Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2003 /25 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins
Elderly mom is sweet on a hunky aide
Q: My mother has lived in an upscale assisted-living facility since her second husband died 13 years ago. She is now 88, suffers from dementia and requires assistance with her medications, but is otherwise in good health. She is also relatively wealthy and has named me her older daughter as agent under her power of attorney. I pay all of her monthly bills and take care of her needs. Of late, she has become infatuated with a 30-year-old nice-looking aide at the facility. He is often in her room and, when I call, she tells me she can't talk to me because "there is a handsome man in my room. Every woman needs a man in her life."
I don't think he is acting in any way other than professionally, but I'm concerned that he might try to convince her to change her will or do something foolish if he is, in fact, a bad guy. My sister tells me that I am all wet, that there is no problem, and that the guy just makes Mom giddy. But I'm worried because this "relationship" has been going on for several months. I don't want to take away Mom's companionship or fun, but I am wondering if I should seek a guardianship or let the administration know about my worries and ask that they monitor the relationship.
A: While the "older woman/younger man" phenomenon smacks us in the face every day in the media, the women reporters choose to cover are 40-year-olds in bikinis with their young hunks, not 80-year-olds in nursing facilities with their young nursing aides. But, as you are now aware, that does not mean it isn't happening.
Other than her dementia, your mother is physically healthy and, having outlived two husbands, obviously likes to socialize. From her perspective, she is still attractive, is younger than her biological age, is enjoying the attention, and feels good about herself, despite living in a facility.
Your mother's infatuation with a man 58 years her junior raises many serious questions. If she were living at home, that would be difficult enough. However, as a member of a protected class of citizens who lives in facility licensed by the state to help vulnerable adults, we believe that the problem is magnified and should be addressed. So long as your mother has the mental capacity, she can change her will, revoke her power of attorney and choose another person to handle her finances. She could even get married.
What to do? Based on your description of your mother's state of health, a guardianship is not an option. And if you try and are not successful, we think you can kiss your relationship with your mother goodbye. Likewise, if you are perceived to be going behind her back to the facility or to be getting her friend in trouble you may meet a similar fate.
Your mother may simply have too much time on her hands. You might think about introducing a geriatric care manager (www.caremanager.org) into the situation for the purpose of not only advice, but also giving your mother more to do than sit in her room all day. You might also consider contacting HomeInstead (www.homeinstead.com) to secure a male companion who will take your mother out of the facility, to the zoo, to plays, and to social events.
The introduction of caring caregivers and companions who will provide socialization in the community as opposed to infatuation within the facility can do nothing but help. But make sure you engage professionals to assist you. Going this one alone could be disastrous.
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JAN L. WARNER received his A.B. and J.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina and earned a Master of Legal Letters (L.L.M.) in Taxation from the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a frequent lecturer at legal education and public information programs throughout the United States. His articles have been published in national and state legal publications. Jan Collins began co-authoring Flying SoloŽ in 1989. She has more than 27 years of experience as a journalist, writer, and editor. To comment or ask a question, please click here.
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© 2003, Jan Warner