My older brother (early 50's) never left my parents' home (they are in their 80's) and I am concerned about abuse. What should I do? - AgingCare.com

My older brother (early 50's) never left my parents' home (they are in their 80's) and I am concerned about abuse. What should I do?

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Dysfunctional family situation, my brother always a bully with a violent temper and my parents pretty helpless to handle him. I left the house when I was 17 to get away from it! He didn't finish high school, fathered a child he never saw or supported, runs autoparts business and uses their backyard, garage and two rooms of their house for storage. He has never paid rent and my mom isn't even sure if he collects disability (I think he does). In this family, I'm the odd one: went to college and grad school, have always worked and been independent. I have never been estranged from my parents, but the situation with my brother has always inhibited our relationship (even when they would come to visit me at college it was always fast trips because they were uncomfortable leaving their house with him in it for more than a few days). And now when I visit them I stay in a hotel because there is no room in their 4 bedroom house for me and my family. My parents have loaned him money despite his tendency to lose it all on speculative business deals. He has had court proceedings against him for failure to pay credit card debt. He registers cars that he restores in my parents' names. He has occasional outbursts that have my parents afraid to confront him about anything, and on one of my recent visits he physically threatened me. He owns many guns and so I also have concerns about the safety of the situation. He takes them to dr. visits and does some maintenance on their house, which is good, but because he is so dependent on them financially I think there is serious potential for abuse. He had a will done using an attorney who had purchased a car from him and my mom told me that some of the provisions "surprised" her. So I researched some estate planners after talking with her about the need for a trust, but my parents chose not to pursue this mainly for fear of upsetting my brother. They eventually had one done with a planner associated with their tax preparer, and my mom keeps telling me she wants me to review, but when I visit she doesn't want to bring it out when my brother is there (and he is always there). Last year I did successfully convince them to use their long-term care insurance (Cal-PERS) to get some part-time help - that took a LOT of discussion because my brother wanted them to hire his girlfriend (who also lives with her mother and is often unemployed). Basically, I am struggling with how to deal with my "outsider" status in this family (emotional as well as physical distance ~500 miles) and also concern for their financial future. Should I call for an anonymous APS visit? Should I ask to accompany them to their doctors on my next visit to share my concerns? One friend suggested I have an independent meeting with the financial firm that did their trust, to make them aware of my brother's dependency. They granted me health POA long ago and my mom indicated she wanted me to be executor, but in the will my brother engineered, he is the executor. I've asked my mom about Financial POA but don't get a straight answer so I suspect he has that at this point. I think there are limits on what I can do, given their willingness to support him all these years. But I'd like to protect them if I can. Any advice is appreciated - thank you!

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Hello all, and THANK YOU very sincerely for all the very thoughtful and extremely helpful range of answers you gave me. I apologize for my delayed response - I had only been able to log in from my phone since I originally posted this question and it is just too hard for me to type very much on that tiny device. Finally tonight I have time to use our laptop and so please accept my belated gratitude - I so appreciate the insights you all shared. I think the hardest part about this situation is that it isn't black and white from any angle, at least that I see. Some of you recommended contacting APS - I have talked to their staff on the phone and they have an "anonymous" reporting option but I haven't taken that step because it could really backfire. And regarding the guns, quite frankly I fear the danger they pose to ME with my brother's temper when I am there more than a direct danger right now to my parents. Knowing they are there just makes the whole situation feel more hostile to me, but they are not new - he has had them for a long time. He has a friend who has recently been in severe trouble with the law as a result of gun violence, so it is possible that they could be a danger to my parents as well. But I don't sense this as an immediate threat - like I said, they have been there a long time.

