So, Mom moved in with us Oct 2019. Social worker came to our house and advised me to come up with a monthly figure that Mom is going to cost us, down to prorating utilities, etc. I did that and came up a monthly figure, documenting it all in a spreadsheet. Of course, I had to reduce it based on her lack of available funds because she'd run up $25k in credit card debt and another $5k financing some stupid recliner queen bed that's 1) useless now and 2) not worth $5k (gullible senior ripped off).

We have been muddling along for a year on this plan. I keep a detailed record of almost every penny we spend on/for her and credit her monthly contribution, keeping a running total. She can't use her cards anymore because they're maxed out. The payments, of which the majority is interest, are barely enough to cover the interest and the bare minimum new charges (I make her pay for the monthly storage of all her crap she refused to part with and our things we had to clear out to accommodate her, and occasionally there's an emergency expense of hers that we can't handle that keeps the balances barely in check).

Anyway, I did a 2020 accounting. We've spent almost $12k out of pocket on her (and I don't charge for groceries and sundries) in the past year. She's been able to cover about 55% of that with her monthly contributions. But she "owes" is currently about $6k, and it's only going to increase. This is money we will never see reimbursed or repaid. She has no assests and no death benefits or insurance. My dad was the financial wizzard; he died ~30 years ago. Mom has no discipline with her money; totally irresponsible. Also, we don't have this money to cover her and are going further into debt caring for her.
If she didn't have that credit debt and that stupid overpriced bed, she may at least be able to break even and stop bleeding us dry. I'm thinking bankruptcy for her, if she'll agree - No dementia here. Just a willful spoiled toddler attitude I deal with.
Anyone have experience doing this for your elder? Pros, cons, pitfalls?

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A simple Power of Attorney will not work for Bankruptcy. It needs to be a Durable Power of Attorney and must specify the following:
"To file Bankruptcy either Chapter 7 or 13 if my bills become such that cannot be handled from the funds of the family." In addition, it would need to have been signed before the onset of dementia. It should be recorded with the County Recorder's office as well.
In the event that it is too late for the POA, the Bankruptcy Attorney could file a Motion to Appoint you as "Next Friend" of your mother immediately upon filing the bankruptcy. The bankruptcy will stop all harassment calls to your home and allow the discharge of debt. In the Northern District of Ohio, we are conducting hearings by phone. I am a Bankruptcy Attorney.
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AlvaDeer Jan 2021
What great information. I hope you stay around on Forum to answer these questions. Not many of us would have this expertise. My question is: OP says there is NO dementia here. In that case would the Mom not have to choose whether or not to file for bankruptcy and give up her cards?
You need a Durable Power of Attorney that has specific language stating the following:  To file Bankruptcy either Chapter 7 or 13 if my bills become such that cannot be handled from the funds of the family. It needs to be executed before the onset of dementia and recorded with the County Recorder.
Otherwise, your attorney can file a Motion to Appoint you as "Next Friend" in order to do the Bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy will eliminate the phone calls, you can also surrender the overpriced bed if it has a security agreement. There are no real cons given your mother's age. I recommend consulting with a consumer bankruptcy. See for a list in your area: Shop around for prices. I am a bankruptcy attorney in Cleveland Ohio.
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disgustedtoo Jan 2021
Both comments you've made are excellent. I found a link (posted it) that gives the short and sweet. My concern here is 1) the POA may not have the appropriate words - most likely it doesn't. Ours doesn't even cover things like "digital" accounts, so the CC company wouldn't allow online access (no debt involved) and 2) OP states no dementia involved in this instance, so POA shouldn't be "active" and there'd also be no need to apply for this "Next Friend."

Either mom needs to file for bankruptcy herself, or just stop paying (with her age and various medical conditions, along with minimal payments, her debt is going to outlast her.) Worst case for not paying? Credit score tanks. Who cares. Maybe someone comes for the bed - great, have it! The only real concern would be the calls and demands from collection agencies. I wouldn't worry about them calling mom, but given that they know how to find relatives, etc (SO much easier now, with the internet!!), they will likely harass OP as well.

