Problem #5: Dad's new caregiver has suddenly become his "date" and he's spending all his money on her.
What happens: An inappropriate relationship with a senior family member doesn't have to be overtly sexual; many times it takes the form of companionship that skirts the line between normal caregiving activities and excessive extravagance. Other relationships change course openly: All of a sudden Dad wants the family to invite Penny over for dinner.
What to watch for: Uncharacteristic behavior, such as dramatic changes in routine or increased spending, is a red flag. One adult daughter from Tennessee reports that her father, who'd always been thrifty and a devotee of early bird and blue plate specials, suddenly began ringing up big tabs at gourmet restaurants for meals that often included an expensive bottle of wine -- although her dad didn't drink. When she approached the caregiver about the expenses running up her father's charge cards, the caregiver shrugged and said, "So he likes to go to nice places; what can I say?"
What to say: Approach this topic delicately, since your father's an adult, and his personal life -- and the expenses related to it -- are his business and likely to be a touchy subject. If there are siblings, discuss this among yourselves so everyone's on the same page, then elect one of you to be the spokesperson to talk to Dad. You don't want him to feel ganged-up on.
Mention to him that you've noticed his dining habits have changed a bit, and dig around -- oh so delicately -- about how he feels about that. Has he developed a passion for checking out the latest hot spots, or were the restaurant choices his companion's idea? As much as possible, let your dad lead the conversation and tell you how he feels about the situation.
What to do: Take a two-pronged attack here; protect your father's money while working to get him some more appropriate companionship in his life. Legally, your father's money is his to spend as he pleases, and if expensive dinners and nights on the town are his new entertainment of choice, there's not a lot you can do about it.
However, many people have found that older family members, when presented with other opportunities for companionship and fun, quickly move away from potentially exploitative relationships like this one. An Illinois man whose father was in this situation enrolled him in classes at the local senior center, where he quickly found his companionship in demand due to the high female-to-male ratio among his classmates. Once he met attractive women his own age, he lost interest in the caregiver who was insisting on being wined and dined.