How do I tell Mom I had to sell her home?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm struggling with how to tell my 80-year old mother that I had to sell her mobile home recently because she was placed into a nursing home in early September. As her daughter, I was activated as her POA for Health & Finance. She's lived in this mobile home for 35 years and went from a hospital stay directly into a nursing home. Since her lease is going to expire in December 2009, I figured I'd better get it sold because I didn't want to renew the year's lease because I know she won't ever be able to live independently anymore. If I didn't sell it, I'd have to pay between $3,000-$5,000 to have it towed off the lot she rents which she cannot afford...I found a buyer for the place and sold it two weeks ago,but I'm having great anxiety about telling my mother because I don't know how she will react. With her dementia problems and aggressive behavior, I don't know how to best tell her without causing greater anxiety. I've brought her personal belongings over to my house and it's stored in my basement, but basically left everything else in her mobile home and it was sold "as is". Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

Expert Answer

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

It sounds like you have done your best to be a responsible daughter. I presume you decided what you thought would be in your mother's best interest, and you then acted accordingly. The question now is should you tell your mother what you have done. If your mother's dementia is sufficiently advanced that her power of attorney was activated, I would assume her memory is markedly impaired and she is probably having great difficulty reasoning. I would wonder, then, how it would help her to be told her home has been sold. In general, I don't believe it is helpful to tell someone with later stage Alzheimer's Disease something that will predictably upset them. They will be upset in the moment, but not likely remember what you said. Furthermore, in this case your mom will have trouble understanding how you came to the decision you reached, and this likely will trigger anger. She has already been aggressive, and this news may trigger more aggressiveness. This is not in anyone's best interest. On the other hand, I would not suggest lying. If she directly asks whether you sold her home, I would recommend you tell her the truth. You would have to do your best to gently tell her about the financial difficulties and assure her you did what you believe is in her best interest. If you are put in a position where you have to tell her, given her poor memory, the damage to her should be limited. Good luck!