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Thread: "I Am Not Responsible For My Family"

  1. #1
    Platinum Member tiredofvampires's Avatar
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    "I Am Not Responsible For My Family"

    Dear, long-lost ENA'ers! (Or am I the one long-lost?)

    It's been many, many ages since I posted a question on this forum, and I have missed this community greatly over the last few months (and years), as I've had to leap-frog from personal trial to personal trial. Knowing you are here to return to is a blessing. This is truly one of the best url's on the internet.

    I'm going to try to sum up a very complex situation, but there is some backstory. Yes, THIS IS A LONG POST -- MY APOLOGIES! I hope some will read it.

    My mother, now 81, has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I have cared for, as a respire caregiver, and seen up close and personal, a number of Alzheimer's patients. I know the statistics, that it is THE most expensive and exhausting (to everyone in a family) degenerative disease to die of. I know the stages and how it manifests at those stages. But no amount of knowing prepares you for your own parent facing this prognosis of slow self-dissolution.

    My grieving has only begun because of the whirlwind of legal and financial tasks that are now upon me, including assuming time-consuming roles (such as Power of Attorney). The learning curve has been steep.

    So far, nothing terribly original, but here's where it gets unusual: I worked and studied ferociously hard in my 20's to get ahead, had a shining academic and professional future -- but was felled by a chronic, painful, complex illness that has no cure. I've been on disability and receiving federal and state benefits ever since. Not many years after that, my older sister encountered the same situation, and likewise had to file for disability. Since these turns of fate, we have both been living many times below the poverty line and trying to make something of our lives despite the fact that trying to get out of this system would mean jeopardizing the very key medical benefits that we rely upon. The broken system is just one outrageous indignity of many, but it's worth mentioning, since it points up the fact that ambition, enterprising spirit, and willpower have never stood in the way of my progress towards a more secure material life; the culprit is the way the bureaucracy is structured. The tiny sum is not enough for any human being to live on, and to top it off, I live in the most costly state in the country. In addition, I have a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses which have only been covered because my mother paid for them out of her very modest, fixed retirement income. I would probably have perished long ago had she not been able to help in this way.

    There were a number of triggers for the illness in both our cases, and genes may have pre-loaded the gun, but safe to say, I believe the start of it was extreme PTSD in childhood, as the result of parental abuse, specifically by my father. Emotional, physical, verbal, psychological (and perhaps even sexual, that's debatable) abuse. And not garden variety abuse, either. Possibly the best way of describing it was like living in a cult, under a totalitarian cult leader -- my dad.

    My younger sister (the baby) managed to break free of the dysfunction fairly unscathed for the most part, at least at the face of it. We all agree that my older sister and I bore the brunt of it all (I, being the most hard-hit). So, in her 20's, my younger sister went on the way is normally expected: she got through graduate school, met her life mate, they moved to where he could get a good job, and married. Some years after that, in her 30's, she had an only child, a son who is now almost 12 years old.

    Now well-established in the STEM field, at the very top of his game in an academic elite position, my brother-in-law is earning well into the 6 figures. My sister's degree was in an artistic performance field, so the tiny bit of income she brings to the family is entirely eclipsed by his contribution. In fact, she owes her entire career to him, since without his resources, she never could have risen to the point she's at now, where she commands respect and admiration in her field, even though if she had to rely on it to live, her need for a "day job" would preclude her having the career she has in the first place. She has literally not had to work a day in her life, thanks to him (and my dad, who paid off all her college debt).

    Needless to say, they have every comfort of the typical white, suburban family, living in one of the wealthiest districts in their state, and providing everything for their child any privileged kid could need or want, and then some.

    I have not begrudged her any of these things, and in fact we have been best, dear friends all of our lives. Until now. And it feels like we are coming undone. Because now, we are encountering the question of how my mom will be supported as she declines and we are fast becoming "that family" -- "that family" that is broken apart by How to Take Care of Mom or Dad in Their Later Years. My mom's income wouldn't be enough on its own to pay for long-term facility care, by several thousand dollars a month. She does have some assets that are worth something, but not enough to lift anyone out of poverty. And these, she intends to divest herself of, leaving them to my older sister and me in a special type of trust fund. When she does that, she will be poor enough to be eligible for a state-subsidized long-term care home. And these homes are "you get what you pay for": lonely, malnourishing, fetid pre-death warehouses where people are often neglected by underpaid staff.

