PARENTAL CARE LEGAL ADVICE IRELAND

Ensuring that you have an up to date will is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent future worry.  Karen Walsh of Walsh and Partners Solicitors addresses the concerns that may arise regarding the legal aspects of parental care.

Parental Care Solicitor Cork

Dear Karen,

Putting my mother in a nursing home is not an option I want to consider.

Last November, my elderly mother took a fall and broke her hip and this has caused some conflict and raised some issues at home.

As a single woman in my mid-forties, with a strong career and my own home, I have a strong relationship with both my mother and my brother. Unfortunately our father died some years ago and my brother was on hand to take over the running of the family farm at an early age. My brother is now married with 2 children and he and his family live in the family home that is sited on the farm. His wife also has a part-time job.

Understandably, upon the death of her husband, my mother did not want to leave the family home as she had many precious memories there. She took the step of paying for and building a granny flat on the property, which consisted of the transformation of the ground floor into a personal space for her use. When she broke her hip in November, I took some time off work to care for her, take her to hospital appointments, assist with physio appointments and give her the general care she needed at the time. I did ask her if she would like to move in with me as my home is central to all facilities. We would have needed to do a bit of conversion work, but I was okay with that.

Unfortunately at this point I had a bit of a falling out with my sister-in-law as she took some offence when I suggested they could chip in more with helping our Mother, I really just wanted someone to help with the odd trip to mass or smaller things like that. My sister-in-law said they were not in a position to help as they had the farm to run and she would have to hire a childminder to look after the kids. So I decided at this point that it was just easier to put my head down and do what I could myself.

Now I am aware that they most likely do a lot for our mother, particularly when I am not there, however from the outside it appears like she may be hesitant to ask them for any assistance at all. She will call me to bring her groceries from town or to take her in to do her shopping over the weekends, and will call on me whenever she requires transport to bring her to see family or friends. It’s unfortunate, but she really does need this extra assistance since she broke her hip and requires assistance with everyday chores that will ensure she doesn’t injure herself further. There was an instance when I called to the house one evening last week and she was still in her bedclothes, unable to get changed and had not asked anyone for help.

Suffice to say the fall and subsequent injury really knocked her confidence and seemed to take a part of her with it. More recently (and I attribute this to the fall), she has become more forgetful or scattered if you will and has been forgetting things that we would normally take for granted, like the number of grandchildren she has, or in some cases asking after old friends who may have passed away many years ago. So now, I feel I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and I don’t know what to do.

At this moment in time it seems like my brother and his wife are reluctant to be more hands on and unfortunately I don’t have much spare time myself either. There is the option for me to go part-time at work, which I am willing to do if there are no other options. However, there will be costs associated with this, not just through the lower income, but for any special treatments or attention our mother needs. I am concerned about these costs and whether I can manage them on my own.

The farmhouse is of course still in our mothers name and she does have a small amount of savings, but it’s unlikely these would last long in the grand scheme of things. Nursing homes seem like an incredibly expensive option and I’m just not sure that the funds are there to cover this. If we were to employ home help, would this be an option, is there assistance available for this or would I have to pay for this in full myself? Can the house be sold if she had to go into a nursing home?

Many thanks for your guidance,

X

Dear X,

Thank you for getting in touch, it sounds like this is a difficult situation for everyone involved.

Of course, the most important aspect of your letter is the health of your mother, and if you have not done so already, I would urge you to seek medical advice and take her to see her GP or specialist consultant. It is unfortunate to hear that she seems to be confused at times, this can be an early warning sign of dementia so this will be something you may need to take into consideration.

Upon consultation with a medical doctor, the next step I would advise you to take would be to ensure your mother has her will up to date, this will make sure there are no complications further down the line between your brother, yourself, and your sister-in-law. A well-written will is there to protect your mother’s wishes and ensure there are no disputes after her death. I know this advice may seem like I am jumping the gun slightly, but it really is vitally important to ensure these issues are addressed at an early stage. Creating an enduring power of attorney (EPA) may also be a consideration for your mother at this stage. This EPA (most likely you or your brother) will have the ultimate responsibility for any decisions that need to be made on your mother’s behalf, should she become unwell enough to do so herself. In the event that the ‘donor’ (the person who creates the EPA) becomes mentally incapacitated, the attorney will then take over the power to deal with any assets or money. The attorney can be a family member, a close friend or anyone the donor chooses. This document is extremely important to put in place before the donor shows any signs of deterioration as they must be of sound mind to complete an EPA. I would advise that it is best for your mother to do this now, based on the information you have provided.

With regards to assistance, there is a home help service that can provide support to your mother. This service can provide assistance within the community and will ensure that she has help with day-to-day tasks that she may find difficult. This is a great option for anyone who wishes to stay in their own home and avoid a residential or nursing home situation. The HSE can liaise with non-profit or private providers on your behalf or can provide this service directly to your mother. These services are free of charge and are not means tested. Your mother may qualify for a number of hours of assistance each day or week, depending on her needs.

Fair Deal Scheme Advice Ireland

If you decide to explore the nursing home option, there may be some relief available through the Fair Deal Scheme. In order to qualify for this scheme, you will need to make an application for a care needs assessment. This assessment will take into account any income or assets. To be eligible for this scheme, the applicant will be responsible for 80% of their assessed income and 7.5% of any assets for each year that they avail of the service. The maximum contribution for the private residence will be 7.5% of the overall value for the first three years.

Parental Care Lawyers, Cork and Dublin

You mentioned in your letter that your mother has some savings and let us assume that the farmhouse is still in her name. If the residence has been transferred in the last 5 years, it is still eligible for assessment under the Nursing Home Support Scheme Act of 2009. So, unless the home was transferred to your brother more than 5 years ago, it will be included in the assessment of means. It is now vitally important that you speak with your brother and sister-in-law to ensure they are aware of this situation and the implications it may have. Try to leave emotion out of your discussions and speak in facts, no blame should be attributed to either party. This will help you to decide on the long-term care options for your mother and perhaps you can decide on a schedule together that will assist with her care.

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