By Carla Thomas
Imagine caring for your ill parent for over a decade and suddenly having a family member drag you to court, claim power of attorney (POA) and continually undermine you through loopholes in the legal system. Well that is exactly what happened to Carolyn Brent who for 12 years, served as caregiver for her father and in the 12th year, a family member accused her of elder abuse and took her to court in 3 jurisdictions, while falsifying documents and dropping the charges each time. The accusations cost Brent $14,000 in legal fees and have kept her apart from her dad for over 4 years with modified restraining orders. “My dad and I were very close and this has been a nightmare.”
The family conflicts came into play once other siblings thought their father was dying, so in pursuit of the inheritance, a suit was filed against Brent falsely accusing her of abuse. But Brent did not give up, she fought the charges against her and penned her new book due out this fall entitled, “Why Wait? The Baby Boomers Guide to Preparing Emotionally, Financially and Legally For a Parent’s Death.”
Brent advises family members to meet and establish roles while a parent is healthy. Brent has teamed with Ameenah Fuller, who is running for the California State Senate District 31, to keep these issues at the forefront in an article they co-authored in “Looking In Politics” quarterly magazine on the “Scary Side of POA: Fighting for Senior Rights,” in which they encourage families to educate themselves on Power of Attorney issues.
Brent also feels caregivers should be financially fit and medically examined as protectors of the elder. “Although my father designated me as his medical and fiduciary representative in case of death or illness on the federal level, we had no idea we needed state documentation,” Brent stated.
“Congressman Jerry (CA-11) McNerney has taken this issue to the Office of the Inspector General, trying to create a law that will block the loopholes that a family member cannot go through the back door and get a power of attorney at the last minute when they have never been involved in that person’s life as a caregiver.”
Brent who has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 17 years says the family member perpetrating the law suits ended up putting her father on welfare to care for him. “They were ignorant of the costs involved and that I was paying out of pocket to provide my father a high level of care.” According to Brent, the cost of assisted living ranges from $32,000 to $80,000 a year.
As Brent seeks to transform the entire landscape surrounding end of life issues she’s created www.caregiverstory.com, a website that provides free medical and legal resources for families and caregivers and www.babyboomersguide.org to further connect caregivers.
In a tribute to her father, Brent created GrandPa’s Dream, inspired by the ministries of Dr. William L. Brent.
In honor of her father’s birthday she even created “Care Givers Appreciation Day” on March 8th. “You give your life for the caring of someone else and a part of you dies right along with them and you try to save them every day. Caregivers need to be celebrated.”