My father is 81 years old. He lives independently (still drives) and lives alone since my mother passed away nearly seven years ago. I was raised in a traditional household where my father worked and made all the household financial decisions; my mother was the homemaker. I have two sisters. We (the children) all moved away from the small town where my father still lives. Today, my sisters live approximately four hours away by car and I live in another state.

We discovered both my parents had a bit of a gambling problem over 20 years ago when a casino opened up in a neighboring town. It was my mother who actively sought professional help to address their gambling problem. My father never admitted to having a problem. It was my mother who kept my father away from the casino. However, now that she's gone, there is no real support for my father.

Due to COVID, my father has been deterred from going to the casino. However, he discovered another form of gambling -- scratch offs! Recently, I was given access to his checking account and discovered he made 10 trips in one day to a local convenience store and spent a total of $81 in scratch offs. In one month, he spent $769 on scratch offs! My father has a very limited income (it primarily consists of social security and a rental property that generates an additional $350 per month). He owns his home and vehicle; he really just has utilities and groceries as monthly expenses. Due to my father's gambling problem, my sisters and I have been reluctant to send him cash. We prefer to assist him by buying groceries and covering the cost for minor household repairs.

Unfortunately, my father is in denial of having any kind of gambling problem. Growing up, he was the one we all went to for financial advice. This is a difficult role reversal for me. My fear is that once I confront him about his scratch off purchases, he'll not only be upset but he'll become more secretive about his purchases. In all likelihood, he'll open another checking account.

I would like some advice on how to address this situation with my father. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

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I don't know if anyone mentioned this or not, but you would benefit from contacting Gambler's Anonymous, 1-800-522-4700. They might have a support group for children of gamblers.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to MaryKathleen
NeedHelpWithMom Oct 2, 2020
Great addition to the posting!
Unless your father has dementia, there is nothing you can do. My mother gambled all her money away and now goes to the grocery store and sits there all day playing scratch off tickets. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

You can’t help someone who won’t help themselves.

Don’t beat yourself up over this. If Dad is competent, he is free to make horrible choices.

You can try telling your father to go to gamblers anonymous. If he won’t go you can call gamble anon for someone whose loved one has a gambling addiction.

If you go to gamble anon, they teach you to stay out of it. They don’t teach you how to keep a loved one from gambling. They teach you to NOT enable someone. It’s a 12 step program.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to elaine1962

If your father is not diagnosed with dementia there will be no way to take over his finances. He is free, unfortunately, to flush his money right on down the toilet if he insists on doing so.
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Reply to AlvaDeer

I’m sorry to say if your father does not have dementia, there is nothing you can do. It’s like trying to get a drug addict to stop taking drugs. It’s like trying to get an alcoholic to stop drinking. You can’t! They have to hit bottom and want the help.

My mother is 96 years old and literally gambled ALL of my fathers retirement money. She spent cut when he was alive and then spent the rest when he died in 1998. He was a senior Vice President of a bank and saved a lot of money. She gambled hundreds of thousands of dollars away. Now she looks like a homeless person still living by herself in the house I grew up in.

It is a sad situation and I wish I had better news for you. But unfortunately, if your dad is competent, he is free to gamble ALL his money away. It’s sickening, I know. But you have to let this one go. You can’t change him. I’m sorry you are going through this. Hugs 🤗 to you.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to elaine1962

I agree with others that unless he has dementia there is nothing you can do.

Do you think he is lonely and bored? Maybe helping him find other things to occupy his mind and time would help.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to MammaDrama
chillinwithscb Oct 1, 2020
If your father is competent, don’t treat him like a child. That’s what my 96 year old tells me if I mention her gambling. She yells “Don’t treat me like a child.” So I don’t. Her life, her choice. Any 12 step program will tell you that. Leave them alone. Mind your own business. Worry about your own life, not someone else’s IF THEY ARE COMPETENT.

A therapist will tell you the same thing. Stay out of it and don’t enable.
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Reply to elaine1962
TouchMatters Oct 6, 2020
It isn't treating a person like a child.
It IS treating them as an addict [as the addictive behavior dictates].
Treating an addict is setting boundaries (for yourself and the person who lives the addictive life).

They won't change if you don't - and then, they may not change although you will be out of the equation. The addict will find other ways until they are willing to face their addiction and only IF they want to change or have the cognitive ability to do so.
Have you spoken to his doctor about this issue? Gambling addiction can be a side effect of certain meds, believe it or not.

Unless you have power of attorney for health care, the doctor can't talk to YOU about this issue, but you and your sisters can certainly inform the doctor.

Is he reporting his gambling losses on his taxes? They are deductible.

I wouldn't be supporting him financially if he is gambling away his food money.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn
FloridaDD Sep 28, 2020
Gambling losses are only deductible to the extent of winnings
See 2 more replies
So many people start gambling as recreation and it turns into a serious habit.

