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I can’t call my parents without her listening on the other line, taping our conversation and interjecting when she disagrees with something I say. I am so sad I can’t freely communicate with them. It feels like they have already passed away. Her motivation is to inherit their house. She is trying to make me pay the overdue $40,000 bill for their care with an agency she drove out.



My other sister supports her and eggs her on. I am emotionally exhausted.

You need a paradigm shift. You are the mentally sound one. If she is listening to your calls so what. What is so sensitive or confidential thst you would say telephonically.

Speak knowing she is listening. She wants to get a reaction from you. She needs to know what you say. It’s not like you are giving nuclear codes over the phone. It may seem like invasion of privacy but so what. Over time of listening to you, she will realize nothing you say is about her nor bad so she may care less about listening.

Even if she doesn’t so what. You need to stop caring about that small potatoes item. Now if you believe she is recording call, you have a duty to notify the FBI if across state lines or local police department. Look up law about recording calls without permission of you and see if it’s a crime before you file police report. You must file a police report as it is a crime. Let them address it for you if you genuinely believe that.

I so understand the mental illness part from my own sister’s mental illness. I feel emphatic for you. Have food delivered from Postmates or Grub Hub and call and tell them right before it’s delivered you sent them a gift of food. This will help take away the power of your sister’s mental illness w you ignoring it and you acting even kinder. It will disarm her, bc she wants you to reacte negatively.

If you want to visit do so. Be turned away. Don’t be pushy or harass at door though. Do so repeatedly and take photos each time you are there. Document date and time of your visits.

If your mother is denied access to you, it is elder abuse which is a crime. Then, after you go over, maybe send cards and see if they are returned with nice thank you calls from your mother and you have actual evidence of your sister isolating your mother.

Then, file an elder abuse police report and file a case with County Adult Protective Services. They cannot tell you outcome but must inspect her and her home and ask her questions about her health and safety.

The elder abuse case you file with local police dept needs evidence first but it’s best bet. It would be against your sister for alienating mother from you, depriving mother of family contact with you, isolating your mother, depriving her of her family visits. And mention that your mother is deprived private phone calls which is invasion of your mother’s privacy and emotional abuse.

At same time file case on your sister with county mental health for same issues and with evidence. Thr miste documentation and evidence you have the more likely you will be believed.

in the end, it is a crime of elder abuse to neglect the social, family needs your elderly mother has to see her own family and have private calls at least in CA. Look up online elder abuse laws in your State and read them all.

It is hard being in your position. You are strong and can resolve this.
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Jennyb123,

I'm sorry to see you've been subjected to some harsh vitriole and assumptions here, while you're already dealing with what sounds like a near impossible situation. There are folks who can't wrap their heads around the situation that I believe you are describing in which a mentally ill sibling has had a co-dependent relationship with one or both of the parents - LIKELY FOR LIFE - and become an occupying force in the family home. Ostensibly a "caregiver" but offering marginal care by any reasonable standard as it is accompanied by financial manipulation, physical threats to other family members, lockouts, surveillance, control of communication, etc. This isn't garden variety sibling rivalry for any presumed inheritance, this is real concern for parental welfare and draining of assets when the occupying force has decided that another is an "enemy." All of you wondering why she doesn't just show up and take control have really no clue about families and situations like this. Throw some guns in the mix (as were present in my case) and the safety concerns are real. Contacting APS or requesting a "wellness check" from local police when you can't get through on the phone isn't going to solve anything immediately as elders under the undue influence of occupiers will do almost anything to avoid conflict, EVEN WHEN SUCH COMPLIANCE IS NOT IN THEIR BEST INTERESTS. But it may still be a good idea to call them in because when they visit they can assess the occupier as well and those records can be valuable if you do end up in a guardianship or conservatorship. Also important to talk to any of the 3rd party caregivers and the owner of the agency who provided care under the contract that was apparently terminated - they likely have valuable insight into the overall situation. I would absolutely recommend that you do some research on elder law/estate attorneys in the area where your parents live. You need to consult with someone qualified and at the very least protect your own financial interests, even if you don't elect to pursue any other legal action. The sad thing is that even if you do pursue something, you probably won't recover your relationship with your parents if they have been manipulated and poisoned against you. This is another dynamic in families like this - the parents become masters of the "gray rock" technique in response to all the drama of the mentally ill sibling and over many years the pattern of "compliance" is established, because that's how they survive and maintain some peace in their own household. I hope you remember Jenny that they likely made that choice for themselves as adults, though now they are extremely vulnerable and likely no longer have agency to handle the co-dependency constructively. You don't have to remain embroiled even though it can feel impossible to walk away. You can only control your own actions and do what you think best in a very sad, "no win" situation. I'm so sorry.

