most struggling times for both the elderly and the family members who look after them. When all the issues are handled properly, and with foresight, one can keep things going smoothly and assure that the elderly relative is comfortable and happy.

© 2010 Glenn Stok


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    • Joyce F profile image

      Joyce F 6 years ago from USA

      I'm going through this right now with both my parents. However, sometimes you have no choice but to put a parent in a nursing home. My father has severe dementia and needs 24/7 care. His body is fairly healthy and strong, but his mind isn't.

      I agree though, having the proper paperwork is imperative. Nice Hub.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Joyce, please do not think you are a bad daughter for deciding to put your father in a nursing home. I agree that there are times when this is the best thing you can do for your parent.

      In your case since he has dementia a nursing home is the right place for him. My case was different because my Aunt still had a clear mind and still knew where she was.

      The decision to do the best for a parent is not an easy one and I give you credit for researching and making the right decisions.

    • TINA V profile image

      TINA V 6 years ago

      Elderly care aides or caregivers are supposed to be there to extend help to old people or even the handicap. But I guess time change; families and relatives should really monitor them. You are blessed to have a loving aunt like her. She is also lucky to have you as her nephew who cared for her a lot. She has a beautiful smile in the photo.

      My mother-in-law is now 82 years old. She is healthy at her age. She is now staying with my brother-in-law without any caregiver’s help. But I think that someday they might also consider getting one for her. This hub is very useful. I’ll bookmark this and share it with them. Voted up!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Tina, Hopefully your mother-in-law will remain healthy for a long time to come. But while there is still the chance it is a good idea for your brother-in-law to talk with her about her desires and make sure she has a good will.

      Sometimes even a will is not good enough as I discovered when my Aunt passed away six months ago. The courts still have not approved probate because her lawyer didn't consider one important issue. Leave nothing to chance and double check even the professionals. I can say that from my own experience.

      Thanks for your comments and your vote up.

    • gracenotes profile image

      gracenotes 6 years ago from North Texas

      Well, my mom just had a stroke 3 weeks ago, and she is coming out of rehab very soon, so we need to get her house prepared. It's 325 miles from here, but I will be traveling down there to stay a while.

      She lives in a small rural area, and there aren't any agencies where you could find an aide for hire. They need to be located using word of mouth. My brother is working on this. In fact, one of mom's daytime caregivers will be the woman who was taking care of my Dad during his last few months of life. So everyone already knows her really well, and she has a special appreciation for our family. We still don't know who'll take on night and weekend duties.

      On a negative note, one does have to be careful and monitor the situation. My brother can do this, and being that he lives 1/2 mile away, and is home all the time, it's pretty easy to do. No one likes to think that the elderly would be taken advantage of, and you are right in bringing this to our attention in your excellent hub. Years ago, my parents had a dishonest employee who embezzled thousands over a period of time, so we know what can happen.

      I'll take a look at some of the contract forms on the Internet. Thanks for writing this, Glenn.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Grace, I'm sorry to hear that you recently lost your Dad. I hope your Mom recovers as much as possible from her stroke.

      There is a great book written by a brain scientist who had a stroke. She wrote it after she recovered. It's very educational since she experienced her own stroke and had the education to understand what was happening, and then was able to write about it. The name of the book is "My Stroke Of Insight." It might help you understand what your Mom is going through right now.

      You may need another aide or two, to take care of alternate shifts. Make sure you check their background before hiring them. Get references, but I'm sure you know that.

      You are a wonderful daughter to be so concerned about her welfare. I wish you and your Mom all the best.

    • nina64 profile image

      nina64 4 years ago from chicago, Illinois

      This is a wonderful hub. It takes a lot of love, patience and courage when caring for an elderly parent, spouse or other relatives. I went through this same situation when my first husband was ill, unfortunately he passed in October 2006. In those years prior to his passing, I have never endured such heartbreak, frustration and so many other issues when it came to caring for my husband at that time. He had severe rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity issues. During those years, I still had 2 school age children, I worked full time, handled the family finances, cooked and cleaned, and cared for my husband while he was ill. I sought the help of outside elder care services as well as other social service agencies. He had one niece who came out to help me from time to time. When it was all said and done, I ended up putting my husband in a nursing home because I felt that I could not give him the help that help he so desperately needed. To this day, I still feel somewhat guilty, but I had no other choice given the circumstances of our situation at that time. I actually thought that I was going to have a nervous breakdown because I was handling so much; but thanks to lots of prayer and faith I was able to overcome my depression. I commend you for helping your loved one when they needed it the most. I think to myself that one day, I will need that same help from my loved ones. I wish you all the best. Again, great hub!!! Voted up.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY


      It's clear that you were a very loving wife and I'm sorry about the passing of your husband. You do not have to feel guilty for putting him in a nursing home, because it's understandable that this was the best thing for him after your own resources ran out. That's the point that makes it clear how much you loved him. You were willing to do, and did, everything you could for him while you were able to.

      It's understandable how depressing a situation can be and how it affects one's ability to continue to offer help. There comes a time when one can get so run down, that it is not in the best interest of the other person to continue to try to help. So, I repeat, you did the right thing.

      Thanks for voting up.

    • nina64 profile image

      nina64 4 years ago from chicago, Illinois

      Hello Glen,

      I appreciate your comments. To have to put my husband into a nursing home was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. After much prayer and consulting with both his family and mine, I had to do something that would benefit him the most. And that was to get him the proper care that I thought that he needed. Again, thanks for your kind words. I feel as if a big weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Be blessed.

    • gracenotes profile image

      gracenotes 4 years ago from North Texas

      Glenn, I thought I'd return and make another comment. I see it's been 14 months since I remarked about my mother's stroke. After a few months of ladies coming about 5 hours per day, we determined that mom really did need 24-hour care at home. Also, since December 2011, mom's cognitive functions have been declining a little.

      Had two or three live-ins who didn't work out (to be expected), but the situation has been stable since April. That is, we have two live-ins who come on alternate weeks. One week on, one week off. One of the ladies is a former ambulance driver who has also worked in nursing homes in the past. I'd say this has worked out well. It has a few negatives, but nothing terribly difficult. For instance, what do we do when I or my sister wants to come and visit for a few days? Simple, we give the caregivers time off with pay while we are at mom's house. This is very much appreciated by them!

      I'd say it took my mother about six months, after the stroke, to accept that she could no longer live on her own, and needed someone to care for her all of the time. She didn't want to leave her home, so this was the best option we could have taken. With stability and always having the same two caregivers, they don't make mistakes with medication, etc. And the supervisors (my brother and his wife) are less than a mile away. Sometimes the caregivers need someone to talk to, and to share concerns this way is very convenient and easy for them.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY


      I'm glad things are coming along and that you have it all worked out with the aides. Giving them time off with pay once in a while will also assure that they don't get burnt out. It's good that you and your sister know how to handle things when the two of you visit because elder care requires some special knowledge and is not easy for everyone.

      I am sure your mother appreciates both of you and enjoys your visits.

      Thanks for checking back in with your update.

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