I would certainly at least try to get a few free initial consults with an attorney, with mom in tow, to figure out the options available.
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My parents were in a similar situation a few years ago. I also considered bankruptcy. I chose a different route. My father is the one with Alzheimer’s my mother the one with money problems. They were $25,000 in Credit card debt, had a really big car payment and we’re behind on their mortgage and other bills. Here’s what I did..
1. I got conservatorship and guardianship of my father. All of my parents retirement income is in his name with the exception of one Social Security payment my mother gets..
2. I used a debt consolidator call led Greenpath Financial to cancel and reduce all the interest payments on my mothers credit cards. I now pay one monthly (much lower) payment to them which they disperse to all of the creditors.
3. I contacted my mothers credit union that financed her car. I was able to arrange one monthly payment to be missed. I think it’s called a financial hardship request.
4. I contacted my parents mortgage company and went through a loan modification process. I was able to show their financial hardship and have the loan modified into a lower payment. Their home payment is now $200 less every month.
5. I created a estate account, because I was required to buy law. I use this account to pay all of my parents bills which are now automated. I allocate enough money for my mother to buy groceries and have some spending money for the month. If she needs more I can transfer money into that account from the estate account.
6. I sold my father‘s truck which he could not drive anymore anyway. With that money I was able to pay off delinquent bills and put some money into savings.

this wasn’t an easy process and it took many months to get everything in order however I think it was better than filing for bankruptcy in our case.

If you Tell your mom you are doing this out of love and concern for her future and well-being as well as taking the stress and worry away from you maybe she will understand. I know how feisty seniors can be : ) I did have support from my husband who helped with those conversations and she eventually came around. Sometimes hearing it from somebody that’s not your child is received better.

I wish you the best of luck I know how stressful this can be but I guarantee you if you were able to get control of your mother’s finances everyone will feel a load off of their shoulders.
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GardenArtist Jan 2021
I'm impressed!   You're very organized and knowledgeable, and I'm sure a cherished asset to your family.
Well, as you say, your Mom is not incompetent. She is willing to owe everyone, and that includes you. She still HAS her credit cards, and likely when they are paid down she will use again. I would make it clear, given your own investment of your own money (which, by the way, you should NOT have done. Who will take care of YOU when you end up with no money in old age?) that bankruptcy and continuing to pay you is her only choice. Otherwise you will let her go into care, and on medicaid, and she can die with these debts intact, as the nursing home will be getting all her money until she applies for medicaid.
Your plans and your past has complexity. Congratulations on doing the care plan and having all your receipts; please stay her and advise others on that, if you would. But for yourself? You and Mom should see an elder law attorney. I would make it quite gently clear that if Mom cannot cooperate now, and chooses to do things her way, she will be doing them alone.
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Your profile says your mother is 90-yrs old but you don't state that she has dementia. Some questions for you:
- are you joint on any of her credit cards or loans or any debt accounts?
- are you her financial/medical or durable PoA?

You must remember that filing for bankruptcy also costs money. My MIL paid $1500 to "someone" who helped her file (and I think she also paid this person in possessions, like jewelry). The filing was valid. But 15 years after that she (and idiot husband) were in no better shape financially: he really never worked, she retired early from her low-paying job, they had a ballooning second mortgage, owed $12k in back property taxes and he still owed more than $10K in cc debt. In their early 80s he got Parkinsons and she developed short-term memory loss. My husband had PoA for her, no one had PoA for him.

Long story short we wrote the credit card collection agencies to tell them they both had dementia and had moved into nursing homes (not quite true but was imminent and it stopped them from contacting them). Any further mail was marked, "No longer at this address, return to sender." We talked to the mortgage company and basically told them the same and allowed the home to go into foreclosure. We sold everything of theirs that was sellable for cash and kept it out of their bank account (which was basically empty) for any of their future needs. It wasn't much, like $8K total. StepFIL became a ward of the state. We applied for Medicaid for her and she started in AL in a nice facility and is now in LTC.

