Is Mom incompetent to handle her finances?

Service4u414 asked...

Help - my mother is 67 and lives on a fixed income of $700 per month. She lets my brother live with her and he also receives $700 per month. They also receive food stamps totaling about $350 between the two of them. The only bills they have are utilities and phone. They cannot seem to pay just them.

I believe she is on too much medication and spends all her money on drugs, prescribed by doctors. She goes to numerous doctors and they all prescribe the same medications. (not revealing she gets this medication from other doctors)

Her insurance pays for the first prescript but she has to pay for the others(2-3). I see this as something against the law. She is constantly begging for money from the family making us feel bad saying they don't have food. We all wonder what she does with their money! She has Medicare for most of her medicine. She does have oxygen (which Medicare pays for) and the utility company has already turned off her gas for non-payment. They will eventually shut off the water and electricity. She has not paid any on the bill in about 6 months and owes over $1400 now.

I feel she has a drug addiction and there is not much we can do. My sisters seem to think she is incompetent and we need to do something. But what? None of us have money for attorney's but we can't keep taking care of them while they blow their money on drugs. Is there anything we can do to control her medical care and her finances? She will not give it voluntarily. All of their money is from Social Security and we live in TN.

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

You're describing a number of specific concerns that point to one larger one: that your mother may not be able to live in her current situation safely.

And because it is unlikely that your mother will consent to help, such as naming an agent in a power of attorney for healthcare and finances, your better course for help may be an outside source.

One solution may be to secure a conservatorship, in which another person"”either a family member or court-appointed individual"”would become legally responsible for managing your mother's personal care and finances. It is a somewhat drastic step, and would require that you present evidence of your mother's inability to care for herself, but in some cases, it is a life-saving last resort.

You can get free guidance on this arrangement through the Conservatorship Association of Tennessee at www.tn.gov/dids/CAT/index.html. You can also get free advice on conservatorships and other caretaking arrangements from the First TN Area Agency on Aging & Disability at www.ftaaa.org.