Finally, all those with the "well don't you think sister should get the house if she's done the care" comments are ignoring the fact that ELDERS make the decisions about how their estates are handled, and legal and social norms dictate they should be able to do so without undue influence of others. Some parents who get stuck like this with co-dependency KNOW that it takes a toll on their other kids and may wish to divide things in recognition of that. Or set up a special needs trust for the dependent sibling as one person mentioned. What any of us think is fair or justified or "deserved" is irrelevant and unhelpful to the OP as she navigates a very difficult challenge.

Jane
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@rotnkiley

PREACH!!! You have put down the truth today, my friend. You're absolutely right. It's easy for siblings who managed to stay off the caregiving hook to have a lot to say about the one who didn't.

@Jennyb123

Let me ask you something. Did the $40,000 agency care bill come in your name?
If it did not then you're not the one who owes that bill regardless on how much of a shakedown your siblings try to put on you.
Did you sign any paperwork with the agency co-signing for payment on the bill for your parents? If you did then you're on the hook for the money, or at least some of it. You need to talk to a lawyer if you did.

I think you should ask to see that bill. I've been in homecare for 25 years and know for a fact that a care agency will suspend and even cancel client services even when a small balance is owed. I operate a homecare agency now and trust that I will suspend services if any balance is owed until it is paid up. $40,000 is not a small amount. I think you should ask to see this bill. Or contact the homecare agency it was issued from.

Also before you take any actions against your sister like involving APS or social services because you think your parents' care is inadequate, ask yourself this question.
Are you willing to take the responsibiity of them over yourself?
Be careful and tread lightly because you may be opening a Pandora's Box and find yourself trapped in it.
Out of my own personal curiosity. Was your caregiver sister actually diagnosed with mental illess? Or is she just at the end of her rope from dealing with your parents? Is your other sister who is supportive of her caregiving also mentally ill?
It would seem fishy to me if there were three sisters. One caring for the elderly parents, one who helps and is supportive of her, and one who does not help but complains and criticizes the quality of the care.
The two sisters actually do for the parents are mentally ill but the complainer who does nothing is the sister who is not?
This would seem very strange to me if such were the case.
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rotnkiley, EXACTLY.
word for word agree with you. thanks for standing up (on behalf of all people) who’ve heard bs from siblings.

“But what if no bill came to her, would she have just let things go along as such with crazy sister who is controlled by Russia taking care of her parents?”

EXACTLY.

“She was good enough to deal with them before the bill arrived but now, all the claws come out when money is involved.”

EXACTLY.

——
dear OP,

i don’t know your situation of course. only you know all the facts.

but i agree with rotnkiley in the sense that many people behave as rotnkiley describes.

hopefully you truly do care for your parents, and did not sit back while your sister did all the work. hopefully you’re not just waiting for money/inheritance/house, while your sister loses her time/peace of mind, dealing with - all - your elderly parents’ problems.
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My thought is this. If she really cared about her parents how did it get this far? It seems as though when she gets a bill she is responsible for that is what woke her up. But what if no bill came to her, would she have just let things go along as such with crazy sister who is controlled by Russia taking care of her parents? I'm tired of the b.s. from people. I had to deal with my parents and my brother and sister have given me every excuse in the book. It doesn't matter if you live 1 minute away or another country from your parents before you start your life please tell me this is a consideration of wondering what will happen to my parents. Most people's attitude is i will deal with it when it happens or i don't care because me and if i have family come first and sister or brother who lives close to them or with them can deal with it...but i still want the house and money. If they were crappy parents then fine, sue them for the bill--get a lawyer but if you are trying to collect on the house and not pay their bills because you want your inheritance then you need to step up and be there and kick sister to the curb or a hospital where she belongs as well as your parents.
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Rotnkiley, I appreciate you have been on the live-in caregiver side - with the peanut gallery throwing in their non-helpful peanuts.

I also realise we only have one side of the story here, but it does read there are big complicated issues here.

The simple way I see it as follows;

The OP cannot follow the sister's plan. Cannot do share care 50/50 or whatever is suggested. There is no team. Can't visit, can't even call. The gatekeeper sister's personality prevents this.

So the only options left are a full takeover or completely get out of the way. Neither easy & both will have consequences.

