Hi everyone, I could REALLY use some advice. I'm in a very difficult situation and facing a decision I don't know how to make on my own. My mother is 65, has mild-moderate dementia from alcohol abuse which manifests as absolutely no short-term memory, cannot learn new skills, confabulates and becomes disoriented when she leaves her house. She stopped drinking after being hospitalized. She cannot drive due to peripheral vision loss (I believe she has also had small strokes), but is still mostly independent - can clean her house, make her own meals, care for herself and her small dog, etc. We have an extremely troubled relationship - I'm an only child, she isn't married, and she has emotional issues including borderline personality disorder, social avoidance, agoraphobia, depression, etc. Over the years she pushed away all of her friends and most of family members, leaving me and a handful of others to care for her; she refuses psychiatric and most medical help, and is extremely stubborn. Not only do we not get along, I find it traumatic to be around her too long. Since all of these memory issues began about three years ago, I have become her power of attorney and taken over all of her finances (they were a total mess) and I order her grocery deliveries for her weekly. I live out of state, so I visit every few months and take her to doctor's appointments, out to eat, etc. She is on a very fixed budget - small monthly check from social security because she had to retire early, and supplements with monthly withdrawals from her 401k/IRA, which is under $90,000 and needs to last her the rest of her life. She owns her home (3BR /2BA, not very high value), and between that asset and the savings cannot qualify for Medicaid, so there is no financial assistance that I know of. So, I've worked hard to get her finances stabilized and make this situation work for us both until her dementia escalates and she needs to be placed in an assisted living or memory care facility, which I feel is probably inevitable. It's a crappy situation, but it's mostly stable. Here's where the current issue begins: my cousin, who has always had a good relationship with my mother, is planting the idea in my mom's head that she should sell her house and buy a new house 45 minutes away from where she currently lives, so she can be closer to her. In theory I like the idea of her being closer to someone she actually gets along with, who can help with doctor visits, give her some company, etc. However, I think the idea of a 65-year-old woman who is mentally unwell and suffering from dementia and lives alone *buying a new house* in a strange place, with virtually no money to spare is not only terrible, but impossible. Worse, my mom is now *obsessed* with the idea and texts me about it constantly. Financially speaking, I HAVE to plan for the possibility of her living 20+ more years, and I cannot allow her to sink what little savings she has into a down payment on a new house. I'm just trying to be financially responsible in a situation where there is literally no one else to do it. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? Entertain the idea? Look for a rental instead? Call my cousin and explain to her why it can't work and politely ask her to stop interfering in a situation she doesn't know a whole lot about? Is there a way financially this could make sense? I have NO idea...I'm certainly no financial expert, but the idea of it scares me a lot. Believe me, I would welcome someone else sharing the load of caring for my mother. But is it unfair to feel like my role in this situation is being undermined? I feel like they are conspiring behind my back without even a fragment of an understanding of a) her finances or b) the severity of her mental problems, and I have no idea how to speak to anyone about this. I know I've just written a novel, but I feel helpless in an increasingly problematic and quickly escalating situation, and could use ANY advice you may have. Thank you so much.

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You have done all the right steps in my book. Your story is so similar to mine though my mom refused any move.

Yes, talk to cuz and explain your concerns. Tell her you support move closer but you’d like her help in encouaraging mom to a small rental to preserve her assets. Buying a house by older persons especially with health issues is foolish especially in this market.

Of course if cuz can encourage mom into AL that would be even better but expensive $2500/mo and mom may hate it. A nice senior living apt or other apt would be ideal.

Eventually mom will have to go into AL or memory care. My mom had multiple crisis and watched by social services for a year before a final crisis where doctor would sign off on incompetence to care for herself and be safe in her home.

I worried for her financial expenses in memory care but knew sale of home and other assets will last at least 3 yrs. she’s in great place and thriving but still “thinking she will go home”. I let her think that to keep the peace and not break her heart.
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You guys could not have been more helpful--thank you so, so much for your responses. Barbara1953 and others who recommended an elder care attorney, I think this is a GREAT idea. I probably should have done it years ago, but hey, there's no playbook for this stuff.

I agree that my cousin doesn't really know what she's getting herself into. I should also mention that she has two very young children, one with an intellectual disability, which makes it all even more confounding; I'm not sure if she thinks my mother will provide some sort of childcare (worst idea ever), but she should know that she would essentially be dealing with a 65-year-old toddler, given my mother's personality issues and mental capacity. Certainly I'm going to need to have a tough conversation with her, as many of you suggested.

Frankly I think my mother is just miserable in her life (always has been) and needs something to fixate on, whether or not it will a) solve any problems or b) make MY life miserable.

I forgot to mention that for YEARS I have been proposing a plan to my mother that she come live near me, an area where I could easily set her up in a small house/cabin. She flat out refuses, won't consider the possibility (she doesn't want to live where it's cold, even though she doesn't like leaving the house--heh). In my mind, this is an excellent solution for both of us. Oh well.

I feel a million times better having gotten some outside perspective. Going to give my cousin a call and hash this out, then find an elder attorney in my mom's area for guidance. Thank you so, so much!

