My mom broke her hip about 10 years ago. At the time, I decided to visit my parents’ house twice a week to help out with shopping, errands and cook dinner, etc. (My sister would visit about once every six weeks.)
Through the years, the visits took a toll on me financially and physically. The round trip commute took two hours and I’d spend about seven hours there during each visit.
After about four years of twice-weekly visits, my sister asked if I could bring our father to a party she was having. I agreed and drove one hour to pick up my father and then another hour to bring him to my sister’s house.
‘I asked if my sister if she could give me a break every three months. She said that was impossible because she had a family.’
My sister had other relatives over, so my dad could not spend the night. As a result, I had planned to drive my dad home that same night and then return to my apartment for a total commute of four hours.
At the party, my sister asked if I was going to visit our parents the following Monday. I told her I would visit if she would pick me up on her way to our parents’ house.
She was livid.
I began to question whether my sister valued my contribution. I hadn’t asked her for anything during the four years. I just assumed that at some point she would reciprocate in some way. She had a young family and I’m single, so I never asked for or expected things to be split 50/50. I just wanted to make my life a little easier considering my disproportionate effort.
Shortly after, I asked if my sister if she could give me a break every three months. She said that was impossible because she had a family. I asked, “How about every four months?” Nope! “How about just Sundays every four months?” Nope! “How about every other Sunday every four months?” Nope!’
It didn’t matter what scenario I came up with. She would not budge. I asked if she could pitch in to cover some of my gas costs, as I was spending about $100 per month in gas for the visits. She immediately answered, “No, I have family!”
Our father took out a reverse mortgage to cover our mom’s 24/7 in-home care. I was concerned that the funds would run out before our mom passed away, so I asked my sister if she could save a couple hundred dollars a month in case the funds were exhausted. She replied with, “No, I have a family. I have to save for college!”
This put considerable stress on me, as I wanted to avoid sending our mother to a nursing home.
‘Two years ago, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I told my sister if I moved in I would like some compensation from the inheritance.’
My mom passed away in 2015, and I reduced the visits to once-a-week. This gave me a slight break. My sister reduced her visits to about once every three or four months.
Two years ago, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Last week, his doctor said he will need someone to live with him. My sister suggested I live with him or we hire a care giver. I told her if I moved in I would like some compensation from the inheritance, as it would be a major life change for me.
She objected and said we should hire a care giver instead. The care giver will take care of my dad six days a week and I will fill in every seventh day.
Unless I’ve been out of the country, I’ve spent every Sunday at our parents’ house for the last 10 years.
Even though my sister uses the “I have a family” excuse with me, it hasn’t stopped her from selling houses on the weekends and during the week when my nieces (now 13 and 15) are in school.
Are my requests unreasonable? Am I being treated fairly?
It’s a tricky question. The most important relationship here is between you and your father. Your sister can treat you any way you want, but any care-giving arrangement should be discussed with your father and his lawyer. I do suggest you formalize this arrangement and apply to be a health-care power of attorney so you can at least take care of your father’s financial affairs. You have given a lot of time, energy, gas mileage and love to this relationship.
Should you wish to apply for compensation as care giver, it would likely have to be a more formal (and more regular) arrangement. It may not suit you, given your job and the fact that your home is located so far away, unless you decided to move or your father moved in with you. Most family members who are care givers are not paid. There are agencies, including the Area Agency on Aging and Senior Information & Assistance, that can help. You can read more about that here.
A health-care power of attorney will allow you to make critical medical decisions for your father should he become incapacitated. Your father should also have a will. Believe it or not, less than half of adults have one. The majority of care givers (77%) said the experience was stressful and a higher number (87%) said they learned the ropes on the job, according to a recent survey. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly and it’s one that would uproot your life.
Whatever happens with your sister, she can’t take away the precious time you have spent with your parents away from you. You have been there for both your parents over the last decade. I suspect she will become more involved when your father passes away and there is an inheritance at stake. You treated your mother and father fairly and, I believe, that’s the most important part of your story. If you are fortunate enough to live into old age, this will be the only consideration that matters.
You will have memories and the knowledge that you did the right thing.
Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).
Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on this link.
By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.
Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.