Mom is being held captive!

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My 92 yo mil ended up moving into the home of one of her daughters after a series of medical events last summer. This daughter lives alone and claims to work (off the books, I imagine) as a massage therapist. Mom is blind with macular degeneration and is paralyzed from strokes. She has mild dementia. Sister in law has become increasingly abrasive to the point she won't allow contact of any kind with mom's other 4 children or her 94yo sister. She won't answer her front door or her phone. She has gone on a spending spree with mom's ATM card to restaurants and shows all over the city, to the point that the bank canceled the card due to suspicious activity. In three months, SIL has spent around $10,000. Today we discovered she has closed mom's bank accounts and taken the money elsewhere. We have opened a case with adult protective services for the isolation and financial exploitation, and the caseworker has gathered all this information, but I wonder if they can actually do anything besides sending a strongly worded letter. We believe they have tried to make contact to see mom, but I doubt SIL would let them in. My husband and 2 siblings saw a lawyer today. He thinks they should sue for guardianship, but I don't know that mom is legally incompetent and might think she's fine with daughter. She is extremely passive by nature, and has little perception of time. I'm sure she doesn't know what is going on. Our hope is to get her into a quality nursing home before her money runs out. Since there is no way the money SIL is taking will be Medicaid compliant, the money will be considered a gift and make mom ineligible. Also, we live in a filial responsibility state and could well be required to pay for nursing home costs up to the value of the amount gifted away. Any thoughts?

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If you are concerned about her physical well being many police departments will do a check welfare ( to check her physical well-being) and it's definitely something to talk to your attorney about.
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This is not uncommon. I have seen posts like this one on this forum. The best thing for you to do is to proceed with the attorney. Second guessing yourself will drive you crazy, e. g. "what if MIL is telling stories?" Better left to the professionals.
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Churchmouse, yes, it takes money and a lot of work to care for a 92-year-old. I've done it. However, the fact that the daughter won't allow any of her siblings to see their mother is what raises the biggest red flag. The other red flag is that the daughter changed the mother's bank account. I agree that it's fair to pay a sibling for caring for a parent but it should be a decision made by all the children.
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$10,000 in three months. MIL is blind and severely disabled, and SIL - yes, poo-poo, she takes cash in hand and it's not a real job, but - has to work. Sitters. Equipment. Medical attention. Food, utilities, laundry...

How much would anyone expect it to cost to care for MIL at home?

Presumably the other children have access to bank and credit card statements detailing the misspending, since they've made formal complaints; but all the same I can't help feeling we haven't heard the other side of the story. I suppose I'm just wondering who abraded whom.
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In order to stop external fraudsters from emptying my old friend's bank accounts and life savings, I had to take her to a Justice of the Peace and she voluntarily placed herself in proxy. In an instant she had no more control over her finances, everything was managed legally and although she did not join the class action case against the identified fraudsters, at least her remaining money was safe. So Juniebug's family application for legal protection is the only correct step forward, and this should be combined with moving her M.I.L. to an address where her daughter can be barred.
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Because you mil is living in her daughter's home, the daughter has access to everything, social security numbers, her mail,etc. You already know she is financially exploiting her mom, and that could be the tip of the iceberg. My aunt's daughter had opened multiple credit cards in her name and was manipulating my aunt's bank account to pay minimum payments to keep the game going. My aunt, 88 at the time, literally escaped one day when her daughter was out, and flagged down "some guy in a truck" and called for help. If the other children have not seen their mom (how can they say they're simply not allowed?), I suspect worse is going on. Do they talk with her? Do they know if she is being cared for? I think it's time to call the police and make a surprise visit. Someone needs to look at recent mail, which can reveal all sorts of problems. The daughter has to let APS in, and the case worker will probably take a police officer along considering what he or she already knows. All the remaining children need to work fast and together and admit to the criminal activity. I don't know where you live, but some states have serious laws regarding this sort of criminal activity and a surprisingly low threshold for defining it as such. I wish you strength; I recognize my cousin in your sil. Once you get your mil to a safe place, your sil will step out of the picture.
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Thanks for the supportive comments! This SIL has gone years without even a phone call to MIL. The rest of the family is certain her only motivation now is mom's limited money. We are about to spend $5,000-$10,000 on a lawyer to sue for guardianship and for an accounting of the money already spent. Our hope is to either get mom into a nursing home where we may visit her, or to at least get SIL to agree to a Medicaid compliant contract. Lawyer says there very well be no good outcome. I'm just venting out of helplessness.
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Juniebug, when it comes to dementia, there is a phase where the elder will start story telling of things that never have happened.   Just food for thought if some of the items you had mentioned in your post were things that Mom had said.

If that is the case, could be your sister-in-law might not understand this thus the reason she is keeping Mom away from everyone.   I know that doesn't make any sense, but sister-in-law could be quite overwhelmed being the caregiver, and may not be thinking clearly herself.

I hope whatever is the reason, that this is all straighten out so that you and your husband can rest easy regarding Mom's care.
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If she is being held against her will, then that's a crime, too.
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If it were me, besides working with Adult Protective Services, I'd consider getting an elder law attorney involved and consider filing a police report for financial elder abuse. This would be something a financial crimes detective would work.
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