    So this is the picture: two adult children, among the "have-nots", through no fault of their own, dealing with a lifetime of recovery; their mother, who is going down with the most expensive disease that exists. And one child who is set for life with a husband who has money saved up to last his son's lifetime, his own lifetime, their retirement, and they will probably even have a lot more than that after his inheritance from a father whose profession is the most lucrative in the country.

    And this sister said that they do not have the money to regularly contribute anything to the mother's care (which is to say, to defray costs for all of us). This sister and brother-in-law have drawn a line in the sand, saying that "the money just isn't there". In a frank and demoralizing conversation with them, he told me he just doesn't have the money because it's all going to things they need, there's none to spare or left over for what will be increasing care needs of my mother, to keep her out of a home for as long as possible.

    It probably wouldn't feel as wrenching if she weren't in total agreement with him. She has told me all our lives that she's my friend no matter what, and that she would be there for me. We swore an oath when we were very young, and it was renewed often, that we would always be there if the other needed it. Well I am going to be destitute, and our MOTHER is, too. But as this situation has evolved, she's said to me, "I'm not here to save you. I have a family that comes first. I'm sorry that you have had the troubles that you have, and I'll help in any other way I can, but I'm not responsible for this family's past, or troubles." She even said her therapist backed her up, supporting these choices as "healthy boundaries." She told me, "This isn't my problem, it's yours. It's Mom's. I have nothing to gain by putting my time, money and energy into this." She even said that she feels she is being "punished" for things that she did not have anything to do with, by being "put in this position". I have long felt deep down, despite our lifelong bond, she has a strong need to flee our past, to keep running from it. And although I've been a loyal big sister all her life, "providing" for her in uncountable non-material ways, she sees my need as a reminder of what she is fleeing, and a threat to her own comfort and security.

    I can't imagine telling her that her problems aren't mine. This is not my vision of "family". These aren't my values. This is not a person I recognize as my kin anymore. It's amazing how this thing we call money can change priorities. I have never believed that money is a measure of love. What a crass idea. And yet. Sometimes, it's the thing that is most needed.

    You know, I am not privy to their income...and so how am I to judge? On the other hand, if a family with their status "can't afford" to pay for a mother-in-law's illness, WHO CAN? And what person tells their spouse that her mother should fend for herself, along with her disabled sisters? I have seen folks FAR below their means find ways. She keeps saying that helping us would jeopardize their own lives and her sanity, and I just don't see that in the reality I know and understand.

    What happened to us being there for eachother? What happened to coming together during adversity? What about the aunt that I have been to their child, through some harrowing experiences, and as a person for this child to turn to in the future? What about loyalty to "blood"? Even just to "duty"? I know she has never been close to our mother, and I have had much to forgive my mother for. But she is my MOTHER. OUR mother.

    I have never believed that I am entitled to something that isn't mine, but on the other hand, I would give the very shirt off my back for her or hers.

    Enough for now -- it's already a crazy long post.

    I want to know what people believe, as their "responsibility" to family goes -- not just your own immediate family, and not just to the ones you adore, but the in-laws you married into, and extended family.

    I feel betrayed.
    Last edited by tiredofvampires; 03-22-2019 at 05:53 AM.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member tiredofvampires's Avatar
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    Oh, just to be clear, where I said this:

    "She told me, 'This isn't my problem, it's yours. It's Mom's. I have nothing to gain by putting my time, money and energy into this.'" -- I should add, she HAS put a lot of time and energy into some of the planning process with financial and legal matters. But she is a transitional party in those activities, soon to be liberated from them. And what she said more specifically is that, while she cares and wants to help, "I get nothing out of this except that I care for my family." As if it's all a big favor, and an act of great altruism.

    If I could only find a way to wave away the stain of feeling the need to ask. This is a consummate slap in the face to the pride and dignity I sought, coming into my own, when I planned to leave the family and proclaim my independence. Even all dastardly money matters aside, I would never let her believe that the care I bestow is a gratuity.
    Last edited by tiredofvampires; 03-22-2019 at 06:20 AM.

