Parents can’t pay credit card debt. What now? -

Parents can’t pay credit card debt. What now?


So here’s the long and the short of it. I’m an only child and I live 15 minutes away from my parents. I pretty much handle it all myself. Dad’s got a myriad of health problems ranging from COPD to being a multiple stroke victim to having trouble eating (he had issues with his taste buds). He’s been home bound and chair bound many many times. They currently have home care coming to do PT and OT each twice a week. And yes, that means a copay EVERY visit. Thankfully mom got on a monthly payment plan. Mom on the other hand worked pretty much most of my childhood to support us as my dad had his first major stroke when I was young. I am now in my thirties. The problem is that my mom racked up a ton of credit card debt and refinanced their home so many times I can’t count. She was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at nine years old and was never any good at dealing with finances. Half the time I couldn’t even tell if it was the depression causing the problems or the medication side effects. She was laid off a couple years ago and pretty much became my dad’s full time caregiver. She actually did a fabulous job of caregiving, but of course that doesn’t pay the bills. She went through pretty much all of her 401(k). The depression is so bad at this point that it is making it nearly impossible for her to go back to work. I took her to a local government financial office and we laid out her entire budget. The living expense side needs to be trimmed down a couple hundred dollars. This we can do by changing her trash company, skimming down her cable bill and finding her new car insurance. Things like that I have no problem helping with. The main issue is the credit card debt. We’re talking around $35,000. This government office (NFCC) told her that they could help her with a debt management program. But she would need to find a job where she could make at least $250 a week (25 hrs x $10/hr). Because after the debt management program skims down the interest on the debt she will need to pay back at least $1000 a month on it for approx. 5 years. They told her in the meantime while she works on trying to find a job, to basically ignore the collection phone calls (they are behind) and make sure she pays on things like her mortgage, electric, groceries, medication and health insurance. We came out of that meeting feeling pretty good. Now, weeks later I am looking at her current emotional state and I am thinking there is absolutely no way she will be able to get a job let alone hold down a job. She is forgetting things like crazy and repeating herself all the time. For instance yesterday my dad asked me if I had a camping chair he could borrow so that he can sit out in the front yard and enjoy the nice weather. PT and OT are working to help him get outside. So my mom came over at lunch and met me to get the chair. When I showed up from work she looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and said, I don’t even know why I am here. Your dad sent me for something, but I can’t remember what I’m picking up. I told her it was the chair and right away she said oh yeah that’s right the chair. Now before anybody yells Alzheimer's or Dementia, her psychiatrist just recently saw her and said he believes what is going on is that her depression medication is causing her to have memory issues. He sees no sign of Alzheimer’s. So just recently she started breaking a certain pill in half every morning at his request. We are starting to see a little bit of a change for the better, but I’m thinking there is no way this woman will ever be able to hold down a job. Now we’ve got to find a way to handle all of this credit card debt. Should she file for bankruptcy? Is there anyway due to the depression that we would have any solid ground to stand on for calling up each of her individual creditors and getting the debt reduced or canceled? Or will they just act like I am crazy? This Mother’s Day is supposed to be something fun and special. A way to make her feel appreciated. Instead I am becoming so depressed that I can barely even stand to go to work. I get phone calls from both parents all day as they are heavily dependent on me. My marriage is suffering severely. All of this weight rests on my shoulders and I feel like there’s nothing I can do to help them. Can anybody out there help me from prior experience? The ideal at this point would be to have my mom retired and at home caregiving my dad in their last days. Instead they are saying she would have to go back to work for at least five years part time. It wouldn’t be so bad really if my dad didn’t need a full-time caregiver and she could actually hold down a job. But recently we were dealing with an issue with their insurance and she couldn’t even figure out a simple math problem without getting so flustered that she was bawling. Please help I don’t know what else to do! If they didn’t have all this credit card debt they would be just fine! Can anybody out there help?



I suspect your parent’s credit is already ruined. It can’ get any worse. Tear up any cards they might still have. Do NOT have them go further into debt to try and save their credit. Most likely it is all now “in collection”. That means the creditors have written it off and companies have bought the credit paper, pennies on the dollar. None of any future payments will go to the original creditors. They should not pay another cent on those in collection.
If they can live modestly without further credit by making some lifestyle changes than help
them get to that break even point. It might not be a popular solution, but the credit debt burden is making everyone worse mentally and eventually physically.
I have paid every penny I owe on everything for (79) years but there are situations that just won’t allow that to happen. This sounds like one of them.
In most states their primary home and auto and certain essentials are immune from repossession except by the FIRST lien holder.
If possible, try and help them “reset “ the starting line and offer to help them with their record keeping and essential bill
The disability suggestions are good ones. If they , or any one of them , are declared unable to work by Social Security they will qualify for a monthly stipend and Medicare insurance. The 49 year old husband of my wife’s caretaker is in that very situation and receives a check every month plus his medical insurance.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to BigjimM

Mr. Olsen,
Did you say not only social security is protected income, but also "retirement income" such as a pension?