OH--and I'm a daughter :D
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If you are a son, straycat, I apologize for assuming otherwise.
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Good point, Jeanne. [What put you on to him? Was it the practical problem-solving focus?! - okay that's quite enough casual sexism for one day ;)]

It certainly does sound as if the cousin is in serious danger of biting off more than she can chew. And if the OP had a sadistic streak a mile wide s/he might well be tempted to leave them to it and watch the show.

I love CWillie's answer. I would also get someone who does specialise in this financial area to have a good look at the numbers. Other than that, it sounds to me as if your approach is exemplary - responsible without getting too close for comfort, and above all somehow keeping patience. Well done.
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(How do others know you are a daughter? Did I miss something?)

A person with dementia cannot safely live alone past the earliest stages. They can live in a care center or with a caregiver in the house, but not alone. Even if they can do all the activities of daily living, they are at risk because of poor judgement, limited memory, often paranoia and delusions, etc.

So let us say you figure out how to make the finances work and Mom buys a house closer to a family member she gets along with. Before too long she has some kind of a crisis -- maybe a fall, locking herself out of the house, going for a walk and getting lost, etc. A doctor determines that she can no longer live alone.

Now what? Cousin going to move in with her? She moves in with Cousin? (Absolutely NOT she moves in with you!!) She goes into a memory care facility or an assisted living place or even a nursing home? And now there is another house to sell.

I really like the idea of Mom moving closer to a family member she gets along with. But buying a house makes no sense whatsoever.

I don't suppose you need another task right now, but I think a consultation with a lawyer specializing in Elder Law (with mother's money) would be a good move right now to explore the options.

BTW, do you have medical POA as well as financial? (This is often stated in an advance healthcare directive.)
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Straycat, all things considered it appears you've done a great job at getting your mother in a currently stable situation. However, when our mothers become "obsessed" with moving, I personally know they can literally drive you up the proverbial wall. (whether it's moving back home because "my friends will take care of me", moving to someplace different because she "hates this place", moving to an assisted living facility in Timbuktu because her cousin lives there and they have "lots of activities", they can make us feel like we died and went to caregiver hades with their constant obsessing over it.)

I'm wondering if your power of attorney is immediately effective (as in now...sounds like it is.) If so, you have power over her finances. Unfortunately, that doesn't give us the power to force our parents to live here or there if they are still legally mentally competent. What kind of relationship do you have with the cousin who is encouraging her to move near her? Sounds like it might be time for some communication between you and cuz. Because if cuz talks her into the move, and you're still stuck with POA responsibilities, knowing that it will all fall on you when everything hits the fan, and with her issues, it will hit the fan, then if possible a candid conversation seems in order.

It sounds to me like your mother faces considerable challenges, which means in turn that YOU face those challenges too as her primary caregiver. I would only say if she's stable in her current home, can fix food, take care of activities of daily living, then it would be best if she stays there as long as she's able. Once she moves, nobody, including her, knows how she will react.  P.S. A move is ultimately inevitable, but when it happens, she needs to move near you.
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I agree with Windy. The cousin probably has no idea what she would be getting herself into by living together with your mom.

You are doing what is best for your mother and you do not need to explain everything to the cousin. I would let cousin know that this idea is agitating your mother and that you will not support it.

My husband and I went through this last year with a well-meaning family member who screwed EVERYTHING up for my then newly-widowed father-in-law by opening his big mouth about a situation he knew nothing about. My husband had an unpleasant but necessary conversation with that family member.

As your mother's dementia progresses, you will need to step in more often and protect her from more situations. It's a lot of work and it's draining.

You are a good daughter. Keep doing what you think is best for your mother. No one knows what she's really like because she probably puts on a show for visitors, which is what my FIL still does.
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If you like the idea of having her moving closer to your cousin but not the part about buying a house then maybe you can find a compromise....what if you find a facility with a continuing level of care in her community, that way mom and cousin get to be closer but supports are available for her as well. This could be a blessing in disguise if it helps to pry your mother from her current home, that is often a stumbling point for many. If you enlist cousin to help with the logistics it could also be a positive way to stop the tug of war over mom between you and cousin.
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First, have a talk with the cousin.. no way mom needs to be buying real estate. Also...Is cous up to dealing with mom? If cous is pushing her to buy a house it indicate that cous isn’t thinking this through.

Your mom will end in care. She will never agree and may have to be forced by you getting guardianship or APS forcing her.

The other scenario which is typical is mom’s in determine she can’t live step in and place her in care. I just went through that with both parents. I’m 12 hours from them BTW.

Start checking out Medicaid regs in your state. She may qualify after some spend down. House will probably have to be sold to pay for care or to repay Medicaid after her death.

This is tough stuff.  Good luck.
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Straycat, you are such a good daughter to still want to help your mentally ill mom.

If mom is still competent, can you get her to an elder care attorney to discuss what sort of plan would be in her best interest? Would she listen to a professional? She might be able to buy a Medicaid compliant annuity with her savings, giving her a stable income stream.

What about this? Can she use her assets to pay for Assisted Living, with the thought that, if she gets into a place that accepts Medicaid as payment after a certain period of private pay? Can you research that?
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