My brother is not paying his bills which is affecting my mother's care- what can we do?

8 answers | Last updated: Oct 04, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 58 year old brother lives with my mother and signed up for a cable package that includes telephone service. He is having financial problems but refuses to cancel the cable and gets behind in payments to where my mother's telephone service is disconnected. I have tried to get the cable service stopped but Comcast says only he can stop it and he won't. One of my sisters ends up paying the past due bill so my mother has phone service but sometimes the past due amount is more than a few hundred dollars. Our mother doesn't even watch cable shows but my brother glues himself to the television when he's not at work, rather than helping with household chores like cleaning. Our mother is 90 years old and it is crucial that she have reliable phone service. We have tried getting her cell phones but she would always keep them turned off or lose them. Is there anyway I can get the cable service out of my brother's hands?

Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of

The problem isn't only that your brother is not paying the bills for something he benefits from and your mother doesn't. The problem is that he is taking advantage of your mother, and your family. It meets the definition of financial abuse. The real question is what you can do about it, and legally, you do have a choice.

If your mother, at age 90, does not have a durable power of attorney (for finances), she needs one. If she is mentally competent to make this decision, I urge you and your siblings, except for your brother, to meet with your mother and explain the need for this document. It must be notarized. The "do it yourself" variety is better than nothing, but it is prudent to seek the advice of an elder law attorney to be sure the document you use complies with the law and permits your mother's "agent" on the power of attorney document to act on her behalf concerning all financial matters.

If your mother already has a durable power of attorney document, properly signed and notarized, the agent (I hope it's not your brother!)can shut off the cable. This will have to be done in writing, with a clear letter explaining the problem, that your mother did not make this decision, that your brother is taking financial advantage of her, and that her legal agent, her power of attorney, wants it stopped. You will need to provide a copy of the durable power of attorney document to the cable company, with the letter.

If that, for any reason, does not work, I recommend that you seek the advice of an attorney, who can be an advocate for your mother with the cable company. This must stop and your family must stop allowing your brother to take advantage of your mother and you, who have paid the bills. The law is there to help you, and to protect your mother from financial abuse. Please use it.

Other than that, it sounds as if you have an issue with your brother about his not helping out with chores for your mother. A family meeting is in order. Not talking about it will only lead to more of same, plus resentment. Please seek some outside help if you are unable to have that family meeting and work this out among yourselves. A written agreement as to how it's going to be is ideal. Some elder law attorneys are able to conduct such family meetings. Otherwise, a social worker from a social service agency serving elders, a geriatric care manager, or a professional mediator are good choices for the kind of help you may need.

Community Answers

Olderadultcareco answered...

You may want to consider making a report to your local elder abuse provider. The provider would investigate the financial exploitation, advocate for your mother, and help to resolve the situation. Sometimes involving an elder abuse agency prompts family members such as your brother to change their ways. You can locate an elder abuse provider agency by contacting the state's department on aging or the local area agency on aging.

Mom7237 answered...

All the above suggestions are very good. I also have a brother who is taking advantage of mom. Living with mom (she owns her home) free and clear, not working, the list goes on and on. Now mom has dementia. The problem lies with both of us have durable power of attorney.

My brother has always been the "golden boy" could do no wrong. Whatever he did, mom always covered his tracks and never made him accountable for his actions. Mom also too always has been "high maintenance", requiring the attention of a man in her life. When dad past away, she remarried, then he past away. Throughout those years, my brother always lived at home. So now she is stuck with him.

His so-called "established residency" he feels entitled. He has no sense of financial responsiblity. I could write a book on his manipulations. Mom has other health issues and is 89 years old. She could out-live all of us, but the doctors sincerly doubt that.

My "two cents" worth is pick your battle. If it isn't the cable bill it will be something else. You could have "the talk" with your brother I tried it, trust me it doesn't work. The clueless look I got, he just doesn't get it. My brother hides behind mom. Is it worth upsetting mom at this late time in life? I am excutrix of mom's will. I will deal with him when mom passes away. Good luck to you!

Nutterbrother answered...

This all is too frighteningly familiar to me and my sister. The biggest issue is not to upset mom, who is holding on just to be sure her 50 year old baby, is going to be alright. I can't stay in my family's home when I visit my mom, due to fear of violence from my brother. And, yes, I have called the police on him. But, that is his resildence; I'm told to leave. Being that my sister lives there, too, my mom relies greatly on her. What I can say in closing is that my mom has wounderful friends. They have supported her a great deal. And I know it brings her joy to see them much more now.

Nutterbrother answered...

I don't really have an answer, but this is such a sensitive topic. And very painful.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am in the same delima too. I am 21 and I moved in with my boyfriend 2 years ago but I'm still stuck paying the bills for my moms house where her and my two older brothers live. Ugh. Here's the story. We have the house so there's no rent. My father passed away two years ago right around the time I moved out. And since then my mother has found a new man so she is not really home all that often. My two brothers who are 23 and 24 are living at home rent free with no job and no schooling. So when bills like cable, water and electricity come in they ignore them until the big red letters on the envelope that say "FINAL NOTICE" arrives... That's when they call/text me for the money... Which I give to them because they're my family and I can't say no. Even though it makes me stressed to the max and irritated that they're so lazy. I know talking to your brother about this won't do much help because I have tried it! So if there is anything you can do legally I say do it. There is nothing more stressful than worrying about an elderly parent and you should take action. Good luck. I will be trying to get my problem under control also! I just wanted somewhere to vent honestly.

No excuses answered...

"So when bills like cable, water and electricity come in they ignore them until the big red letters on the envelope that say "FINAL NOTICE" arrives... That's when they call/text me for the money... Which I give to them because they're my family and I can't say no."

Yes, you can say no. Whenever I hear garbage like it is it irritates me to no end. With all due respect, I don't give a rip roar how closely related they are. So-called familial relations are no excuse to stand around and be bullied financially or otherwise. Individuals such as these are leeches plain and simple, and as long as you continue to enable their unacceptable behavior it will never stop.

I have completely severed ties with so-called family due belittling and abusive self-entitlement lectures and "get your home and help me!" garbage. It is highly advisable that you do absolutely the same.

Ozzyarmy12 answered...

I feel ur brother is exactly the same way.quits jobs,doesnt pay bills on time.He acts like he is a father figure in the house,but nobody believes that.Help me.Im the ex for the will,but my mother has the power of att.He is the king of manipulators.