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Mom is constantly sending money to any charity that sends her a request in the mail. She also pays bills twice or sometimes not at all. She is very suspicious of us children taking control of this aspect of her life. Thank you in advance!

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Who has Power of Attorney for Finances? If she still has POA then you need to meet with an attorney and get legal advice about how to intervene especially if you are concerned about her financial decision-making. You don't have to take control of her life, but if she is not able to make smart financial decisions then someone has to step in and assist. The POA is the important document here. If you have it or one of your siblings does, then you can step in and help out. If not, you really need to seek legal counsel.
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Cindy Laverty gives excellent advice. Someone needs to have POA so as to be responsible for your mother's finances since it is clear that she is no longer able to do this herself. Even if you have POA, it might be a good idea to be a little "creative" about getting the mail. I get the mail out of the mailbox when my husband isn't there and throw away all the junk mail before he sees it since he tends to be a hoarder who would "just want to take a look at it" and then never throw it away. I also put all bills aside and only give him one or two things to look at so that he doesn't realize what I have taken charge of the rest of the mail. I don't do this to be sneaky but rather to avoid having him be aware of the fact that I am handling our finances since is no longer able to do this. I consider this a kindness since he gets very agitated if he thinks I am taking control of things that he would like to believe he can still handle himself.
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Weezy, I went through this, too. My parents did not want to give up control of their lives and my father loved to order from catalogs and give to his favorite organizations. Unfortunately, the more he gave, the more they asked. They were worthy organizations, but the fundraising is heartless. And, unfortunately, only a very small percentage of the money actually went to help the cause. The rest went to the fundraisers.

My parents were not deemed mentally incompetent, so there was little I could do until they were ready to turn over the reins to me. This didn't happen until after my father died. I don't have POA, but my mother was totally lost when it came to paying bills and taking care of finances. She added my name to her bank accounts, so I could handle her banking. I also opened a charge account for her with my name as an authorized user. I set her utility bills to be paid automatically where possible and from my computer otherwise. Occasionally she still goes ballistic when she sees my name on the bank accounts or realizes things are not being paid in the old-fashion way. I just reassure her, telling her she had asked me to handle things and that she had added my name to the account.

Weezy, your mother may soon realize she needs help with her finances. Until then, is there any way you can get to her mailbox before she does? I find that losing envelopes and catalogs on the way to the front door works wonderfully well. I would sneak out later and properly dispose of the litter left by the doorstep. If you work during the day, this isn't an option, of course. What I wish is that the catalog and fundraising companies would vaporize... or at least stop targeting vulnerable people, wanting more and more from them.
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The online service CatalogChoice might be a good option. Online, using the mailing labels from catalogs and, I believe, other junk mailers you can get elder's name removed from the mailing lists.
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Catalog Choice is a good organization. I am a member and have a long list of catalogs not to receive. I was sneaking to cancel the catalogs, when one of the companies (Harriett Wright) wrote my father to let him know his subscription had been cancelled. If you are sneaking to cancel, don't cancel this company or they will blow your cover! That day was not a good day at the house. My father was very upset, since he was addicted to catalogs and ordering.