Many of you correctly pointed out that this is a situation my parents have enabled for many years and that I may need to wait for something clear cut to happen before I can actually do anything. Its very sad but I think that is probably true because my parents are really in denial about my brother, his dependency, and their vulnerability. I believe my mom recognizes it but she still refuses to take any action that would upset him, and clearly involving me in their financial decisions would upset him. Countrymouse you are so right to point out that neither my brother or I have any right to be involved in these plans. The fact of the matter is that my brother has involved himself quite deliberately and my parents have allowed that to happen. Of course this brings up emotional issues for me that I try to be very aware of and rational about but it is hard. And also, regarding that look in the mirror you suggested Countrymouse: the scenario you painted is almost exactly what I think he would say! I have heard some of it from him directly and I have thought a lot about his perspective and why I have kept my distance over the years. Not black and white. He and I clearly have very different versions of reality. At one point about a year ago, after receiving a very vitriolic letter from him, I chose not to respond realizing that the gulf of understanding between us was just too vast and his dislike of me truly bordering on hatred. With my work and obligations to my kids and family here, I didn't have the time, ability or energy (nor do I think it would be productive!) to attempt to bridge that gap. I wish this were different and maybe it will be at some point in the future, but for now I think I will focus on staying in touch with my parents, monitoring as much as I can, making it clear to my brother that I am watching carefully. I will talk to their doctor on my next visit, and may also try to meet with their financial planner (to make sure he is at least aware of my brother's dependency, since my parents and brother no doubt failed to mention anything about it in prior visits). I think I can accept that this will remain a dysfunctional situation, but that a reasonable goal is to keep my parents safe and take steps to protect them financially so that he doesn't rob them blind during their lifetimes while they may need all their resources for their own care.

1rarefind, thank you for your detailed and multiple comments - I may look into the child support and tax issues. The fact that he had so many of the cars he is restoring registered in their names (which came to light in their will) is a sign that he is evading something, and that could go very deep. But I am aware that creating problems for him (if that is the outcome) just means more problems for my parents. :(

Thank you all again.
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I would say stay out of it until your parents ask for your help. They've made many, many choices through the years when they were not old and vulnerable to enable your brother to live in their home and use their resources. If you try to change that balance, chances are they'll all unite against you. That happens over and over again.

Hang back until some kind of emergency occurs and you have an opportunity to either get them away from him or vice versa. Hard to do I know, but your parents have cast their lot with your brother, for better or for worse.
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Just to go through the mirror for a moment…

You are a somewhat hapless man whose excess of enthusiasm has led you down rather a lot of blind alleys in life. But you are energetic and willing, and you have some skills which you try to make the most of. Your parents have always generously supported you, and although you are frustrated by your seeming inability to get your various business and career interests off the ground, and embarrassed to be "sponging" off them, you try to make it up to them by taking on house maintenance and errands and keeping an eye on them. You've always stuck around.

You realise that as they are getting on, they need to start making decisions about later life planning and their wills. You know an attorney locally, because you restored a car for him. So you use him - better the devil you know, right? Later on your parents went to another firm anyway. Annoying, but that's their choice. Let's drop the subject.

You also recognise that your parents could do with help in the home, and they can easily afford to pay for it, but maybe they're reluctant to have strangers in the place. You know of a young lady, in fact you know her rather well, who would be willing to take on this part-time work. Why not suggest her? It's the next-best thing to keeping it in the family.

Basically things are going along pretty well. Only every so often, your sister turns up and upsets the applecart. You two have never got on. She has a tendency to put the worst possible construction on everything you do and suspects you of having the worst possible motives. She picks fights which upset your parents, and then blames you for having a bad temper and calls you a bully. One time she drove you nearly insane, and the argument got pretty rough, and now she's turning that round to claim that you make your parents feel threatened. She looks down on you for being dependent on your parents, probably she suspects you of trying to steal their money; but you're at a loss to know how come she knows so much about your business that she can tell what you earn and what you own - especially as she's hardly ever around to see what work you do. She says she's protecting your parents' welfare but actually she's just worried about her share of the money and wants to shut you out...

Jane, obviously I have no idea of what happens in your parents' household, and of course I'll take your word for it. But there are those two sides to every story - what do you think your brother's version of events would be?

