My mother is 71 and has dementia. She is in debt for $35,000 from credit cards and other bills. Her only income is SS, what can I do? - AgingCare.com

My mother is 71 and has dementia. She is in debt for $35,000 from credit cards and other bills. Her only income is SS, what can I do?

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My father passed in 2013 and mom was left with some savings and her Social Security benefits. She was diagnosed with dementia in 2016. She lives in a mobile home that she owns in a park for people 55 and older. There were different times when her cable TV and cell phone had been shut off for not paying her bill, when she had money in her account. She also forgot to pay on her gas and electric for a few months at a time and now has a large outstanding balance with them. This is when I realized I needed to check her bank account and go through all her bills, mail, and all her paperwork. I had to take over her finances and do the best I can with what she brings in a month from Social Security. I added up all her credit cards, and other outstanding bills she owes. She is in debt for $35,000 plus. Her SS pays her rent, car payment, utilities, and some food. She has nothing left over after those bills are paid. Her savings is all gone, now she is getting shut notices, credit card collection agencies are calling and mailing her certified letter. She also was served a summon for one of her cards. What can I do? Is there any kind of assistance for seniors on low income? What hurts me the most is she doesn't remember if she's paid her bills or not. Doesn't know what day of the week it is or the date and I truely believe she has no clue how much in debt she is in. I am having power of attorney paperwork drawn up now.

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I'm very sorry to hear about your mother. It must seem overwhelming to discover things so out of control. It doesn't sound like your mother should be driving, perhaps not living alone? When did you last ride with her? She needs to go to a neurologist for evaluation. Has she kept her insurance paid? Has she been to a GP recently?  Did you have her checked for a UTI? Does she have other medical issues? You can take her to her bank and have all her regular bills put on auto pay. Be careful how you put your name on documents being cautious not to be held personally responsible for her bills. Did you go to a NAELA certified attorney to get the POA? You need advice on Medicaid rules for your state in order to make correct steps going forward. Be careful how you handle the debt. Try to reduce her expenses and pay it off. If she files for bankruptcy it can appear as income to her that could then be a block to her receiving Medicaid when she needs it. This is why you need an experienced attorney. If her neurology report indicates that she should not be driving then selling her car might help you reduce the debts and she would no longer need registration and title or auto insurance, maintenance etcetera.
Depending on the value of her home you might be able to sell it and pay off her debts entirely and get her in housing she can afford with her social security.
From your post it sounds like she will need your help managing her care going forward. So get the best testing and legal advice now. Each state has slightly different rules on Medicaid so keep that in mind. Realize that even if you brought her into your home she will most likely need memory care in her future. 
There is a possibility that she has been extremely depressed which can be treated and perhaps return her to a more manageable state of mind. List the name of her state and other posters might have a more detailed response for her area. 
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