  3. #3
    Forum Supporter ~Seraphim ~'s Avatar
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    Wow, 😔 I am sorry. We are dealing similar issues. My husbandís father has Parkinsonís with dementia and he is moderate stage now in dementia getting to severe. They only want their daughter to help them . Or us if we lived there . They have the money for their own care but refuse to spend it and want to rely exclusively on their daughter . And their daughter lashes out at us . But nobodyís employer just lets them up and go off and look after your parents whenever you like . So it is hard.

    As far as your sister goes if she ever needs a thing , anything, for any reason I would tell her to stick it.

  4. #4
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Does she have her will/estate in order? Who is the executor and who are the beneficiaries? If siblings have severed ties and washed their hands of family, there's not much you can convince them to do.

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  6. #5
    Forum Supporter ~Seraphim ~'s Avatar
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    I also want to say I understand the limited resources with disability payments as my son is on disability and likely will be for life. It is truly under the poverty line. He stays with us so he can have a reasonable standard of living.

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    Gold Member East4's Avatar
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    Hi ToV, glad to see that you are back on the forum, I was missing your long, well-thought out posts. I'm sorry to hear that you are struggling with chronic ilness and that your mother's health is in decline.

    While I understand your feeling hurt and betrayed by your youngest sister's reaction, I must say that actually you are having unfair expectations of her footing the bill for your mother's treatment. From the way you write about your youngest sister it seems to me that you are resentful and envious of your sister's success in life and that somehow you expect her to pay for the fact that she left a toxic family unscathed. I personally do not see anything wrong that your youngest sister prefers to focus on her current life, rather than rehash a poignant past. This is called moving on, and what is recommended by the majority of the people here who give advice. The excerpt below shows how little your value your sister's achievements by your attributing all of her success to her husband. This is pure sign of envy on your side:

    Now well-established in the STEM field, at the very top of his game in an academic elite position, my brother-in-law is earning well into the 6 figures. My sister's degree was in an artistic performance field, so the tiny bit of income she brings to the family is entirely eclipsed by his contribution. In fact, she owes her entire career to him, since without his resources, she never could have risen to the point she's at now, where she commands respect and admiration in her field, even though if she had to rely on it to live, her need for a "day job" would preclude her having the career she has in the first place. She has literally not had to work a day in her life, thanks to him (and my dad, who paid off all her college debt).
    Vey often you have given the advice to other posters to look inside for answers, perhaps this time is your turn to that.

    As for the practical matters, since you are saying that your mother's inheritance will be put in a trust fund that will only benefit you and your older sister, excluding your youngest sister, then I do not understand how you could request your youngest sister to foot the bill, while you and your older sister are the only beneficiaries of the inheritance.
    She [your mother] does have some assets that are worth something, but not enough to lift anyone out of poverty. And these, she intends to divest herself of, leaving them to my older sister and me in a special type of trust fund.
    Also your mother has been financially helping YOU with your medical bills, not your youngest sister, so on a quid pro quo basis, you are the one who will have to repay the gesture.

    From the moment an adult starts their own family, their main priority should be their offspring and spouse. In this respect your brother in law has clearly set his priorities and rightfully so; he is under no obligation to pay for his mother-in law. You are talking about the obligation of blood ties, but your brother-in law, who is main earner in your sister's family, has no blood ties with your mother, he is not under any obligation to provide for her. And also not your place to count their assests and how much they earn. Envy again.

    And last, but not least and I know it is a touchy subject, but what was your mother doing when your father was abusing you and your sisters? Isn't it the mother's oblgation to protect her children from abuse? Your mother's failure to stop your father from abusing you and your sisters is her tacit approval of the abuse. And if I were you, I would seriously question my obligation to take care of somebody who failed to protect me when I were a defenceless child in dire need of protection.

  8. #7
    Platinum Member DancingFool's Avatar
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    By your own account, your sister is essentially a 100% dependent on her husband and therefore, at his mercy. Her real success seems to be purely that she married a financially successful man. What you don't know is what kind of a man he is behind closed doors and what your sister really has to put up with and deal with in order to sustain her lifestyle. I think you are getting a small taste of it right now as he has rejected contributing anything to the care of his mother in law. Your sister doesn't have any option but to "support" his decision. This is her own survival mode. I'd realistically count her out. She doesn't make her own decisions.