At 90 years old I don't think there's any reason to continue paying on your mom's debt if she doesn't have enough to live on for basic survival. Your own family is priority and if I were in your position I would tell her that a condition of her living with you is to assign you as her PoA. She should transition into AL but only if your state is one for which Medicaid will pay (it doesn't in my state).

You can do a down and dirty PoA by downloading the proper docs for your state from or She and you will need to have it notarized and witnessed. Download 1 copy per PoA and one for your mom. All involved need an original signed doc to present when asked.

Once you have PoA, take her for a cognitive exam (you can request this discretely from her doctor). If she does poorly on the test, then she is probably a candidate for MC or LTC and she can be transitioned into a care facility that takes Medicaid. This is all assuming she would qualify. For the immediate moment I would call social services and have them come out to see if she qualifies for any in-home services and talk to them about Medicaid for her. You simply cannot rob yourself and your children because your mom couldn't be responsible with money. That's on her. And, you are not responsible for her happiness. She is a grown woman who had 30 years as a widow to ponder and plan for her later years and exit. I'm sure you love her and none of this will go down well with her and it will feel horrible, until she's out and you see there is life after this profound change and she is getting good care and your visits aren't fraught with anger and anxiety. I wish you much courage and wisdom and peace in your heart for whatever you choose to do.
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Contact an attorney for advice.
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Several red flags, the primary being you say she doesn't have dementia. Most POAs become "activated" when the person is no longer capable. Even if she had dementia, as others noted, the POA would need to be a very specially written one to cover it. If she doesn't have dementia, she would have to be the one to apply for bankruptcy and sign the documents.

Short and sweet here:

You may be able to find one or more Elder Law attys who will give an initial consultation (usually less than an hour), to answer questions like this. You would be best advised to seek legal advice. Even though it might cost a bit now to get their help, if they CAN truly help get her out of this debt, it will slow or stop the drain on your resources.

(If the stuff in storage is crap, can you just start pitching whatever isn't really worth anything, eventually emptying it? If she doesn't go there or ask to see the stuff, I'd start getting rid of it, donating what might be useful to others, etc.)

Question: If you don't charge her for groceries or sundries, how are you spending $12k on her? Generally housing and food are the 2 biggest expenses a person has, but you own the house (even if there is a MTG, that would exist with or without her, it wouldn't increase your expenses), and you're feeding her and providing supplies (unless she's eating meals fit for a King everyday, enough food for a 3rd person also won't add up to that much.) A little increase in utils wouldn't likely add up to about 1k/month. It is rather confusing how you've presented that (BTW, I juggle my own expenses, my mother's condo and MC for 2 years before we could sell the condo, managed all her care and costs for 2 more years, managed her pension and SS, continue to manage the trust and now preparing for an estate account AND my daughter's debt, which she pays for every 2 weeks, so it's not like I don't know numbers!!! I also don't get paid for any of this.)
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babziellia Jan 2021
Hey, I answered below in the thread. Mom IS particular about her food. I pretty much charge her (record) non food purchases that we would otherwise not buy or buy in that quantity.
Covid has made costs worse. Box of gloves was $3 and now $15.
First get in contact with a good Elder Attorney.  Second, quit spending your money to cover her debt.  Unless your name is on her credit card, quit paying it.  either call or send them a letter explaining (maybe after you contact the elder attorney) the situation that she has no money to pay the bill.   Sell the bed for a couple hundred dollars if not usable and taking up space.   The elder attorney will be able to help in all matters.  CALL TODAY.......
My mother has no life insurance either (she is 93)......I think back in their day even $1000 was a lot of money and they thought it would last or do them, but that is not how it is.  Even young kids today cannot afford life insurance........its a sad situation for a lot of people.  I don't know if you can recoop what you spent but do NOT throw away your everything to the Elder Attorney..........GOOD LUCK
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You might call one of those credit consolidation companies - they can negotiate for a lower pay off and you send them the money. They use your payment to pay on credit card 1,2,3 etc. As one credit card gets paid off, they redistribute the payment over the remaining two cards, etc. That will mean, of course, that she will have no credit card to use for any emergency or storage - the cards are closed down. However, it's doable