Some catalog companies did honor Catalog Choice requests. Others didn't. The end result was that it barely put a dent in the number of catalogs we received. We used to get so many catalogs that recycling them was a major chore. Now that no one is ordering, the numbers have gone down. The real trick to getting rid of the catalogs is to not order from any. As soon as someone orders from a catalog, they get put on the sucker list.
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I would encourage you to move on this quickly. It will be in your Mother's best interest to not have her money scammed from her. Loving her well at this point may feel a bit heavy-handed, but the fact that she is making consistent mistakes with her money demonstrates a need for help. As Cindy said, you don't have to take over her life...just get a level of control over her finances. For me, that meant having to go through a quite intense legal process to become my Mom's conservator (recently diagnosed with Stage IV Alzheimer's). That was after she lost over $30,000 to domestic and international scam artists. I could seriously write a really sad book about this. Makes me so angry to think of people and businesses preying upon weaker people. Anyway...continue to express love to your Mom in a multitude of ways, but being her financial advocate right now is a very strategic thing for her future and is a loving thing to do. Blessings on your journey...
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I had a similar experience with my mom. Although I had held POA for both of my parents for several years before my dad passed away, my dad was mentally sharp and able to handle his own affairs until just a few days before his death. Although I knew that mom had some dementia, I didn't want to just barge in and take away any of her independence. She was living in a retirement community (IL) 100 miles away and I was driving two or three times each month to take her to run errands, help her with meds, etc. Because I was concerned about her ability to keep up with bills, I asked if she needed help balancing her checkbook. She agreed, and I took the opportunity to see where her money was going. She had written several hundred dollars worth of checks to "charities" with names that sounded similar to reputable, well known charities, but were not. A little internet checking showed that these were basically scam charities that donated very little to their cause, and kept the rest. I discovered that these people would call mom and plead their case, asking her to pledge money. Then they would send her what looked like an invoice, requesting payment. Of course they shared their "lists" with other questionable charities, so the requests snowballed. I tried to explain to mom that most of her donations were going into the pockets of people who were undoubtedly much better off that she was, and she agreed to stop. However, a couple of months later, she sent more money. At that point I appealed to her respect for my father, who worked hard and saved all of his life to provide for their retirement and asked her to think about what he would say about this. She agreed to turn over her checkbook to me at that point.

However, the story doesn't end there. I had left her with a credit card so that she could shop with friends or on scheduled trips from her retirement facility. She was also able to withdraw cash as needed from her bank. A couple of months later her credit card bill had a charge from one of these charities! They had called her to ask for another donation and when she told them she didn't have a checkbook, they said, no problem, just give us your credit card number. I could not believe how ruthless these people were! I tried to call some of them to get her name off their list, and tried to get the credit card charge refunded, but had no success.
Mom is now in AL in the same town where I live due to her worsening dementia, and the only money she has access to are the nickels that she uses to play jackpot bingo. I feel that without intervention she would have given away most if not all, of her money. The moral of this story is that just having POA is not enough. If your relative has access to any funds, these vultures will try anything to get it. You have to take charge before they are reduced to poverty.
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Sorry to pipe in again, but I just had to respond to terrim's post ... while it is sadly true that some grown children may only be concerned about a parent's finances from the standpoint of keeping an eye on the money they hope will be left to them, I caution against characterizing this as the obvious or even likely motivation of a grown child trying to care for a parent with a progressive dementia.

As so many of you have experienced, in the earlier stages of these diseases, a person can still be capable of living largely independently, but no longer be capable of managing his or her finances. My Dad is absolutely in this position. In going over the results of extensive testing with us, the neuropsychologist stated outright that while my Dad would likely be able to continue to live independently for some time yet (with the assistance of caregivers to "check in" on him, provide company, and help him run errands), his tests showed sufficient impairment in executive function that I should be taking over all financial management (much of which I had already done, because this was already obvious to me).

Nor is there a hard-and-fast line between someone being “deep in dementia” – and therefore needing financial oversight – and being capable of managing his or her own affairs. If you, as a stranger, were to meet and talk to my Dad just casually, you might not even "see" his dementia right away. It takes a while to really pick up on the repetition, the forgetfulness, the inability to do simple math calculations, the tendency to try to pay again for groceries that have already been purchased, or to try to leave the store without paying for them at all. If you didn’t go into his house, you wouldn’t see the hundreds of heartbreaking index cards on which he scribbles reminder messages to himself (many of them duplicates because he forgets that he’s already written them a hundred times). Despite these things, I would not describe him as "deep in dementia" ... the neuropsychologist characterizes his stage as "late-early" or "early-moderate." His short-term memory is bad, but his long-term memory seems unimpaired at this point. He has no trouble recognizing people or carrying on a conversation about what he read in the paper this week, or telling you a joke he heard on the radio. But he probably won’t remember whether he went to a restaurant for breakfast four hours ago. He can care reliably for his beloved cats, but his ability to balance a checkbook is completely gone (this from a man with a master's in mathematics from a top university and a meticulous recordkeeper my entire life) -- he no longer understands the concept that he needs to account for deposits as well as withdrawals, or for automatic withdrawals for bill-paying (that he set up himself years ago).

Sorry to go on ... my point is simply that trying to preserve Dad’s money for some kind of hypothetical inheritance is not even on the table for me, or for other people in this situation. What I AM trying to preserve now are, first, Dad’s funds so that they’ll be available for his eventual, inevitable long-term memory care – and second, my OWN savings, scraped together from years of working, for my own retirement and eventual health care needs.

