Dear Annie: My soon-to-be ex-wife and I live on the West Coast, while my 92-year-old mother lives in a senior facility in New York. She is happy there. She is still mentally sharp, but her body is starting to become frail. My wife has become the primary caregiver for Mom. She visits a few times a year and pampers Mom with pedicures, foot massages, etc. She also has Mom’s power of attorney for her financial affairs, and hence the dilemma.
My wife had an affair during her visits to see my mother. We have been separated for two months, and I plan to finalize the divorce within the year. My wife doesn’t want me to tell my mother, because she fears it will break Mom’s heart. She may be right, but my wife has complete control of Mom’s finances, and because of factors in our breakup (dishonesty, lying, cheating, etc.), I don’t trust her to do the right thing with my mother’s money, especially if the divorce gets ugly, which is entirely possible. It also could jeopardize my brother’s portion of an inheritance.
My current situation does not allow me to travel frequently, and I haven’t seen Mom in 18 months. I call her once a week. My brother has his hands full with his wife, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s. I would like to remove power of attorney from my wife, but I know Mom would be completely devastated by the loss of her “only daughter.” I don’t want to hurt my mother. What do you suggest?
Dear Conflicted: Your wife can withdraw as your mother’s financial power of attorney as part of the divorce settlement, or a judge could order it. But you also could ask Mom to sign a new POA, giving authority to you or your brother, and it will supersede any prior POA on file. We understand that you don’t want to hurt her, but your mother will likely find out about the divorce at some point, and it is more respectful to tell her than to deceive her. (You can be vague about the details.) And go see your mother already. Time is short, and it’s been too long.
Dear Annie: I am an organist and frequently play for weddings in our church. I am always at the rehearsal early and well prepared by the announced time. More often than not, several key people in the wedding party are 15 or even 30 minutes late. This delays the rehearsal and often makes me late for other scheduled appointments.
Please tell people to be considerate of the time constraints of the organist and the minister, and to be on time for rehearsals.
— Ticked Off in Illinois
Dear Ticked Off: You told them, and we hope they listen. You also could ask the minister to start the rehearsal at the time stated, and latecomers simply will have to catch up. It can be difficult to schedule a rehearsal that is convenient for all the members of the wedding party, but it is important not to take advantage of the officiants, organists and others who are involved in creating such a special event.
Dear Annie: I have a different suggestion for “Tired and Miserable,” who felt she was the only one in her family caring for her aging mother. “Tired” said she has siblings in the same town, but they are not helping.
You cannot expect your siblings to understand what you are going through and what your parent needs unless you clearly communicate it. I found it was important to stop waiting for siblings to offer to help. Instead, I made up a monthly “caregiving” schedule for each sibling to spend time helping mom. My siblings were happy to step up when given an assignment. Sons, in particular, are sometimes oblivious to caregiving needs. They are glad to help if told what to do.
— Working Together
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