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My mom is 73. She is retired, although she works a part-time job, for some entertainment and to keep busy. She is showing some worrisome signs and making some decisions that seem to show a denial of age, and I guess I don't know if I should do something or if pushing her on this issue is controlling and disrespectful of her autonomy.

She owns 3 homes, and all are in need of serious work. Her late parents' home was left to her, and she refuses to sell it, despite the fact that she isn't likely ever to move into it. It's huge and beautiful, and my grandfather built it...but it's in a tiny little town and selling it will be difficult. It also needs some significant work and is full of stuff.

Her own home, where my parents lived together, was damaged by negligent workers trying to correct a leaning chimney. She was given money in a settlement, but has yet to hire the various people required for repairs: plumber, electrician, mason, etc. It will be a job. At this point, the outlets in various spots don't work, and my sister has informed me there is a strong sewer smell in a bathroom... basically, the workers trying to lift the chimney cracked the foundation, the firebox, etc. It's been very upsetting. My brother lives with her there and has for some years now. He doesn't have a job, and often stays out late at night, drinking, and uses her car without her knowledge because his own is broken down. My sister believes he is selling drugs too...but he is my mom's favorite child by a mile. I doubt she will ever accept or believe these things about him. He is an awesome guy when he is working, but is wildly picky about jobs. So, showing him a vacancy is kind of pointless. Sad as it sounds, I've basically given up on his vacating her house and growing up.

Anyhow, she also has a third house, which my sister lives in rent-free. I don't necessarily have an issue with that. My sis is a single working mom and she pays for things as she can.

I guess what bothers me is that I feel confident that my mom is suffering from depression, and I think at least part of it is the physical and emotional clutter in her life... a son who doesn't live as an adult, two houses FULL of stuff (We're talking Hoarders situations in the making, here), and so on.

I've tried to talk to my mom about clutter, about the situation, etc... If I had it my way, my brother would be removed to a small apartment and given the financial resources to live for one month, to cover time before finding a job and a first paycheck. But, I don't want to tell my mom what to do, either... and she is famously stubborn, so it's not a helpful to tell her what to do, anyhow.

I'm conflicted between jumping in, to hire people to fix her house, selling her parents' house, kicking my brother out, etc... and feeling like I don't have the right to do any of this.

*Sigh*

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Hey yo yo, windy here. You seem to have a bit of a mess here, or rather your Mom does. The brother is a big problem. But if he's moms little man, and she's mentally competent I don't know what you can do. I spent 20 years watching my siblings drive my parents crazy and practically bankrupt them and there was nothing I could do. You are probably not going to convince mom to boot him out but anyway you can pressure him? Guilt trip? Know any biker dudes that could stop by and visit?

The houses sound like total money pits. And you mom is not going to deal with them. In the end, you and sibs will inherit some shove down or at best, as is properties that will be hugely discounted on the market. I have a similar situation. My folks have a little crappy house that's on some very valuable acreage. I struggle with them to keep the place safe and livable. When they're gone it will be sold as is. I Will go through and get stuff of any value, mostly sentimental stuff, the rest will get bulldozed.

Unless you want to take on the task of caretaking and fixing all of moms properties, I think you may end up like me. Get the stuff you need, sell it and come what may. I say all this with the assumption that your mom is of the same mind, or lack thereof, as my parents. I'm spend about 100 years in the building trades and can fix about anything. But at 60 years old I'm not going to spend the next few years messing around with an old house to increase my inheritance by a few bucks.

I will say this. You do need to deal with the house your mom lives in. At minimum the electrical, plumbing (particularly proper venting of gas appliances) should be checked and in working order. She should have working smoke detectors. I highly recommend the newer wireless, battery powered detectors that communicate and will cascade the alarm around the house.
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Of what subject was she a professor? I'm wondering if she could become involved in a book club, especially if she was a literature professor. That would allow her to use her teaching skills in a way that requires focus, planning, analysis and presentation. I think it would be great therapy for her.
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Thank you for your ideas.
I think DPOA is worth looking into...and I think she would actually be on board with that. I know she has a living will. I am the co-executor of her estate, with an attorney, and I am on her bank accounts as well...and she instigated all of that, some time ago.

I DON"T think my mom is happy. I think she's thrown her hands up in exasperation...at my brother's behavior (although she holds onto the image of the person he is when employed), at the house situation, everything. I think she's overwhelmed. This is a woman who raised us in near-immaculate conditions and who misses her parents, my father, and her work as a university professor desperately. My sister was instrumental in getting her the job...which has been a Godsend. The little natural foods store where she works seems to be the light of her life, at present.

