Stephanie's story: Wading through money molasses as Dad's carer
*Identities have been changed to protect privacy
I was in my early 40s when my parents needed some assistance to continue living independent lives. My Dad had been living with Parkinson’s disease, but his condition worsened after a severe bout of pneumonia. He could no longer swallow and although he could walk with a frame, his mobility was now severely impaired.
Mum was adamant that she would care for her husband at home. None of the family wanted Dad to go into a nursing home, but looking back we didn’t fully understand the practicalities of caring for a close relative with a degenerative illness that was only going to get worse.
Supporting Dad to manage his finances was an emotional and logistical minefield. My parents grew up trusting only cash and cheques and, despite being married for 50 years, they didn’t have a joint bank account. Dad could no longer get to an ATM or write legibly and although they did have internet access, Mum had always been reluctant to engage with the technology.
Dad’s deteriorating cognitive function was beginning to show, his signature was no longer recognisable and as he was housebound, so was Mum. I worked long hours and, realistically, I could only sort out their day-to-day admin when I visited, which made my days even longer.
Although my brother had a better grasp of managing finances and was willing to help, coordinating time together was tricky as he lived an hour away from me and we had both moved away from home soon after we graduated.
There was also a fair bit of friction between my other siblings about who should be overseeing Dad’s affairs, but it was difficult to coordinate decision-making with everyone living away from home. And the tension just emphasised Dad’s declining health and loss of independence.
My priority was ensuring my parents could spend their remaining time together focused on each other and free from stress. My parents wanted to remain independent and retain control over their affairs.
We needed more support in getting shared access to transaction information, which would have supported family discussions while coordinating our shared decision-making. I would have been able to spend more time, emotion and energy on my and my parents’ wellbeing.
I felt dreadful when I had to bring up my father’s deterioration and bluntly outline the implications, which were difficult for others to come to terms with. And somewhere along the way I felt I stopped being a daughter enjoying time with her ailing Dad. §