Q:My two siblings and I share care-giving responsibilities for our 85 year old mother, though I help with most of her day-to-day needs and manage her finances. Based on her current expenditures, she only has enough money to last another 2-3 years, but neither I nor my two siblings can afford to support her if she runs out of money. So every penny counts. The problem is my brother. He often asks her for money, and my mother, not appreciating her constrained financial situation, is only too happy to give it to him. I’ve tried talking with my brother, but it doesn't change anything. I don't want to be the bad guy in what appears to be a lose-lose situation for me. Any suggestions?
Carol in Cooper City
A: There are two responses to this question: one pertaining your relationship with your brother, and the other pertaining to preserving your mothers’ assets.
Perhaps the next time the three of you are together, you can arrange to meet with a licensed therapist who treats geriatric patients and understands the issues that families face when taking care of an elderly parent or relative. I spoke with Wendy Walin, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Boca Raton, who said: “Family relationships are often destroyed due to conflicts over the handling of elderly parents’ finances. When there is an open and honest dialogue and not just about money, but about the underlying emotional issues as well, siblings can engage in a productive and loving conversation. An impartial party such as a therapist can help facilitate the conversation to ensure that everyone’s viewpoints are considered and relationships are protected.”
There are many steps you can take to preserve your mother’s assets. Even in the absence of family issues, it’s a good idea to have a few safeguards in place to protect her assets. It's not so much protection from family members, but from scammers. If you handle her finances, I am assuming you are on her bank account. The most relevant solution to this situation is to have the bank set your account such that any check over a certain amount requires two signatures for it to be valid.
Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of SeniorityMatters.com, a local caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida seniors and their families. You can contact her at nancy@