I had the pleasure of recently attending the B’nai Brith Canada Estates and Trusts Group annual seminar, titled Power of Attorney Disputes. It was a wonderful opportunity to watch some of Ontario’s finest estate lawyers play different roles (feuding siblings and mediator) as well as hear their professional perspective on various aspects of Power of Attorney disputes regarding questionable capacity, accounting issues, estate trustees and sexual consent.
While the focus of most disputes has to do with money ( and likely the majority that proceed to trial) and the Power of Attorney for Property, my interest is with the disputes that occur on the care side and the Power of Attorney for Personal Care.
What I have seen in my many years working with caregiving families, which is paramount to the tension, is simply put, the lack of communication. The adult children’s hurt feelings of bygone years and perception seems to further cloud the situation. At the end of the day or perhaps it should really be at the beginning of the day, is the need to understand what the care issues actually are about. Understanding what the older individual actual care needs are and by having them properly assessed and documented, I believe can go a long way in reducing or maybe even eliminating the battle. Old hurts may not be resolved but the hope is that they can be put aside at least so they don’t interfere and impact the well being of the parent. Having siblings on the same page for a plan of care for their parent may be the answer.
Fellow blogger, Dr. Richard Shulman in his blog “The Psychology of Decision making by Attorneys for Personal Care – What You Won’t Learn in the Substitute Decisions Act (SDA)” shared his perspective on the psychology at play. He highlights the possibility of a previous estrangement or abandonment as well as guilt and hidden motivations (Mom loved you better or leave the money for my inheritance) that impact relationships and lead to these challenging disputes.
Understanding care needs from a medical and functional perspective is helpful at the beginning of the caregiving journey. Communicating these care needs to all involved and having an open discussion about ways to share the care or how the care will be provided and by whom and whether it will be monetarily compensated is worthy of further discussion, and may even be able to prevent an expensive trip to court.