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Caring for aging parents is a complicated business that takes a lot of love, patience, and the ability to navigate bureaucratic mazes of benefits, penalties, and eye-popping expenses. A new book by Roz Chast a cartoonist for the New Yorker titled, “Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?” is a humorous and honest memoir of caring for her parents through their seventies, eighties, and nineties.  It’s easy to feel alone in what is often a very emotional time, and Roz’s experience is one many people can identify with. I’ve long advocated having an Advanced Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney in place to deal with the inevitable decline in health and ability.  There are limits to these documents however, as illustrated in two recent stories. Dr. John Witherspoon: Described in court paperwork as suffering from early onset dementia, the father of actress Reese Witherspoon was the subject of an emergency conservatorship hearing last Friday.  Dr. Witherspoon’s wife and daughter sought to protect him from a woman to whom he was allegedly married on April 22.  “When I confronted my husband, he said he didn’t know who Tricianne Taylor was and that he did not remember getting married,” said Dr. Witherspoon’s wife in her declaration.  The court granted a temporary restraining order against Ms. Taylor, and prohibited her from posing has Mr. Witherspoon’s wife. Casey Kasem: Just hitting the news today is the drama surrounding the legal battle for the care of the legendary radio and tv personality, Casey Kasem.  He is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease, and can’t walk or talk.  While the court was considering who would be his new conservator, his wife of 30 years removed him from the nursing home where he was being cared for and disappeared.  Reports today disclosed that he was taken to Washington for a “vacation.”  His daughter, who was appointed conservator last week tried to take over from her step-mother as conservator back in October 2013, but at that time the court was satisfied that Casey’s wife was providing proper care. When your parent or spouse is making decisions that are harmful to themselves (like a bigamous marriage), a conservatorship is the way to provide legal protection for your parent or spouse.  Otherwise, they can continue making decisions.  The Power of Attorney is a great tool to let you partner with your parents, but when they start sending money to every telemarketer that calls, you know that you’ll need to add some layers of protection for their own financial well-being. The best “cure” for these situations is to stay close.  Have a daily phone conversation if you can’t see them.  Monitor bank and financial accounts closely.  If you’re concerned about your parent being susceptible to fraud, talk to the financial institutions to see what safeguards they can put in place for you.  And if those aren’t enough, then talk to an attorney about filing for conservatorship. Image courtesy of worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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