Legal Rights and Care for the Caregiver: Where Are They?

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Lorraine Simons, Virginia

In 2010 my aunt needed someone to stay in the house with her or eventually go into a nursing facility. We had a good relationship with each other. She asked me and my fiancé if we would come stay and help her out. Knowing we were saving to buy our own home, she stated that if we would move in and something should happen to her, the house will be ours.

We discussed it and all agreed. My aunt and I signed an agreement. She allowed me to change the house by adding new additions and fixtures. I took care of her for over four years until I was unable to care for her. We never got any pay and paid the majority of bills, all the food, necessities, etc., including her wipes, depends, medications, disability equipment, etc.

She has a rich stepdaughter who is a realtor and owns many houses and is full of greed and dishonesty. She didn't even want to get her hands dirty by changing my aunt’s underpants. I would have to wash, dress, comb hair, cook, clean, feed, change, bathe, shop, laundry, run errands, doctors, hospitals, etc. on a regular daily basis, besides try and take care of my four grandchildren.

We were unable to work, my business dropped over 60% because she needed 24/7 care. I would fall asleep about 3 am. It took two hours just to get her ready for bed and to be up at 6am helping her out of bed before she became soaked with urine. She couldn’t hold her urine or bowel movement. She was unable to turn herself from side to side. No one wanted to stay overnight with her to give me a break, and if they did I would pay them.

She had us take her to her attorney to change her will, but lied to us so we would care for her. In 2014 I became very sick. My blood level dropped and I needed a hysterectomy that my insurance wouldn't fully cover. Denied for Medicaid and wasn't offered any help by family who has more then enough to pay the bill in cash. I suffered for another whole year still making sure my aunt would be comfortable.

Yes, the family would call on the phone and speak with her, neighbors would stop by, but no one would stay, especially after seeing the hard work she required.

The next year my blood dropped even more, after a second transfusion I had to have an emergency surgery (hysterectomy). I tried hiring nurses so she could stay home, her stepdaughter agreed to pay, after the work no one would pay them, I ended up paying. I was back and forth the whole year of 2014 in the hospital, no one cared or even offered to give us help, my grandchildren would do what they could.

When getting her into a nursing home everybody wanted to take over. After four years I'm not good enough, got her in a facility on a Thursday, Friday they were here removing her items as if she died. She passed July 5, 2016 and I was given a 30-day-notice to remove my belongings and find a place to live.

She never changed her will and the house went to the stepdaughter. I have a signed agreement dated 2012, the will dated 2006. I worked for no money, no home, no life, respect, love, peace or rights. Went to court and she was granted possession. Where are my legal rights as a live-in family caregiver?

[Editor’s note: Caregiving situations such as Lorraine’s are complicated. Readers may find the information in our online Legal Issues section helpful. The Family Care Navigator has a section for each state titled Legal Help & Advocacy.]