I have a friend that told me her husband mortgaged a house to gamble with. His games were blackjack and poker. Sometimes he would play slots with his wife. He was a Vietnam Vet and got a settlement from the army for his medical conditions. He blew it all at the casinos. He had PTSD and I think he self medicated with gambling. Same as people who have underlying issues like depression or bipolar. They use gambling to escape their pain.

It is insane to me to mortgage a house like he did. They lost the home and were forced to rent an apartment.

She gambled too but not that much. She did it for fun. She bet the minimum. He went for broke! He lived by the mentality of ‘Go big or go home!’

He died and she still gambles even during COVID. I think she does it out of boredom and loneliness. It’s very sad.

She will tell me that if she sees someone loosing she gives them money. I told her to be careful because people will take advantage of her.

I don’t have a moral issue with gambling as recreation but when it becomes destructive it is time to seek help.

Some addicts have to hit the bottom before stopping. I wouldn’t give any cash to your dad either but if you are paying other bills than he doesn’t have any motivation to stop.

Is there a gambler’s anonymous in your area? If not there are online self help sites. Does he use a computer? You can go to the meetings that are held for family members. I realize that isn’t a solution but at least you can express your concerns to people who are in the same situation as you are.

Best of luck to you in your attempt to salvage his financial situation. I am sure it is heartbreaking to see him go down this destructive path.

Some people have a combination of issues, gambling, drinking/drugs and smoking at the same time.

My mom has Parkinson’s disease and gambling is listed on certain meds as a possible side effect. Not everyone experiences those side effects but some people do.

My mom never experienced that and has never gambled, drank or smoked a cigarette a day in her life. Just not her thing, she never even attended a bingo game. She was so frugal all of her life. I suppose that came from surviving the depression era.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

Is your father mentally competent or does he have cognitive decline? If the latter, is there a Powers Of Attorney (POA) for financial and medical care with the children? If he does not have POAs in place, please make appointment with lawyer to get those as well as will and advanced directive.

If he is mentally competent, maybe have a discussion about reviewing his finances so you know how to handle them if/when he does need your help. Reviewing the amounts he spends on different items may alert him to a problem with gambling. If he is happy with how he uses his money and all his needs are met - then butt out. That would also include not paying for his groceries or minor home repairs. Giving him money or items in lieu of money is enabling a financial problem.

If he is showing signs of cognition problems - decision-making, difficulty with math, short-term memory loss, losing the ability to handle current technology - please have his doctor evaluate him for dementia. If he is deemed mentally incompetent, then he will need assistance with his finances and can use that POA.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Taarna

Just wondering if you have done a budget with him?

Making him list everything that he has to pay, including home insurance and property taxes might make him understand that he needs to gamble less money away.

I would not support him financially with one penny. He needs to feel the consequences if he spends his money on desire and not need. You actually enable his gambling when you pay for other things.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Isthisrealyreal
DILKimba Oct 1, 2020
I was just going to suggest a written out budget as well. Unfortunately it has been our experience with my in-laws who were very frugal and responsible all their lives that they had never had a budget/understood that concept. They saved $$, they paid their bills and spent what was left. As they aged we saw them making many strange and unwise decisions with money. It wasn’t until they moved into an independent living community and their dementia was progressing rapidly that we started to see just how poor their decision making skills were. When checks started bouncing and we realized that my FIL was driving to the bank daily to check his balance and figure out if he had money in his account that we had to step in. He couldn’t read his own writing in his checkbook, and was double paying some things and not paying others with no records. My BIL started to pay their bills and keep track and found out that even though the community they lived in provided meals daily as part of their rent (they had lost the ability to cook) they were still going out to eat daily-spending $150+ per week on eating out. They were also buying lots of things at the grocery store they never used. They couldn’t comprehend how it was wasting money to go out to eat when they had already paid for meals at the place they lived, because they didn’t take $$ out of their pocket to pay in the dining room. 🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️ So we had to write up a spread sheet on a poster board, laminate it and post it at their apartment:
income Each month $$$
room and board -$
car insurance -$
supplemental insurance -$
prescriptions -$
gasoline -$
car insurance -$
groceries:household items -$
they were coming up in the hole every month
Then on the back we wrote how much they had in savings and divided it by 10 years/per month. They had enough to take $350 per month out of their account for 10 years....but if there were a large medical bill, car bill, etc, then that would diminish.
Thats the ONLY thing that worked to help my FIL’s the kicker. He had been an accountant! But his 85 year old brain didn’t have those skills anymore. And MIL was even worse-and would pout and tantrum and say UGLY things to him if he didn’t let her get what she wanted when she wanted. The only way it really leveled out was a year into it we had to take the car as it had become even more evident that it wasn’t safe for him to drive....that was a different battle but it helped with finances.
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