Dad is now 73, and has a living aunt who is something like 98. It is clear that he will need long-term memory care at some stage – hopefully, not for several years at least – and that this care could be needed for many years. The cost of such care will likely wipe out his own savings in the first three to five years. After that -- if my state or his, both of which have filial support laws on the books, joins the budding trend of actually enforcing these -- I will find myself legally responsible for picking up the tab for his remaining care. Such care can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (just today, I met a neighbor who told me that his late mother’s care in an Alzheimer’s facility in Wisconsin had run $240,000 annually). At that rate, my own savings would be quickly decimated. I am in my late 40s, with limited time to rebuild my nest egg if it is confiscated to cover my father’s eventual nursing bills. (Not to mention that both of my husband’s parents are still alive, and our savings could be hit yet again if he were held legally responsible for their long-term care bills, should they need such care and should their own savings be insufficient to cover it. (This is not so much a problem, of course, for people whose parents suffer from illnesses other than dementia ... but keep in mind that the dementia rates are increasing every year.) My husband and I don’t have children coming up behind us to cover our bills, and wouldn’t want them to be forced to do so if we did.

Whether or not these laws will start to be enforced in earnest is not clear. They certainly have the potential to be devastating, particularly to people already squeezed trying to put their kids through school and save for their own old age. The fact that a few states have started to use these laws is very frightening – particularly given the poor economy and the increasing likelihood of the state and federal governments looking to shift financial responsibility away from programs like Medicaid and onto private individuals.

This bleak reality puts me – and other grown children of parents with progressive dementias – in the position of not being able simply to sit back, shrug, and say, “Well, it’s his money, if that’s the way he wants to spend it” when we see a parent losing cash, giving money away (both to scammers and legitimate charities), or making other questionable financial decisions.

For us, it isn’t about thinking we should get the money instead. When I say, “I’m worried that Dad might be giving away my money,” I don’t mean that he’s spending money I might otherwise have inherited. I mean that the money he’s giving away might literally be money I have to make up out of my own pocket to cover his care bills down the road if he runs out of savings. And while of course I’d do what I could to help care for my Dad in any case -- with or without support laws -- the reality is that dementia care is extremely expensive, and a person can live with the condition for a long time.

Obviously, filial support laws aren’t the only reason to get involved as early as you can when you start to see a parent’s financial management skills slipping. :-) But they are one very real reason for a grown child to be concerned about an elder’s financial matters that have nothing to do with scrabbling for an inheritance. I know the latter DOES happen ... but again, I caution against jumping to the conclusion that this is an adult child's motivation for trying to take over when he or she sees things are going bad. I hope this makes sense. :-)
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I also disagree with terrim. The sad truth is that most people with dementia or Alzheimer's outlive their money unless they are fairly wealthy to begin with. In my area there are a limited number of AL or memory care facilities that accept medicaid residents, and most of them only designate a few beds. When the money runs out, the resident often has to move to a facility with an available medicaid bed, sometimes a significant distance away. This makes things difficult for both the resident and the family members. Letting scammers take a significant amount of my mother's money would have made this happen sooner, and I would certainly feel guilty if I failed to protect her from them. My goal, and I imagine the goal of most of the people on this forum, is to make mom's money last as long as she lives, or at least until her dementia progresses to the point that she is unaware of her surroundings and situation. I doubt if many of us expect an inheritance.
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I believe that what terrim is saying is unfair. My husband isn't is well oriented to person and place but not to time. He has a very large vocabulary and speaks knowledgeably about a number of subjects such that you might not even be able to tell that there is anything wrong with him during the course of a fairly short conversation. However, in spite of the fact that he is not "deep in dementia", my husband is not able to manage his own finances because he forgets conversations and events, often within minutes of when they occur. He is therefore not able to remember appointments, to bathe or change his clothes, whether he has taken his medication or, certainly, whether he has paid bills. I handle our money but if I weren't here, one of our adult children would have to do this for their father, not because "have their own eyes on the money they hope will be left to them" but because someone would have to do this. While I am sure there are instances like those terin describes, it is unfair to suggest that this is the norm.
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