Go back to your 'plan'. You added up household expenses (utilities, etc) and came up with a rental plan, of sorts, of what she would owe for her part as a roomer/boarder/tenant in your house. If there are 3 of you in the house, most people do the math by saying each will pay 1/3, What's the point?
Realistically, you have to pay all those things even if you didn't have her there. And it doesn't allow you to save any of her money for the eventual funeral/cremation, emergency. Not to mention the storage probably contains items that will just ruin if left unused for long periods of time. Bottom line, she pays you 50% of what you charged her for rent and then you turned around and gave it back to her for her 'real' expenses. Your real out of pocket is probably not $6K - she gave you some rent, you gave it back. If you really paid out of pocket for her needs, evaluate what it was. Forget her share of the mtg or utility payment: make a list of her income and her bills. The difference is what she can afford for any kind of housing or personal needs. One credit card and a bed? Tear the card up. Make min payment for the rest of her life and no more charges. Or make less than minimum payment - who cares. Just no more charges on it

In any event, you expect to get this rent from her and keep it for your use (like a regular landlord would do). Impossible. After one year, you pretty much charged her for housing and just gave it back to her.

Why does she live with you? Health, mobility? Can she live on her own in an apartment? Get her on a list for government apt where rent is based on income, sliding scale. She can just quit paying the credit cards and the bed and use all her income towards rent, food, utilities. Destroy all credit cards so she has none. Have her mail delivered to your house so you can toss out new credit card offers. She has to learn to live on available cash in the bank. Period.

You say she is clear headed, just a spender. So you sit her down with 'here's your income and here's your bills. Bottom priority on the list is, let's say, the storage. You are throwing away $xx a month to store things you do not use. We need to thin it out drastically. Sell all of the appliances - keep going down on price until you get rid of anything like that - frig, toasters,microwave, etc. Then go for clothing. Do some keep, sell, donate piles and make sure she's involved. It's very possible you can get the hoard down to a much smaller/cheaper storage or eliminate all together. If she's not willing, then go back to the income/bills list and ask her - you don't have enough for all of this, so what bill are you going to eliminate. Or ask her if she would like to start an application to live in a nursing home - they take all of your money and leave you with $30 (might be a tad more now) per month to do what you want and none of your money could be used to pay for the storage room. So storage seems to be the first thing of wasted money to deal with - keep bringing her back to that. She probably already has what she would need, in her bedroom, in the event she went to small apartment or to a nursing home. Thin out the rest.
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Take away all access to your mother's money now. Give her only a reloadable debit card with a small amount that she can use for sundries. Get rid of everything in storage - sell it if you can - and stop paying for storage. Also get rid of items - sell as much as you can - that you are storing since stored items are rarely used or needed.

Stop paying for things for your mother. Buy food and pay utilities from your accounts because everybody needs those. Make sure her medications, medical items and personal care items come from her money. I would suggest pre-paying for mortuary services so that is paid for when she passes.

Consult lawyer who specializes in family care or elder care about her debt and how to use your POA for her finances. He/She will probably advise you to talk to credit card companies and anybody else she owes to set up a payment plan and creating a "bare bones" budget for your mom - and make sure she sticks to it. It usually helps to pay down one credit card with her finances while meeting the minimums on the other. She/she can also advise you on setting your mother up with Medicaid if she qualifies. She/he is your best advisor for whether or not to file for bankruptcy.
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