When Mom is the Client
This past August, my wife decided to take my 96 year old mother in law, Evelyn, to Washington, DC to visit our son. We thought that Evelyn would enjoy seeing where Steven lived and worked. He works on Capitol Hill as an aide to a Congresswoman. Steven planned a tour of his office and the Capitol for his grandmother. All went well. Evelyn enjoyed everything and was very proud to see Steven at work. After the tour, they said their goodbyes so that Evelyn could rest up for dinner. Steven went back to his office. My wife began to walk Evelyn out of the Rayburn House Office Building when Evenly stumbled and fell. Paramedics were called and she was transported to the hospital. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder.
Two nights later my wife and Evelyn came home and we began to worry. What were we going to do now? Fortunately, Evelyn, upon recovery, made everything easy for us when she told us that she no longer wanted to live alone. We decided to begin to look for an Assisted Living Facility.
My wife is super organized, but this process is an unknown. She did her research. I, however, knew that we first had legal steps to take and I suggested that we retain an elder care attorney to guide us. My wife and Evelyn agreed and we retained an attorney I know an have worked with. Everyone was and is very comfortable with him and his staff. He is great at explaining things in language that my wife can understand. Evelyn trusts us to carry the ball. If I have questions, our attorney answers me in the type of attorney shorthand and language I expect. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t understand that shorthand. So, when she had questions about process and I answered her, she did not believe that I was correct. She heard or understood answers differently than I did and she didn’t factor in my years of legal experience to answer her questions. It began to dawn on me that the client here was not Evelyn, but my wife. However, this was our elder care attorney’s problem, not mine.
UNTIL – it came time to sell the condo. Evelyn and my wife wanted to list the condo immediately and the attorney needed to transfer the condo to my wife for planning purposes. We decided that Evelyn would not move to the ALF until some time in January. Therefore, I determined that we would not list the condo or retain an agent until January, nor would we transfer the unit to my wife until after the first of the year. Evelyn, the client, said ok. My wife asked me why and I explained my reasons, both business and legal. The elder care attorney concurred. My wife acquiesced but changed her mind often until the end of the year. She just wanted to get things done.
I had an agent whom I wanted to sell the condo and whom I knew well and trusted. My wife, not Evelyn, through out the holiday season, made suggestions as to how and when I should contact the agent.
When we met with the agent, Evelyn and my wife were very pleased. The agent sent me all the standard forms, all of which I have reviewed hundreds of times. I assured my wife all was ok, yet she remains nervous about the listing.
So far this experience is teaching me that when your mother in law is your client, your spouse is the defacto client. No matter the size of the deal or case, the matter becomes a 24-hour a day concern and you will be 2nd guessed more than any other client you have ever had. Maybe this case is more emotional because Evelyn is older and has moved to an ALF and we are dealing with everything in her life; but I don’t think so. Whenever it’s Mom, hers or mine, there has to be an emotional investment and it becomes a team effort. Mom isn’t really a client. She’s just Mom.