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    You said expensive state, so I am assuming, NY, CA, or HI. Move all her money into your account and hide it. Get her set up with Medicaid. With Medicaid, you can get paid in most states as their caregiver, [Register to see the link]

    Your little sister? It's normal to feel jealous, but everything has cracks when you look close enough.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member tiredofvampires's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by ~Seraphim ~
    Wow, 😔 I am sorry. We are dealing similar issues. My husbandís father has Parkinsonís with dementia and he is moderate stage now in dementia getting to severe. They only want their daughter to help them . Or us if we lived there . They have the money for their own care but refuse to spend it and want to rely exclusively on their daughter . And their daughter lashes out at us . But nobodyís employer just lets them up and go off and look after your parents whenever you like . So it is hard.

    As far as your sister goes if she ever needs a thing , anything, for any reason I would tell her to stick it.
    Thank you, S. I'm sorry to hear you are dealing with this, too, but in a kind of "ripple effect" way. I wonder why your father-in-law does not want your husband's help? Would you wish to help him/them? How do you feel about them not wanting your help?

    Having enough money to take care of themselves easily without their daughter's help but preying on her is unconscienable. It seems that from the counselors, hotlines, and and helping professionals I've talked to, as well as caregiver support group leaders, there is usually an imbalance of who bears this burden with parents.

    And I think the question arises here..."enough money". What is "enough"? When does someone have "enough money" to pay for what they need? And what is "need"? These questions have arisen from this. It seems kind of arbitrary. My brother-in-law and sister say they don't have "enough" money to help. How much WOULD be "enough" in their mind, or is there any amount that would be "enough" in their minds, short of being multi-millionaires? And in your case, do your parents believe they DON'T have enough, even though you do think so? Are there any objective answers here we can point to, hard numbers? Sticky questions. I have based my assessments on what I see others doing (and I saw a lot, volunteering with hospice) and what I see as the cost of living, and the kind of life someone is able to afford, and what I see with them is a lot of luxuries that anyone should be able to enjoy if they have the money, but would not be considered "necessities" if one wanted to put that instead towards a sick close relative. Which is a choice and a set of priorities, not a survival issue.

    As I was researching this topic online (what family does in situations like this), so I could get a sense of what reasonably happens "out there", I saw article after article talking about how the Millennial generation is now hard-hit by such situations, and many are leaving work situations to geographically relocate to stay with an ailing parent, and often it falls to one person living closer, but that it's a common issue now that children give up work positions to do this for their parents, to take care of them and they get cuts in pay, retirement savings, and make huge sacrifices like that, especially if they are only children. I'm really very touched by these stories, because that's a LOT to give up and seems too much. As a parent, I wouldn't want my child to jeopardize their life savings to that extent, but it happens.
    Last edited by tiredofvampires; 03-22-2019 at 04:08 PM.

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    Platinum Member tiredofvampires's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    Does she have her will/estate in order? Who is the executor and who are the beneficiaries? If siblings have severed ties and washed their hands of family, there's not much you can convince them to do.
    The short answer is yes, to having the estate in order. It's a living trust fund in her name, and soon will be converted to two separate "Special Needs Trusts" for her two children who have disabilities, which legally transfers the money out of her name. This helps her qualify for state-subsidized nursing homes down the roads, because she will have no money to live on. (This is what estate-planning lawyers advise, by the way.) However, even if I draw on that trust money, in order to keep it solvent, the amount I could withdraw would still have me well below the poverty line, so it's not like I'm suddenly flush with trust fund money, and these SNTs would have Trustees (executors) -- so, it's not considered "my money" under the law. Me and my sister are the beneficiaries, technically, but there is only so much that can be withdrawn without cutting into the principle. We'd still be dirt poor, especially in my case because of the cost of living where I am.

    All her income would still go to her, but she would no longer be able to help pay for medical bills for me, and other quality-of-life things she's contributed to. It would all go towards chorework providers, in-home health aides, and the like for herself now. And as I said, that would mean utter destitution for us.

    So that is what I'm saying, in my sister's place, I would not be okay with. If I was doing well enough, I would be asking my husband to put our heads together to figure out some amount we could do without, without it breaking the bank. You are right, Wisemen -- there is nothing I can do to change their minds or convince them. I am clear on that. It's more that I'm grappling with the meaning of that to me. She hasn't "severed ties", she just is not willing to help in materially significant ways. They said that "once in a while" for unusual expenses, they could chip in, but nothing regularly. This illness is a pretty regular drain in expenses, though.

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