My mother suffers is in the first stages of Alzheimer's and has a serious gambling problem. She won't acknowledge that there is a problem. How can I get her to realize?

Asked by

My mother suffers from what her neurologist calls a "mild cognitive impairment" or the first stages of alzhiemers and has a serious gambling problem. She refuses to acknowledge that anything is wrong. How can I get her to at least admit that there are serious issues here?

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Expert Answer
394 helpful answers
Does your mother have Durable Power of Attorney naming you as potential attorney-in-fact to manage her affairs? Alternatively, does she have a revocable trust agreement naming you as successor trustee in the event of her incapacity, cognitive or otherwise?

If not, and if still competent enough to understand and sign such documents I would urge you to do this immediately. Without a document giving you authority to act on her behalf you are going to have great difficulty as this progresses.

If she is not competent to engage in the process of protecting herself then you should seek guardianship as soon as possible.

Trying to get a cognitively impaired person to change any habit, or even acknowledge that a problem exists is foolhardy at best and dangerous at worst.

You must get control of her finances as soon as is practical and the only way to do this is via the options mentioned above.
If she is gambling online, remove her computer. If she is going to casino's alert the managers that she is in the demential process and that they need to block her from being able to enter. They will do that for you. If she gets mad, tell her she needs help. Denial is a part of the process but if you take the "match away, the fire will not be lit".
I would limit her ability to access her funds. For example have the social security check deposited into an account, that she cannot withdraw from. I know that this sounds somewhat sneeky, but you are trying to protect her. Realize that she will no longer be able to reason well and will not understand cause and affect well. take care, J
With my father, I have noticed that denial is in full swing with his dementia condition. Dad tells me about all the other residents who have dementia, never thinking for a second that he could be in that group. The only person who could convince my father that he has dementia is his doctor, and the doctor has perceived that this information would be too painful for my father to hear, so he hasn't told him.( With my father, it is mostly "personality" dementia.) One thing I have learned, and this was from an insurance rep, is that for a label of "mild cognitive impairment" to be applied, there really has to be a significant amount of impairment there. I would talk to your mother's neurologist about this, and what his thoughts are about telling your mother what is going on here. It is so delicate when our elders still have some of their "marbles" because we don't want to hurt their spirits and discourage them.
My husband has recently been diagnosed with MCI too. The neurologist who is a "No Nonsense" guy came right out and told him. He took it quite well. I'm surprised. I am the one who is having a hard time dealing with it as I don't know what to say or how I should say it. I do belong to several groups including this one who have helped so much. I am finding help for me as well and it is going slow. What I have trouble with is he is still driving and goes to the range to target shoot. There have been no meds prescribed yet. I am also terribly afraid of guns and have it in my mind that he won't think straight and someone will get hurt. I have an appt. this week with the doctor to discuss this further. Also, his drivers license expired and, of course, I had to take him to get it. He didn't pass the first eye test and when he got his proper glasses (which he should be wearing all the time and doesn't) he did fine. He also has a hearing problem. I don't understand them here in AZ letting him do all this. He's not qualified. I will be discussing this also. I do have what I think is a cute story though. We were having a conversation awhile back and he forgot something. He looks at me and smiles and says "I guess like Dr. T says it's my short-term memory." We do get a good chuckle once in awhile and that helps. Still everyday is hard as he has COPD, glucoma along with his other problems. But we do our best and I try to bug people for answers until I am satisfied. It is hard to stay on track but you just have to focus. Just hang in there and take one day at a time because that is all one can deal with. I am a person who lives in the present.

Hope you find some good answers.


How old is your mom and did she have a gambling problem for years or is this a recent event?
Sorry that your Mom has this gambeling problem and has MCI. Where is she gambeling, and how? Also if you are POA, can you control her money? I would contact your local board on aging for further recommendations.

Good luck to you..

A diagnosis of MCI is NOT a diagnosis of incompacity or compatency!!!! A person who has MCI just means that in lay mens terms they are having some memory problems- even the experts on MCI are at odds as to this diagnosis. This said, If a person has MCI you will not be able to to claim that they are incompenent. The last thing that you want at this time is a guardianship. It will take away all of their rights, and yours as their guardian- Is this what you want? Once again I will ask what is the age of the person and is the excessive gambling been their past M.O.
Nataly1 are 100% about your comment on competency. This is what the doctor told us. He gave a sheet about this but I can't publish it here. It is very helpful and a lot about this and tells how things are processed in the mind. Of course, in 5 years or so (according to the doctor) this will progress into full Alzheimers. No looking forward to this but as I said before I try my best to live in the present.

Most likely your mother had a gambling problem BEFORE she had Alzheimer's disease. It's the nature of ADDICTION to not realize that anything is wrong. I'd probably phone her family GP and bring it to his/her attention.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support