I would start weighing those options up.
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Jennyb123: Your parents require better care and it is NOT to be done by your mentally ill sibling.
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Why are you leaving your two poor old parents with someone mentally ill and unstable? My God, i would be at their doorstep in two seconds wouldn't even bother wasting my time asking a website what to do? Sounds more like you are interested in money and not your parents at all.
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Contact the local authorities if you suspect your parents are being abused or neglected.
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rotnkiley, LOVE your answer.
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Is it possible that when you are calling your parents you are telling them things that will make the sister's caregiving more difficult for her. My sister and brother would call and make suggestions when my mother complained about something. I had a schedule and had things in order of two households and my sis/bro calling wanting to change things up completely threw off my whole life. They refused to assist or if they did they never did anything correctly leaving me a bigger mess. Sometimes are parents vent and maybe just listen instead of giving them ideas to cause more stress to the caregiver. If your sister is completely caring for your parents partially or full time; don't you think she may deserve the house especially if your parents live longer than expected. It is okay for someone to give up their life for free while you live your life free of this huge horrible responsibility of dealing with two old people who are usually not as enjoyable in real life as they are on a twenty minute phone call? Do your part and help her then. Travel and stay with your parents half the year. Give your caregiver sister 50% of your time and then you will have claim to the inheritance; be lazy and leave your sister to deal full time with your parents then you don't deserve anything. My opinion.
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If you think there is any harm coming to them, that would be key. You can have an anonymous investigation made through the state.

If no harm, what I have had success with is gaining the trust of your family members who are caregiving. Hold back your concerns, go with their program. Being loving is also the best thing for your parents. Eventually if there is trust, you can have a sensible influence. God bless!
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the person who is help2today good answer,
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Thank you for all your helpful comments. I want to clarify a few things. My sister really is mentally ill. She has borderline personality disorder. She is very paranoid and suspicious. She thinks the Russians have invaded her body, and that they are sending electrical pulses that may kill her. There is no way to “help” her with caring for my parents. She considers me the enemy and has told them I am their enemy. They both have some dementia. They need the equity in their house to pay for their care. I’m not after an inheritance, I’m trying to protect my parents from both of my sisters taking advantage of them. I attempt calls frequently, but am either hung up on, or taped with my sister on the phone. It IS a shit show! I live 3 1/2 hours away. I tried to visit my parent twice Thanksgiving weekend. It breaks my heart we can’t have a normal relationship, I can’t stay there, I can’t have Thanksgiving dinner with them because of my sisters. My sister called the police on us during the first visit. She was 20 miles away and knew nothing of what was going on at my parents’ house, but called them just to harass us. I am hiring a lawyer. Sorry for the rant, but this is not a case of my poor sister being unappreciated. I handled everything from a distance for most of the last year, all the way down to ordering groceries from Instacart when she wouldn’t go to the store.
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"If you are not the POA, the agency should not have accepted your signature without being legal signatory." Not true. They don't care who signs the contract as long as someone signs. Then that person is legally responsible for that debt. Signing a contract without reading it is financial suicide. And doesn't it say something that YOU were asked to sign the contract and not your sister who is living with your parents (I'm assuming she lives with them)? Your sister doesn't sound mentally ill, just manipulative. Both of them. Do your parents have dementia or are they just going along with your sister to not make waves at home?

Someone said, "If no Will, the State determines who will inherit." Again, not true. It's very easy for a manipulative sister to have legal paperwork filed to transfer the ownership to the home to her. Especially if willing parents think it's a "good idea" because sissy "takes good care of us and will need a place to live when we die."

You have 2 issues I can see:

(1) You signed as a financially responsible party for the caregiving agency. Don't know why your parents didn't sign themselves. You will need to hire an elder law attorney (ELA) to see if there are any options for you. Do you have a copy of this contract? If not, you should. Many ELA's give a free consult. Bring that contract with you to the consultation. Ignoring this $40,000 debt will not make it go away. Make that call TODAY.

(2) You say you can't call your parents without her listening in? Is there a reason you can't visit? Take them out to lunch with you ALONE and speak with them? Do you live out of town and phone calls are your only method of communication? Can you or do you physically visit them? If your sister is isolating them, it is indeed elder abuse with possible accompanying financial abuse. Would you be willing to take all the financial and legal effort to report this and possibly apply for guardianship of "incapacitated" parents and all that entails?

You are upset that you can't freely communicate with them and have a "normal" relationship with them. You are "emotionally exhausted". Unfortunately, you may just have to come to grips with the fact that this dysfunctional family dynamic is what it is. You need to attend to YOUR mental health and perhaps get some talk therapy counseling. Trust me. My family is dysfunctional and therapy and anti-anxiety medicine gets me through. Your sisters aren't going to change. Your parents aren't going to change. YOU will have to change how you think and feels about this situation. Step away emotionally. Do the practical first: (Number 1 above). Deal with that because that is a major part of your angst. Have your ELA deal with the caregiving agency, debt collector, AND your sister who is intercepting the collection agency's mail to your parents. Maybe a letter from an attorney will give her a wake up call.

