I believe this truth to be self-evident (but apparently it isn’t) — a person’s own money belongs to them to do with as they please. An elderly mother’s money and resources are to be used for her benefit. She, and those helping her, have no obligation to save her money so her descendants can have an inheritance.
An inheritance doesn’t become an inheritance until someone passes on and all the bills and debts for the deceased are taken care of. A person may choose to give an early inheritance while they are still living. But that is a choice and not any kind of obligation.
While a parent is living, their children should be encouraging them to use their money to make themselves comfortable, healthy, and happy, with no expectations of money being saved for an inheritance.
If a parent becomes incapable of making financial decisions, whoever they chose as their power of attorney and all of their children, should be focused on using the available funds to make the parent as comfortable, safe, happy, and healthy as possible in the best way they know how.
When a child becomes a main caregiver, and especially if they open up their own home and adjust their lives around 24-hour caregiving, other siblings should do everything in their power to support them. They can offer respite care. If they can’t give it themselves then they can offer to help pay for it. They could mow the lawn, shovel the driveway, clean house, run errands, pick up prescriptions, or help with transportation.
Children who don’t live close enough to be helpful to an elderly parent can ask the caregiving siblings how they can help. They might pay for meals to be delivered. They could send encouraging cards, flowers and/or gifts to the parent and the sibling caregiver. They can certainly pray diligently, call often, and express gratitude over and over.
Because if you aren’t there for the day to day care of a needy loved one, you have no idea of the sacrifices being made for their care. God will bless those giving the care and precious memories will hopefully be made. Most caregivers make those sacrifices with hearts of love, not looking for rewards.
But make no mistake, caregiving does take a toll on health, freedom, finances and even relationships. And if you’re not there yourself in the battle then do everything you can think of to be supportive. And then pray and research for more ways. And keep on faithfully doing all you can until your loved one has passed.
And then when your loved one does pass away, if there is any inheritance left, seriously pray about giving most of it to the ones who were most there. Give it to the ones who had to arrange for caregiving anytime they needed to leave their own home for a doctor’s appointment, or to buy groceries, or to attend church. Give it to the ones who were talking to the doctors, changing the Depends, and cleaning up the messes. Give it to the ones who slept with a baby monitor on so they could get up as needed during the night to take care of your mom or dad.
Do something to honor those who were there, if you couldn’t be. Do something to bless the ones who held your mom’s wrinkled hand and tried to bring comfort as her breathing became more labored and finally she breathed her last.
And if there’s little or no money left, because the finances were used to bring in private care so your parent could get more attention and better help, or to build a better room or bathroom for their care or whatever, be thankful that there were resources available and that they were used for your Mom or Dad’s benefit.
And don’t even begin to think, “My inheritance is gone!” Because it isn’t an inheritance until the one who earned it is done needing it. It is for their needs, comforts and pleasures. And if a few dollars are left over for their descendants, they should receive it with grateful hearts and then pray about how to use it in a way that will honor the one who left it to them.
(Author’s note: I am not referring to my own loving, helpful, generous family in this post. But I am writing about real concerns that I feel passion about.)