These are the words a client recently said to me, “My sister is a nut and is married to a nut and now she’s turning me into a nutcase!”
Some years ago, in what was a large and dysfunctional family, her mother had appointed the ‘nutty’ sister as her Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA). No doubt, in a family of 7 children and knowing the state of her family, the mum would have approached the task of making the EPOA with some trepidation. She would probably have earnestly hoped as well that the power she was giving to her daughter would never have to be used. As events unfolded however, her hopes were to be dashed.
Two years ago, having experienced a stroke at the age of 82, the mum was in need of full time care and support. For reasons that became clear later, the sister was more than willing to take on this task especially as none of the other children were prepared to put up their hands. However, in what is an all too common phenomenon, within a short space of time, the sister began to assert her ‘authority’ under her EPOA including:
- Taking control of mum’s finances and arranging to pay herself from her mum’s money for her work as the EPOA and transferring a weekly amount for board from her mum’s account
- Refusing the requests of the other children to take mum out for the day
- Not allowing any of the other children into her home to see their mum without the sister or her husband being present and then only for a short time
- Returning unopened letters and cards sent to the mum by the grandchildren
Needless to say, the sister’s conduct was tearing the family even further apart and exacerbating their pervading concerns about their mum.
We have struggled for years to understand the psychology and motivation behind this type of conduct by an adult child. It can be the blossoming of years of resentment for whatever past or perceived injustices. Alternatively, it can be a latent desire to simply take advantage of the situation to their own financial benefit especially if they have been bestowed with the power of an EPOA.
From our years of experience with this conduct, what we do know is this:
- Parent isolation is one of the favourite techniques of a child who is embarking on nefarious activities with a parent’s affairs
- The EPOA is the favourite tool for this purpose
- Few of these “no-gooders” appreciate that an EPOA is not a blank piece of paper, a power without strings attached or worse, a blank cheque – it comes with responsibilities, duties and obligations of transparency not to mention penalties for doing the wrong thing
- When children are conducting themselves this way it is crucial for the other members of the family to act quickly.
There are various options available to quickly address these concerns which can be so important in protecting the rights and interests of parents in this situation.
If you have any of these concerns or you can see them developing, act now and contact us. After all, who else will be looking out for your mum’s (or your dad’s) interests?
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