Keep fastidious notes: date, time, information every time you call your parents or have contact with you sister to keep a timeline in case you need to go to court at anytime in the future. Your sisters sound like pieces of work. Keep your distance for your mental health. Toxic relationships are just that: toxic. You may have to detach.
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Good Morning,

In all honesty who would let their mentally ill sister care for an elderly parent.

Have you showed up on the scene? Not phone, not email, not snail mail. But basically show up in person, assess everything, open the refrigerator, and look at the checkbook, make sure mother is well groomed, vaccinations up-to-date, annual wellness visit, etc.

The word mentally ill is thrown around a lot these days especially when there is an estate, money, a house on the water, you name it. It's a pretty broad spectrum and usually involves the caregiver. I find it hard to believe that there are that many mentally ill caregivers.

Even the richest of the rich use this term. Unless there's 10 cats, 2 years of newspapers and dented canned goods that can cause botulism, what exactly do you mean by mental illness?

Could it be that sister is being left with all of the responsibility and no support.
Is there a once in a blue moon visit to check on Mom by other family members and they give their opinion but offer no help? Perhaps, offer a cleaning woman, prepared meals, a gift card for lunch for the caregiver, etc.

I know nothing in life is even Steven but when it comes to "our" parents, all hands on deck. The more the merrier...

You don't want your sister out on the street after your parents' pass. If she is indeed mentally ill, then I would help her make plans for her future--senior housing perhaps, some type of income, job skills, etc. A bus pass, groceries delivered, maybe buy her a computer. If sister needs help, help her and tell your parent, don't worry after you pass we will all look after sister. I know she needs help and we are aware of that and will not let her fall through the cracks.

If she is mentally ill, perhaps when mother passes set up a trust fund for her so she will have a steady stream of income.

Do you ever call your sister and simply say, "do you need anything?" "Does Mom need anything?" That's all people really want. Forgive me if I seem out-of-line but all too often I read these articles and my first gut reaction is, "is the mentally ill sister" being left with all the work and being made front of on top of that. On top of that being ridiculed, excluded and she can fend for herself after everything is over. If she is mentally ill, she truly is probably worried about money.

All (3) of you sit down with an elder attorney, social worker and make a plan. This way here everyone is taking care of. It's not uncommon these days for siblings to move out-of-state. It's hard doing these things long distance, but you're all in this together.

The reason why the agency was driven out was because it's a business and they need to get paid. If you don't pay them, they don't provide the services.

Your sister needs more help from you but it sounds like the entire story is not evident here. You also don't want your sister to be exploited or scammed. Someone (family) needs to step up to the plate.

If I'm off the mark here, please forgive me but this was my immediate reaction.
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First, I don't understand how the care agency would allow the debt to accrue to $40,000. They would've severed the contract and pursued payment way before that debt level. Second, you are financially obligated to that debt as a cosigner. There is no way around it. You need to get an attorney. An attorney may cost you lots of money, but it certainly won't be $40,000.
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Is there a POA? Have your parents been declared incompetent? Does your sister have a medical diagnosis of mental illness? You can make an anonymous report to APS. Financial exploitation is abuse. If there is a POA they are not acting in accordance by not addressing collection letters. POA can be legally challenged. State appointed guardianship may be the best option. Consult an attorney regarding signing the healthcare contract. If you are not the POA, the agency should not have accepted your signature without being legal signatory.
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Get a social worker involved for your own sanity . How ill are your parents ? Do they know you are being told to pay $40,000 ? That is not your responsibility that is their responsibility. You need a lawyer too to protect yourself or at least advise you of your rights . You don’t have to pay the $40,000 - get legal counsel . How involved do you really want to be with these people - it sounds very toxic and a situation you should walk away from . I am sure you love your parents but your sisters are A holes . What do you truly expect to get from this situation ? It maybe time to cut the cord and walk away - that would be my advice . You can try adult protective services but really they don’t do much but document information if you seeked guardianship and that’s a long drawn out expensive process . I would tell the agency your sister is POA and your parents got you confused and had you sign instead of her and you had no legal authority to sign as POA on your parents or sisters behalf and therefore are not responsible for your parents mistake by identifying you as POA and please contact my sister who is POA or my parents who have dementia. This is a shit show and you need to Let Go and get on with your life - nothing good is going to come of this situation .
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Sorry, I see now the agency was terminated by sister.
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Jennyb, what an unfortunate and maddening situation! This is a great reminder to us all to *never* sign anything without reading it thoroughly first to see how we are possibly obligating ourselves. Easy to say after the fact, when you’re not up to your ears in the midst of a family crisis, I know.

