Helping Mom, The Need for Speed

Because sometimes helping mom brings a need for speed!

One issue that we deal with consistently in our Elder Law Practice (which is what I do in my other life when I’m not doing stuff for Help Me Help Momma!) is giving the Adult Kids tips on helping to find stuff that mom needs. The situation usually starts when Mom suffers a fairly sudden decline in physical or cognitive health and can no longer take care of her own business. To make matters worse, Mom may be in a hospital and may be on the fringe of being discharged back home. As a result, there are many decisions to be made, new things to buy, bills to pay and (sometimes) construction work to be done at home so that Mom will come home to a home care functional environment.

Are you incapable of helping mom?

If Mom’s health is so bad that she can’t go back home but is being discharged to a local Nursing Home, then there is even more need for speed. The question is – where is all of Mom’s legal and financial documents? What does she have? You may have heard her talk about getting a Revocable Trust and a Power of Attorney but you have never seen them. She has mentioned her financial adviser is the past, but you have no idea who he/she is or where he/she is located. Without these documents in hand, you may be incapable of helping mom.

After an intensive search at Mom’s home, which included digging through Mom’s closet, shoe boxes, chest of drawers and under her bed – you found nothing. You think that some of her documents may be in her lock box at “the bank” but are not sure which one of the 15 banks in town she uses. Finally you find her checkbook and go to the closest branch, which results in a dead end. You feel the proverbial chains tighten as you are being hindered from helping mom.

Where to Go From Here

First we will talk about doing it the hard way (above referenced goose chase) then we will talk about some proactive measures to make things a little better if you are (hopefully!) pre-crisis.

Finding Out the Hard Way

Sometimes there are no easy answers. If you have done the things referenced above and haven’t found anything, it may be a waiting game. You may be waiting for Mom to recover enough to be able to give you some information. It might take some bank statements to come in before you can start helping mom. Their arrival may answer the “where” question. Maybe the arrival of the day when you look in her kitchen cupboard and find a box with her legal documents in it. Or for the time you find other key information that helps answer questions. Nothing will make you feel more powerless than not helping mom in her moment of need.

If the above paragraph seems like a stretch – it’s not. We have seen situations where the search went on for months before the key missing ingredients were found. If you are in this situation, you may have to ask your attorney to initiate a guardianship action so you can be authorized to act on your Mom’s behalf and make any necessary required decisions on a going forward basis. You may be thinking that this course of action is extreme, but it may be the only way of helping mom.

Helping Mom by Acting Proactively

This is much better! This involves helping mom by talking to her while she has capacity. Take time for helping mom to organize things in a way so that you will never have to go through the above fiasco. If she is willing, here are a few things to consider:

Mom’s Preferences

Who does Mom want to assist her if she becomes unable to make decisions for herself? Let’s assume for now that Mom wants your help. Do you have time and availability for helping mom? If not, is there another sibling or family member that could be responsible for some of the tasks? Where does Mom want to be and how will this care be paid?

Practical Matters

You should know where she keeps her financial and legal documents. I will be necessary to know where she banks and for you (or someone) have access to necessary accounts. Does she have a lock box? Where is the lock box key is located? Don’t forget that the necessary person must be on the signature card. Discuss any ongoing or pressing matters and determine what Mom would want to happen if she became unable to do these tasks herself.


Arrange a meeting with Mom’s financial adviser to make sure the accounts are invested appropriately for her age and potential near-future need. Can the money be withdrawn without large tax hits or withdrawal penalties? If Mom wants your help if she is incapacitated in the future, are you authorized to act on her behalf to use her money for her benefit?

If she has done planning and wants your help, it may be time for a document review with Mom and her attorney. If no documents exist, now may be the time to consider that. Powers of attorney and health care documents are especially important. Additionally if she wishes to preserve assets, then have an asset preservation discussion with her Elder Law Attorney.

Have a Mom Centered Family Meeting

At your Mom Centered Family meeting, you will discuss all of the above with your family while Mom is still available to participate in the meeting and let her wishes be known. If there’s still time, being proactive is the best way of helping mom!

Next Steps in Helping Mom

The above list is a good place to start. When you start discussions with your Mom, you will discover other issues that need advance proactive action now so that these issues won’t be a problem down the road.


Nothing herein is offered as legal advice. Every family situation is different. You should make decisions with or for your family only after you have consulted with your legal, financial, tax or other appropriate professional adviser.

We want to be friends!

Ok. That might come off a little fast, considering we barely know each other. However, we fully understand the stress and turmoil that you are facing as Family Caregiver.

In our time as caregivers, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we desire to pass on. Likewise, we have met many professional caregivers, as well as other family members who were thrust as Family Caregiver. All caregivers have shared the same advice – Join a community!

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Being an Adult Kid who is helping mom as she is declining can be a scary, frustrating and lonely place. You feel like you are solely responsible for solving Mom’s problems while managing yours. Some occasional input and a community to plug into would help! This is a way that all of us can be working together as caregivers!

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Thank You for being a Caregiver for Your Loved One – you are making a huge difference in their life!

About the Author

Doug & his wife Cindy have not only helped hundreds of families with their estate planning and elder law needs over the years, but have personal experience as caregivers and advocates for their Loved Ones as well.

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