Case Studies

Karen’s story

“Since Dad passed away suddenly, Mum has been struggling to cope. She’s grieving and in shock at Dad’s passing – she doesn’t want to even think about how to look after the bills and banking. She seems to get more confused every week. It’s heart-breaking to see Mum like this.”

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Karen is 52 and lives in Christchurch with her husband and three active teenagers. Both Karen and her husband are still working, saving hard for retirement and to help their children through university.

Last year Karen’s beloved father suddenly passed away, leaving her mum Elizabeth grief-stricken. Karen’s dad had always looked after the finances and Elizabeth doesn’t know where to start in managing things. She’s now 77 and gets a bit confused sometimes. Karen is taking over where her father left off, dealing with the day to day finances like paying the bills, collecting Elizabeth’s super and overseas pension and managing Elizabeth’s investments so she has enough money in her account to pay for expenses.

“Our priorities are helping the kids do well today so they can have the career they want. That means saving for Uni fees, helping with homework and lots of time driving them to activities! But now I find I’ve got another dependent. Mum deserves my care but it’s hard to find time for everyone.”


“Every time there is a problem like the dishwasher not working,
I need to sort that out for Mum as well.”

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Given her mum’s situation, Karen is thinking that Elizabeth may need to go into residential care soon. She’s dreading having to sell the family home in order to pay for care. She doesn’t know what benefits Elizabeth may be entitled to, how to get them, or what she’ll have to pay for herself.

Karen’s younger brother Tim is disabled and has relied on his parents to help him manage his life – things like paying his bills, doing his banking, preparing tax returns and making sure the unit he lives in is well-maintained. But with his father gone and his mother unable to manage her own affairs, let alone his, it’s fallen to Karen to look after him as well.

Karen was starting to feel like she would burn out trying to juggle it all.

  • How we helped

    That’s where Personal Assist helped Karen. She met with Priscilla, a Public Trust Trustee and together they worked out how best they could assist Karen to free up her time. Today, Priscilla manages all the financial matters for both Elizabeth and Tim – both the day-to-day activities and the unexpected things that need addressing. They also maintain Elizabeth and Tim’s properties, ensuring that the lawns are mowed, house is cleaned and gardening done. Elizabeth and Tim both now know to call Priscilla (not Karen) when something breaks down and she will get it fixed for them. Karen knows too, that when it becomes necessary, Priscilla will help her best structure her mother’s finances to meet her Rest Home costs and will be able to advise which benefits her mother is entitled to and apply for these on her behalf. Public Trust will also help with getting the house ready for sale and selling the property.

    “Personal Assist has really helped me to free up my time so that I can spend it caring for my loved ones and creating precious memories, before it’s all too late. I even have some spare time now to devote to myself and train for that half marathon I’ve always been keen to run!”

  • Talk to Public Trust now to see how we can help you free up some of your time.about How we helped

  • Talk to Public Trust now to see how we can help you free up some of your time.This case study is based on a real family, but names and details have been changed for their privacy.

Wiremu’s story

“Mum and Dad are slowing down a bit now – I guess they are in their eighties! They used to take a lot of pride in the house, but I can see it’s becoming a bit much ever since Dad broke his leg in a fall. They don’t socialise like they used to –their friends are starting to pass away or get out less too. They’re a bit confused by the modern world of phones and internet. And some suppliers insist on you getting online to pay your bills these days – they don’t understand that older people struggle with that.”

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“Maybe it’s time Mum and Dad downsized and moved closer to me so that I can see them more often and it’s easier for me to help. I’m always the one that they call for assistance. There’s a new retirement village just down the road. That will give them a new social life and someone to take care of all the upkeep. And when the time comes when one of them needs more care, they can move into the rest home next door, without having to change location again.”

Wiremu’s  parents, Tui and Aaron live in Gisborne. When Tui and Aaron need help, they call Wiremu, their eldest, who lives in Hamilton. He organises things remotely for his parents. Lately, their calls have gotten more and more frequent and helping his parents out is taking up a lot more of his time. Wiremu thinks that the family needs to agree on a plan for how they are going to help their parents out with the practical day-to-day tasks as they age. They also need to think longer term about where their parents are going to live out their final years.

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Unfortunately Wiremu’s brothers and sisters aren’t all in agreement with this plan and it’s causing conflict. His brother Tane lives on a rural property just out of Gisborne and thinks his parents should stay in the same area they are familiar with. Tane is also concerned with how much money the retirement village is going to cost (and maybe that will mean that the inheritance won’t be as much as they expected).His sister Ana lives in Australia. She can’t really help her parents out on a practical level (although she does call them every couple of weeks for a chat). However, she knows how much work Wiremu puts in to look after them and is happy to help out financially, as her contribution to looking after their parents, if that helps reduce some of the workload for Wiremu. Mihi, Wiremu’s youngest sister lives in Wellington and is really busy with her demanding career and raising her three children as a single parent. She doesn’t have time for much else. Mihi says:

“We should wait and see. Mum and Dad love that house – and we all want it to stay in the family. They’re getting older, sure, but they’re doing really well.
I think Wiremu is worrying about nothing.”

  • How we helped

    Wiremu approached Public Trust for assistance. The Personal Assist Trustee brought the family together (in person and via Skype) to talk about the issues they are facing and what’s best for their parents. After that discussion they were able to agree that their parents should move into a retirement village, but that it would be in Gisborne so that they could be in the same location they were familiar with. The family home would have to be sold, but they all agreed to go and help prepare the property for sale.  “With our Trustee guiding us along the way and helping us face facts, we were able to come to a joint decision. None of us really had the time to look after our parents’ financial affairs, so we use the Personal Assist service to manage these instead. We all compromised, but we knew that Mum and Dad’s best interests were at the heart of the plan.” Talk to Public Trust now to see how we can help you make a family plan.

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    Talk to Public Trust now to see how we can help you make a family plan.
  • Talk to Public Trust now to see how we can help you make a family plan.This case study is based on a real family, but names and details have been changed for their privacy.