Can you cancel the contract, to at least stop the clock? Does anyone have Power of Attorney for your mother?
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Sounds as though your parents are/were just as bad as your sister. I think it's time to visit a lawyer and threaten legal action against your parents in order to collect the money from them And have the lawyer inform the caregiving agency in writing that you are no longer accepting any responsibility for future costs.
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It looks like I didn’t provide enough information. My Mom asked me if I would sign the contract with the care giving agency when they visited. I did without giving it much thought. Now I am considered financially responsible if Mom and Dad can’t pay. They CAN pay but my sisters have told them they don’t have to, and intercepted the collection agency’s certified mail. My sisters delight in the idea of me being stuck with this debt. If you knew them, you would understand why there will never be a meeting or a mutual agreement.
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Your best bet is to try to make peace with both of your sisters, for the sake of your parents and establishing a better connection with them before they pass. I'm sure there is history between the 3 of you that's built up before now, which is causing this rift. Things like this don't just pop up out of nowhere. Why not sit down and come up with a plan to establish peace between the 3 of you before it IS too late?

That's my suggestion. Otherwise, your emotional exhaustion will only increase as your sisters continue to work together to keep you out of the loop, for whatever reason they have. Leave the 'inheritance' out of the picture and focus ONLY on your parents and your desire to see them and to speak to them w/o anyone listening in on the other end or taping the calls.

Best of luck.
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Does you sister work or does she do all the care. If she works, call your parents then. Can u visit?

She cannot make you pay for anything. Did she hire the agency? Is her signature on the contract? Did she do this without consulting you? If yes to all 3, you cannot be held liable. Children are not responsible for parents debts and either are you responsible for a debt incurred by a sibling even if its for your parents. As Judge Judy says, there has to be a meeting of the minds. Tell her to take you to court. If not working I doubt she has that kind of money. If your parents have the money, they should be paying for their care. There's no "saving" the inheritance when Mom and Dad need care.

If your sister is caring for your parents 24/7 maybe she deserves to inherit the house. As you can see by the 40k that hiring someone is not cheap. The problem is, with Dementia your parents are not able to change a Will or make one. So whatever is in the Will is how the estate will be divided. If no Will, the State determines who will inherit.

How does other sister feel about the Caring sister inheriting the house? If she does not care, maybe you shouldn't either. Maybe if you can get your sister to except you do not care, she would be willing to back off. But then there is the 40k. Is this your share or is this the total bill and it needs to be split 3 ways? Can u afford one third? Because I think if a judge rules you need to pay, it should only be for 1/3. All children will need to share in the cost.

If your parents ever need Medicaid, there will be no inheritance. All assets will need to be spent down to the asset cap your State allows, mine its 2k. A house is an exempt asset your parents pass. Somekone though, has to keep it up because their monthly income of SS and Pensions will go to offset the cost of their care in a NH. When they pass, the house becomes an asset that Medicaid can place a lean on to recover monies they put out for your parents care. Your sister can claim Caregiver rights if she lived in the home and cared for your parents for at least 2 yrs. (Not sure how that works when there are siblings who want to sell the house.) But she may have to prove that she can keep the house up. The Medicaid lean remains on the home and needs to be satisfied if sister sells the home or dies at which time it needs to be sold.
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Why would your other sister egg the caregiver sister on in her efforts to corner the house? What's in it for her?

What reason does the caregiver sister give for claiming that you are liable for the $40K bill? - did you hire the agency? Was there a dispute about it? Normally, your parents would be responsible for paying for their own care.

This kind of situation is emotionally exhausting, the sort that makes your eyelids pop open all night long, and please don't think I'm unsympathetic. But there clearly is a lot more to it that we need to understand before we can suggest anything useful.
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Is there a way to detach from this totally? I'm not sure what to tell you. It doesn't sound like mental illness but more manipulation tactics to get money out of you. Why do you need to be responsible for paying forty grand for their care? It seems like the house should be sold and your parents placed in an assisted living facility using the funds from the proceeds of the house sale.

If you contacted the Adult Protective Services, your sister may flip the script on you.

In a situation like this, the best you can do is call your parents and don't get involved with paying for anything. This sounds like a setup to me.
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