I know you're just trying to look after your parents. But your brother *is* looking after your parents. He is the one who does the "being there." Make sure you know what you're doing and what for before you take any kind of action.
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I might gently mention that waiting for something to happen may actually be too late by the time it does because abuse victims can die by then, especially elderly victims. In the case of someone being a big violent bully, I don't think it's a very good idea to wait any longer because later maybe too late, and before you finish reading this, another abuse victim will die a violent death. There is plenty you can do to bring this very sad situation to a happy ending if you get cleverly creative if necessary, that's what it will take
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Your mother was " surprised" by the provisions of her will but signed it? Under duress?

There's probably not a lit you can do, as noted above, unless your parents want to be free of this fear-based life.

Talk to their doctor, make her/him aware of the situation.

Wait for "the event";a fall or illness that takes one of tour parents to the hospital. Then work with the social workers and APS to get them into a suppotive living environment.
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You mentioned that he is a backyard mechanic? You also need to say something to the IRS about this, because they will go after him for back taxes and he will get in big trouble. What he's doing is totally illegal from everything you're describing
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Oh yes I forgot to mention the fact that you mentioned something about your brother fathering a child and never paid child support. You may want to say something to the department who handles child support issues, because they can make him get a job. If you know who the mother is and where she lives, and you also know where the child is, what you can do is somehow get the ball rolling because it sounds like there's an awful lot of back child support owed. Perhaps even the mother or even the child should speak up, but most likely the mother of that child. It's not right that the father has gotten away with not paying required child support.

Now I understand why your brother has been staying with his parents:

Oh I bet you your brother has been staying with his parents as his way of getting out of child support. Look at the situation because from what you described, living with mom and dad means you have no apartment in your name. This is the situation with your brother, meaning the authorities cannot find him as easily. Therefore, child-support enforcement can't find him either because he's living with his parents and there's no apartment in his name. Not having anything in your name makes it much harder to find. It also sounds like he's been sponging off mom and dad his whole life, which sounds like he's probably never had a real job either. Not having a regular job means there's no actual record of you anywhere. Hiding out at mom and dad's his whole life is his way of hiding from authorities who could enforce child support payments, and this is definitely illegal. He has been using his mom and dad as a way to stay put and avoid responsibility. He fathered a child, that child did not get here by his or her self, and that mother did not make that baby by herself, because it takes two to tango and make a baby. That brother really needs to step up and start taking responsibility by first getting out and getting a real job. He needs to turn himself in or someone needs to turn him in. Someone needs to definitely say something to child-support enforcement department. However, this would definitely start with speaking to the mother, because it's her money that she was cheated out of since she had to raise that child without the father. If she agrees, you can help her through the process of getting back child support and having it enforced by court order. Yes, you're definitely going to have to get some help and even use the legal system. I don't judge will look up on this brother to kindly, but someone needs to take the initiative to bring this man to justice and make him take responsibility. His age is definitely no excuse for cleverly dodging child-support responsibility, nor is his situation. The court will definitely make him cough up some money even if it means he must go get a job. The court will firmly enforce the child support order, especially if he's never paid a dime. The court does not look too kindly on deadbeat dads.
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From what you described, it sounds to me like your parents are definitely terrified of your brother and it sounds to me like they're definitely in danger. As an abuse survivor myself, I highly suspect the likelihood that there probably is abuse going on so people who suspected are probably right. It sounds like you need to get involved as well as involve the cops and APS as well as a lawyer. When you make the reports, you need to take as much evidence as absolutely possible. You can start by getting pictures of the condition of this place where your parents are living. Any problem areas such as your brother using any part of the premises for his own business should be photographed as evidence. You can actually do this very discreetly. If you can access any medical records on your parents including recent ones, perhaps you can get a hold of those records to add to your bundle of evidence. Make sure to keep the originals for yourself and just make copies for people who need to see the documents. What you may need to do is to get an elder care attorney and go for guardianship of both of your parents. You can also put a restraining order against your brother. Make sure to drag out but restraining order as long as absolutely possible. If it has a time limit, be ready to renew it as soon as it expires, and keep renewing it. You can also use guardianship powers to evict your brother from your parents house. One thing to consider is that your parents won't be here forever. What is your brothers going to do when both parents are gone and there's no one around to enable him by supporting him when he should've long since been on his own and had a family as well as a job. What's he going to do when mom and dad are no longer around to support him? Perhaps this is the question you should be asking him. When you confront him, don't do it alone, taking other like-minded people who agree that your brother needs to get out on his own and get a job. Take the right support with you because surely anyone who loves your parents like you do would be able to support you in confronting your brother because there is power in numbers. Again, take like-minded people with you as a support network, the more people you can take for support, the better. Who are the kind of people you really need are the ones who can protect you physically showed your brother attack you or anyone else. Perhaps you should also insist on staying in your parents house for a while for their protection. What you can do is take all of the stuff belonging to your brother and throw it out the door to clear out the rooms he's been using for storage. Your presence in that house will make it harder for your brother to abuse your parents. However, if it does happen then you'll be right there to step in. What I would advise in this particular case is to have someone in your support network stay with you at your parents house. Don't leave them alone with him. In fact better yet, if you can temporarily remove your parents from the house until you get your brother out, definitely do that. Again, this is only temporary until the abuser is out. They should be housed in an undisclosed location, preferably not with anyone your brother knows. If your parents stay with someone you all know, your brother will come right to that doorstep where he knows your parents are because he will definitely come looking for them with a vengeance. This is why you want to take them to an undisclosed location and don't reveal where they are. Someone should act as your parents' bodyguards. Bodyguards actually stay constantly with the person they're protecting. Bodyguards should actually be very big and well-built people. Having even a temporary bodyguard is very beneficial to protect your parents from further harm.
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Just focusing on your parents' wills: I'm sorry if this sounds unsympathetic, but they are being a bit helpless. They are free to make a will on any terms they please. Your brother has no right, and you have no right for that matter, to be told what is in it. They do not have to tell your brother they are making a new will (each), so there will be no cause for disagreement; and even if it should come to light that they are meeting with their attorney all they have to do is tell him nicely to mind his own business. It's not like he can water board them, is it.

