How to deal with secretive, negative mother who lies?

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My mother is 81yo, good health, but gets anger and defensive when I ask questions about where she goes or who she is with... my father died about 6 years ago. Her behavior has changed drastically since then ( over spending, gambling etc) , new friends whom I have never heard of calling constantly. She let's "her friends" influence her financial decisions. This is upsetting fo , she only seems to call me when she needs help , a ride here or there. At this point, my fear is that someone else has POA , but they are not family. Yes, could be dementia, but doesn't have any symptoms . Prior to my father's death, we never went anywhere other than as family unit. I find this quite upsetting, as she treats me like an acquaintance , not her own flesh & blood. Any thoughts about this please ?

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Throw mom a birthday party and invite her friends. Ask proving but polite questions, like where do you work, how long have you lived in town, were did you move from. Then follow up to see if there are any apparent lies. Take pictures. Background checks are easy and cheap on the internet. Con people hate pictures and questions. You may discover mom's friends are legit. If the friends are legit be happy she has a social network, and continue to work on your relationship. If the friends do not check out call a lawyer, or reach out to the local PD.
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My FIL had this kind of lifestyle before he married the second time. Gambling, women, party life. After my MIL died, it was like someone threw a switch. Back to the same ole, same ole. We once went without hearing from him for 6 months, he had a couple of girlfriends at once and they were ready to fight over him, they would call our house (finally put a stop to that stupidity), and he took POA from my husband and gave it to a card playing buddy. He has been a mess and misery to be around.
When he got to the point he needed visiting nurses coming in, we found out he was paying them extra and there was quite a bit going on that was a problem. He has dementia now but honestly, with his choices and lifestyle -- he must have had it for the last 50-60 years. I honestly think dementia is the new "the devil made me do it" with some people.
It finally all hit the fan when he went to the hospital and ended up in a geriatic mental ward for a week and is now in a nursing home. My husband and I am tired of him dragging our family down. Husband now has POA again. FIL's house is getting a 10K fix and being sold. He is staying where he is so he can't continue to drag all of us down. We even went to our own attorney to ensure he cannot affect our family financially/legally.
Be careful what you get dragged into and protect, protect, protect yourself first.
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You do have reason for concern with the friends influencing her financials, but maybe your mother is just trying to have a social life and feels that you are prying too much into her business. Try to set up a mother daughter day with her, lunch, shopping and just try to have a nice casual day with her and test the waters from there. Keep an eye out for things being out of sorts, discuss her friends with her as to what they like doing but don't get too pushy or she will most likely clam up. Hope it helps.
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If you have the resources, you might consider hiring a private detective to learn where she is going and to profile some of the people she is associating with, and what their relationship is.
Certainly, you might also consult with an attorney who specializes in elder issues.
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Being unable to fully understand consequences (gambling and overspending) and drastic changes in behavior ARE symptoms of dementia. We seem to get hung up on memory as being the main indicator. It's not unusual for noticeable changes in memory to not come along until someone has been affected by dementia for quite some time.
When I thought back about my father, what what looked like drastic changes after his girlfriend died had actually come gradually and had were entirely financial in the beginning and have only now (5 years later) affected his memory. Because there was someone else living with him and compensating for him, I wasn't seeing the effects of the dementia.
It could be that your mom has been on a long, gradual decline but it wasn't noticeable while your father was alive.
I can tell you from personal experience that it's VERY difficult to save someone from themselves when they lose their ability to make good decisions about their finances. If your mom is defensive, it's unlikely you'll get her POA easily. And, even with a POA, she's free to run through her money as she likes unless you really work hard to secure it. My dad had dozens of credit cards going and had entirely run through his assets. Don't let that happen to you.
You might try taking your mom to an elder law attorney. Sometimes, a parent will respect an expert over their child. Be sure to prep the attorney ahead of time to be very cautious in her language so your mom doesn't get spooked and think you're trying to 'control' her.
Safeguards can be put in place to at least minimize the damage your mom can do. For example, if she has all her assets in an accessible form (like mutual funds, etc) you might consider setting up some or all of it in an irrevocable annuity so she would have a monthly income and couldn't blow through any more than the amount of the payment each month.
To get control of my dad's bill paying, I had to change our relationship (threats and tears didn't work). He, like your mom, only contacted me when he wanted something from me. I had to visit him more often (which was hard in the beginning because I was SO angry with him). After awhile, I had more empathy for him and he trusted me more. He still drives me crazy with his habits and spending, but it's much improved from where it was.
Good luck! I feel your pain.
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If her anger in response to your questions is a relatively new experience with your Mom, this may definitely be a sign of dementia. My Mom did the same thing - and it was so painful... but in retrospect, I now see that Mom seriously did not remember things... when I think of the times she snapped at me when I'd ask her questions (for example: Mom, where would you like to go to lunch today? And she responded: Oh, I don't want to play that game with you) it causes me to flinch a bit as I took it so personally. When, in reality, she couldn't remember things and lashed out.

Your Mom can choose to have anyone be her POA. You can still love, support and serve her.
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She actually may be exhibiting signs of dementia, it just isn't what you thought it would be. I found my mother giving away money to everyone that called and the last straw was a man showing up at the door. They were all asking for money for charitable organizations but when the man showed up at the door I stepped in and put a stop to it. I do live with her so I was able to watch and intercept phone calls.

Honestly I would follow her if I were you. I would get a friend or family member to help me and I would follow her. There are always lots of "friends" around when you have cash and are willing to spend it on them. She may have fallen prey to some unscrupulous people who will suck her dry. Then how will she live!

Does she have a trust or do you have Power of Attorney over her finances? If you do great, if not, you have a problem.

Don't shame her for what she is doing but try to form a closer connection with her and let her know these people may be taking advantage of her and you want to protect her. They may be nice people and she is just looking for some fun and companionship as well. FOLLOW HER!
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Dear NeedAnswer, The behavioral signs say that your mother is at least in the beginning stage of Dementia. You might Google Dementia (there are 7 types)
and work on getting your mother to a neurologist. Have a private conference with the Dr. first, so that your mother will be led to be cooperative. This is in her
best interest because Dementia is progressive and not curable. A diagnosis will give you some confidence about your relationship, her future and may well be a necessary legal tool down the road. My heart wishes you a good outcome
because I've been there, done that and feel your anxiety.
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Also, don't be shy or timid about this. You parent may be the victim of con artists. My MIL was targeted and if it hadn't have been for her children he would have taken advantage of her. Con artists are very good at what they do and they do target the elderly. This particular con man went through her church, became a "close" friend, and for two years was part of her social circle. In the end his intent was to marry her and take her home and money. He had a criminal record and was a life long con artists. She was one lucky lady to have a loving family who fought for her. Also, she loved her children more than anything or anyone else. In the end they prevailed.
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My father went through a similar stage as your mother. He was in the early stages of mental decline. He hired shady handymen, whom he decided were "friends", and they robbed him blind right under his nose. In the early stages of dementia, physicians who don't know the patient well, will think the elder is simply undergoing stress and acting accordingly. It often takes family members to first spot signs of mental decline, since they can see changes in behavior. And yes, my dad got sneaky, going places and doing things he would never have done before his decline. He took great chances, and he's lucky to still be alive. It's easy for false friends to prey on the elderly when they are declining. You have the right to be concerned. Get POA if you can. If someone else has it, try to do as ellantz suggests, and hire a private investigator. The PI might uncover enough proof to show the false friend is a con man or con woman.
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