Irresponsible Aging Mom

briejeanSeptember 12, 2009

I wasn't sure where else to put this post, and sorry it's so lengthy. It's a long story. I'm not my mother's caregiver.....yet. I'm 44, and my mom just turned 65 last month. I'm the oldest of four siblings. And for many years, I have sat by and watched my mother make one poor decision after another. She worked for many years as a tech in the radiology department of a hospital. Around age 55, she was laid off. Even though she had worked there for many years, her pay was always very low. And up until that point, she had been living paycheck to paycheck. She was given a small pension payout, around $45,000. And that was all she had at that point. When she was laid off, she never looked for another job. She very quickly was unable to pay the rent for the apartment she was living in. My sister (who is a single mother and whose child at the time was six) took our mom into her two-bedroom apartment. The understanding was that this would be temporary and that she would look for a job. My sister, although she had a good job, she never got child support regularly from her daughter's father, and it was always made clear that she could not afford to support our mother. None of us could. This didn't seem to matter to our mom. She never looked for a job. She lived with my sister for six years. Toward the end of that time, tensions were at an all-time high in my sister's home. My sister wanted very much to be completely on her own with her daughter. She bought a two-bedroom townhouse four years ago. My mother tried intervening during my sister's search by finding only three-bedroom homes for my sister to look at...way out of her price range, an obvious attempt to get my sister to include her in her new home. My mom never offered to contribute in any way with the purchase of the home. The money that she had gotten six years earlier from the job she was laid off from had been put in an account and hadn't been touched, so it was still there. When my sister bought the townhouse, my mom fell to pieces. Instead of being happy for my sister, single mother, first home, huge step in her life, she laid a huge guilt trip on my sister. My mom went to her own sister, who sympathized with her. She herself had lost her husband a couple years earlier. She had two teenage boys, and my mom found that there was a need there for her assistance. My aunt quickly took my mom in, and all seemed well for four years. My mom took care of my aunt's kids while she was at work or out of town, and in exchange my mom had free room and board, a credit card for gas for her car, insurance for her car, and a cell phone. My mom also cleaned my aunt's house, and she would pay her a small amount a week (never enough, according to my mom), as she would be paying someone if they were to come in the home to do it. This was my mom's pocket money. Soon after my mom started living with my aunt, my grandmother, their mother, died. She left them some money, the amount of which my mom has never told us, enough for her to buy a brand new car outright, and there's still more. She never talks about what she has, and we don't ask. All we know is she never has money, doesn't even ever buy any of her eight grandchildren birthday or Christmas gifts, which is understandable considering the fact that she doesn't work, but gives me the impression that what she has isn't much. Well, to make a long story short, my aunt for several months has told my mom that she needs the bedroom that she's had for the last four years for her younger son who has developed allergies. His basement bedroom has contributed to his health issues, according to my aunt. She gave my mom until the end of August to find a job and move out. Well, she never found a job...she never even looked. She just moved in with my other sister, who has four younger kids. She and her husband realized that my sister could go back to work full time if my mom moved in. Well here's the thing. What's going to happen in five years, give or take, when they don't want her anymore??? She'll be 70 years old, completely unemployable for any job that would have even half a chance of supporting her. I just don't think my mom is being very smart here. My husband and I have three kids that we have to put through college in just a few years. And like everyone else, we'd like to retire at a decent age. My mom not having worked in 10 years, has nothing other a small amount from her pension and whatever my grandmother left her. She's lived with now three family members in the last ten years. And I just foresee a bomb dropping in the future, with her not being able to support herself when my sister grows tired of her living with them. She has a small 3 bedroom house with four kids. Where my mom is going to fit is a mystery to me. I tried talking to my mom on the phone about this the other day. When I asked her what's going to happen in five years when my sister doesn't need her anymore, she said she'll live in a nursing home, "Don't worry, I won't live with you." And she hung up on me. I'm just thinking she should be more responsible about her future and more considerate about what her lack of planning will do to her kids. How she thinks what little money she has will support her into her future years when she wouldn't even be able to support herself now, I can't figure out. Any input on what can be done here?