Thanks if you can answer.
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Reply to Sendhelp

Sorry for all the typos in the above response. I’m using my iPhone and get careless!
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Reply to BigjimM

Mandolina, I might be wrong but I son’t think the credit card lendors can touch your parent’s home, period. The primary mortgage holder holds the rights there and if they stay current on their house payments they will NOT lose their home.
Take that concern off your plate.
All of her their debt that has gone to “collection, which sounds like all of it, can’t hurt their credit any more than it already has. The credit card debt is bought by companies for virtually pennies on the dollar and their profits come from collecting something. None of it goes back to the original service or commidity provider.
Aside from any moral issues , which right now take a back seat to your parent’s survival, you must assure their survival and well being, as well as yours.
Unless you co-signed for something you also can’ be held liable for the credit card debt.
You need to pay for a couple of hours with a family or elder law attorney, not debt resolution companies.
The best legal course of action will allay a lot of fears and stress and allow all of you to recover your lives to some extent.
They will never have good credit again but they won’t need it if they are paying their mortgage , utilities and taxes. All the rest will have to be done with cash from any source available.
Selling the house would be an option if, a) their is substantial equity after any first and second liens are paid off and b) you want them living with you after it is sold. After all, where would they go. Their credit score might even prevent renting something. In my area (Houston, TX) you live or die by your credit score and theirs is probably pretty low.
This is just my opinion, but tell the creditors to take a flying leap. Tell them that your parents are disabled, unable to work and have no income. Then DO NOT answer their calls or letters and , if necessary, have your parent’s phones changed.
Your parents are now Job One, nothing else.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to BigjimM

I know student loans have a hardship waiver or disability waiver. You may want to check if a credit card company has something like that. Sometimes they will settle for a lump sum that is considerably less than the total owed (with the reasoning that at least they'd get some money as opposed to none if she filed for bankruptcy).

You may try to have her file for disability with the social security office if she cannot function well enough to work. You will likely have to apply several times so don't be discouraged by being turned down. It takes people between 3 to 7 times before they get accepted. If that happens, then she can stay home and not worry about working and still get some finances. And it might cover the costs of her medical needs.

I've been on a lot for depression medications. If one of them gives her the negative side effect of memory loss, then you might want to ask the doctor to dry a different one. There's many more anti-depressants on the market, some have generic formulas, which would make the cost more affordable. If she chooses one that does NOT have a generic formula, contact the pharmaceutical company as they often deliver the meds for $5 a month.

If she's suffering from chronic forgetfulness, you might want to stop her from driving.

Honestly, her symptoms sound a lot like my mom's early progression into dementia.

If you want to file for bankruptcy, it will affect her credit for 7 years. If she has nothing that requires her to have good credit--like if she owns her own home, isn't going to apply for a credit card, isn't buying furniture, etc---then bankruptcy might be a good option.

I wish you luck and I send a reminder to remember to care for yourself as well. If you get burnt out as a caregiver, then you won't be as effective to help ANYBODY. So remind yourself to occasionally treat yourself to a favorite snack, a new outfit, or a nap when you can.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to StChaos

I went bankrupt due to medical bills. Up side, those bills are gone! BUT you must live seven years without credit. And a cut to the bone lifestyle. Does it seem your parents can/will be able to keep their expenses down? I suppose there’s Medicaid to cover med bills?
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Reply to HolidayEnd

I second the disability option for both mom and dad. Is your dad on disability? How old are your folks? And, I agree with telling your parents NOT to call you multiple times a day. Once is more than enough. You've got to take care of yourself and not let your parents pull you down too. {{{Hugs}}}
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Reply to blannie


This will be an unpopular opinion, but people CAN survive without cable.  She can go to the library
(on the bus) to use the internet. imo.

I have re-read your post, and it sounds like your mom may be psychiatrically disabled, either temporary or permanently.  Apply, if denied, get a social security attorney.

She may be under too much stress with your father ill.  Do you think if he was placed in care, she would be more functional?
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Reply to Sendhelp

It is not cost effective to take your mother away from caregiving, and put her to work, because then you would need to hire a caregiver.

They do not qualify for that interesting pay back plan for debt at this time.

Do not confirm the debt. Do not respond to the creditors at all. Tell her to give you all the bills without opening them.

They got into debt, likely by living off of credit. Can they still make ends meet without using credit? If not, it would be useless to file for bankruptcy, imo.

Can they sell their home to pay off these debts? Can they downsize their living expenses more? Rent out their home, move to a less expensive place?

Keep trying to help, but be sure mom is equally invested into repairing this mess (without casting blame), and not looking only to cry out helplessly, looking for a financial rescue.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Sendhelp

With the mental issues you describe your mom doesn't really seem able to work, even if she wasn't needed at home to help with caregiving. I'm wondering if she could go on disability. Just thinking aloud here.... I hope other people have some ideas.
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Reply to SnoopyLove