Our stepdad isn't doing all he could to care for my mother after a stroke!

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 10, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 65 year old mother suffered a severe stroke four months ago. Since then my sister and I have become increasingly unhappy with the quality and amount of care our stepfather is willing to put toward our mother's recovery. He claims he only wants the best for her, but we witness him only providing the bare minimum for her. He is extremely wealthy and affords a lifestyle most people can only dream about. It is heartbreaking and frustrating for my sister and I to see him not spend the money now, when it counts most. He will not spend one dime toward her speech and physical therapy, relying solely on Medicare services which will soon end. She is unable to move her right side, cannot walk or speak and is not progressing.

How do we come to terms with the fact that our mother is being given minimal care when there is the potential for her to have the the hightest quality, private care? Without our stepfather spending the extra money for private therapies, she will remain an invalid and will never be able to communicate again. Unfortunately my sister and I live out of state and we do not have the financial means to provide the care for her. To add to the stress, our stepfather does not communiacate with us anymore, as he doesn't like any offer of help or listen to suggestions. Our only means of getting information about her health, or "speaking" with our mother, is through her friends.

Also, every time my sister and I make arrangements for our mother's care and comfort (ie. providing information on stroke, interviewing caregivers, buying special bedding, etc.),our stepfather rejects, returns, cancels and deletes any work we have done.

Must my sister and I stand by and watch our mother deteriorate under his rule? We are saddened, depressed and ruined, not only by the loss of our mother, but by the loss of our stepfather who we thought was a loving man.

Expert Answers

Mary Koffend is the president of Accountable Aging Care Management (AACM), an eldercare consulting and care management firm that works with elder clients and their families to find the best care providers and services to meet their needs.

There are no easy answers if a spouse is not helping to get the best care for the other spouse. Your step-father may be getting counsel from another advisor or a health care provider about the proper protocol for treatment of your mom. He may be driven by costs, may just not know the best options, or may be getting different advice on several fronts. Listed below are several suggestions to aid with this situation. 1. Take time during this holiday season to rebuild your relationships with your step-father. Whether this is face to face or phone or e-mail, begin a dialogue with him that is not adversarial or accusatory. As he is your mom's husband, you need to work with him. It sounds like the relationship among you at one time was excellent so work to restore it. 2. Depending on how impacted your mom was by the stroke and how her medical power of attorney document is written, the person who is the medical power of attorney could be very influential in guiding the treatment process. If this person is your step-father, even more reason to reconcile with him as he will have the legal authority to help make decisions. If one or both of the daughters is the medical power of attorney then you might have a stronger position for being more involved in her treatment. 3. Another option is to contact your mom's doctor and share with the doctor your concerns. Privacy regulations will prevent the doctor from discussing these issues with you unless your mom signed a HIPAA release authorizing release of information to you. However, not having a release, this does not prevent you from providing the doctor with your concerns and perspective that he can use in creating a plan of care for your mom. 4. Medicare does provide some excellent services with in-home therapy as well as inpatient and outpatient therapy at a rehab hospital. That is why communication with the doctor is so important as he may be following a treatment plan that your step father has not communicated. Or your step father may not be keeping the doctor informed of the issues and thus, not providing the best plan of care for your mom. It is possible that the doctor is not aware that there are significant financial resources to privately supplement your mom's therapy services. 5. You and your sister are saddened and grieving at the loss of your mom as you knew her and your step-father is also. This may be clouding his judgment. Work with him and through your mom's friends to acknowledge his grief as well as yours. Don't give up. Work together with your stepfather to get the best care for your mom.