When you mention the guns, though… This is a serious point, so let's take it seriously. Do you believe that, can you genuinely envisage the situation where, your brother would threaten your parents' lives?

If, after calm but profound thought, your answer is yes, then you have deeper concerns than financial abuse alone.

If your answer is no, then your concern is mainly about your brother's financial exploitation of them, with some emotional vulnerabilities thrown in. And, as you say, given your 'outsider's status' in the family, and given that it sounds as if your parents are not at risk of financial hardship, perhaps it would be best to let it alone. What he's doing is morally questionable, but it's a pattern they have established over many years and it's for them to call a halt if they choose to. A grown man-child stamping and shouting and slamming doors is not nice but it isn't dangerous either. It depends what you really believe they have to fear from his temper.
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Windy's experience is a good example of what you'll face, given that your parents have in fact enabled your brother for years. These behaviors are now ingrained, so any changes would have to be like water flowing uphill - they're going to be difficult if not impossible to make.

What you can do besides Windy's suggestions is have a discussion with APS and the police, alerting them to the situation, so you're on record of having attempted to pre-empt a situation. The police can also make wellness checks, which could help monitor the situation.

Your brother sounds unstable, manipulative and dangerous. The ideal option is to get your parents away from him as well as the situation in the house, but that's not likely to happen without legal intervention from APS.

I'm not sure at this point you could even get Medicaid for them to move them from the home (if they would go and I doubt that as they're probably suffering from Stockholm Syndrome by now) because of the funds they've provided to enable your brother.

I would continue to try to get copies of their estate planning documents though, so at least you know what's been executed. If there's any way you can get copies of checking account statements and other financial records to show he's been financially taking advantage of them, that might help in a case against him for elder financial abuse.

But the downside of any action such as this is that he may retaliate against your parents. Given the situation you describe, I suspect they're terrified of him.
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