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It sounds very sad. The only advice I can give will sound selfish. It's not your problem, let it be. Worrying about it, talking about it with your mom is not going to solve any problems, just stirs up trouble for yourself. You say she has money but don't know how much. She may have more money than any of her family. You are not responsible for her, let it go.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 10:12PM
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If she just turned 65, she should be eligible for Social Security payments. It would make a big difference in her being able to support herself.

Make sure she has applied for them (I am assuming that she is in the USA)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 9:47AM
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Yes, we're in Illinois. I think she's holding out until she's 67, as she'll get more then. She has signed up for Medicaid, though, which is very good. She's gone the last 10 years without any kind of health insurance. Luckily she's been healthy.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 11:18AM
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You could call a family conference and find set guidelines for dealing with this. Usually hospital tech have a conforable living wage. Could your Mom have put money away and not told anyone? Anyway, the family could help her find low income/senior housing for her to live in and help relocate her. She appears to use people and sad to say they allow it.
Again, family conference time, and at 65 your mom should be on medicare/social security. If all say NO and mean it, she will survive.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 4:20PM
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As harsh as it may seem, she's made these decisions and you can't change that. You also can't change the future she has created by those decisions. You've indicated that she does not want to let anyone know exactly what monies she has available, so you really don't have an accurate picture of her financial status. As long as other family members offer to take her in, there's not much you can do anyhow. You're not going to change her, so save yourself a lot of frustration. She is who she is. If that means that her "golden years" will not be what you would have wanted for her, so be it. You can't control her or her future, but you can prepare for your own future.

However, as other forum members have indicated, she is eligible for Social Security. This should help her support herself. And if she truly has very little money, then she could get herself on a waiting list for low income senior housing.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 5:13PM
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First off, you and your sis need to start talking. Also start doing some research. I believe you meant your mom has applied for Medicare, not Medicaid. There is a big difference between the two so be sure you understand them both.

Other folks here have given you very good advice. Secrecy about money is common in your mom's generation and there's just no point in worrying about what's going to happen if she refuses to plan. You may likely find out your mom has been hoarding money and has a more-than-sufficient income, especially once she starts taking SS.

It would be a lot more important for you and your sisters to get your mom to make sure all her legal docs are in order: will, durable healthcare power of attorney with POLST instructions, and a financial power of attorney if possible. Many seniors who are secretive with money are resistant to the latter, however.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 7:03PM
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Agree with jkom51.

You and your siblings can see clearly what's coming. Get together with them and agree among yourselves on basic attitudes. When the time comes, there will be all kinds of divisive issues put forward. I suspect most of them can be anticipated and agreed upon among you before-hand.

Your priority must be your immediate family. The "honor" thing does not include sacrificing them for her benefit IMHO. I have little doubt your siblings will agree.

From your description It seems clear that your expectations are reasonable. Do plan for them...with your siblings....would be my suggestion. Also suggest being rather direct so there are no misunderstandings. It's time for that conversation.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 8:36PM
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You might want to point out to her, that while waiting for higher benefits at age 67, the increase would be small and it would take a long time to make up for the months that she would miss NOW getting a regular check. Plus at her age, she could start having health problems and may not live to see 67.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 9:51AM
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When I called about soc sec at 62, the agent said "do the math", when I told her I was unsure about when to start. All you have to do is figure the lost years of social security and find out what the increase is if you wait. Do the math, I think it would have taken me 10 years to make up for what I lost by waiting.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 11:45AM
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Ran across this today on the web, and it's certainly applicable to this discussion. Also check out the MSN website, Money tab. There are links today to other articles that may be interest as well:

"How to handle Mom and Dad's finances: The first step to planning your aging parents' financial future is to get the conversation started."
By U.S. News & World Report September 14, 2009

Here is a link that might be useful: Talking to parents about money

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 11:52AM
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