Anyhow, thanks. You've been quite helpful.
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Sunnygirl makes a good point about the liability of the son using her car w/o her permission. Help her find a secure place for the car keys so he can't take them.
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There are very helpful suggestions above. I hope they help. I would also consider what I might do in worst case scenario.

Worst case is that she isn't receptive and refuses to allow any intervention and the problems get worse. Hoarders often refuse to deal with reality and they refuse to pay for any services, repair or clean up.

Fast forward and she is declining and still refusing help. (You say above she's showing some worrisome signs. Is this due to depression or dementia or do you know? ) And there are three properties. There are taxes to pay, insurance premiums, utility bills, repairs, etc. If you don't have Durable Power of Attorney, your hands will really be tied to get anything done. However, the drinking son is a huge problem driving her car. Even if she is not at fault, if he wrecks drunk and harms someone, they are likely to sue the owner of the car in addition to him! Get legal advice immediately about that.

I might tread lightly on changing things until I got her POA, Healthcare POA, etc., signed. At least with those, you have some authority over matters if she is no longer able down the road. It sounds like brother and sister have a huge vested interest in preventing someone from looking out for mom's best interest. Remember no good deed goes unpunished.
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"Mom, is there anything I can do to help you? You seem really down lately. Can I be a sympathetic ear?" And I sure do mean EAR. Mouth shut. You have very strong feelings about how mom should run her life. But other than saying mom seems depressed lately, you've made it pretty clear she's happy with how things are.

Does anyone have mom's healthcare and financial powers of attorney? Now there's a constructive place to start to guide mom. And might be worth working on even before you address anything else.

Your last paragraph? Don't be conflicted. You don't have the right to do any of that. Easy does it. If you want to influence your mom, first thing you have to do is bend over BACKWARDS to understand her.
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Don't jump in yet with plans, jump in first with suggestions, one or two, but keep it simple. You can respect your mother's autonomy by helping her address solutions and guiding the implementation of those solutions.

E.g., what's the most unsafe and/or money leaking property? The house with the multiple problems, including what might be a health issue in the bathroom? If so:

(a) Contact the homeowners insurance company to see if any of the damages are covered (in addition to your mother having received a settlement, which I assume was through litigation).

(b) Make an inventory of and prioritize the problems, take lots and lots of photos, categorize by trades and start looking for licensed, qualified tradesmen and/or contractors with good reputations. Sometimes municipal building departments can advise as to who's done a lot of quality work in that community and with whom they haven't had any problems.

(c) Given that the foundation was cracked, I'd also get a structural engineer involved to advise what's involved, as I suspect it's going to be complicated and expensive. It may be that the expense exceeds the worth, even if the house does have sentimental value.

(d) Start getting estimates from at least 3 contractors or tradesmen/women and suggest to your mother that her home needs to be repaired for her health and safety and ask if you could hire the tradesmen/women necessary to start on that.

(e) If you're not already named in a DPOA, consider asking your mother for one so you can handle the contracting work yourself, but make sure that you have your mother's willingness to pay for the before any contracts are signed for remedial work (assuming a structural engineer advises repair).

Or discuss going to the bank and adding your name as a joint signatory on her checking account if your mother's agreeable.

(f) In the meantime, list other issues that need attention and prioritize them, but don't discuss more than one issue at a time with your mother. That way you simplify her responses to yes or no rather than choosing between major projects.

If she's unable to make a decision, ask her to think about it for a few days, then raise the issue and suggest at least one step to get started.

(g) I would be overwhelmed with 3 houses so really focus on keeping the issues narrowed so she doesn't become so inundated with decisions that she can't make them at all.

(h) The lazy brother is an issue in itself, but I think the safety and health of your mother comes first, and the fact that there's a sewer smell in the bathroom, nonworking electrical outlets (may be a fire hazard if wires were damaged) concerns me. You might even consider asking her to move out until the repairs are completed.

That's just for starters, and it in and of itself is overwhelming. I can understand why your mother might be depressed. I most certainly would.

WindyRidge is a retired electrician; I'm going to ask him to offer some construction advice, especially as to the electrical issues. He can help put things in perspective and probably can offer some suggestions on the issue of the cracked foundation.
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I really can sympathize with you! I'm pretty sure your mom is a 'hoarder' and may very well be depressed. Is she willing to go see a psychiatrist? They maybe able to help her both with counseling and meds. I'm pretty sure they could help her as hoarding is often done because of anxiety that they have. Good luck, Lindaz
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