How can I stop Mom from getting unsolicited mail?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 10, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom fills out every mail in survey [usually in conjunction with a request for money, how to live healthier books and advertisements] but most disturbing I see boxes of letters when I go to visit. She has never fallen for these before, but now for about a year and a half she spends her entire day reading through mail and responding to offers. Tonight she told me she went to the post office to get a registered letter. I asked her what it was for and she said political. She has never cared about politics before. This is terribly wrong from my perspective, but she tells me she "enjoys" this process but I sincerely doubt it because when I talk to her on the phone she dreads going through such a stack of mail. I've suggested she throw them away but she will not. I think she feels an obligation and when I speak to her on the phone she feels she has to read every letter, take notes on the health information advertisements, complete every survey. I think this has spiraled out of control. I do not know how to reduce the mail for her [I view this behavior as risky financially]. I've discussed forwarding all mail to my home address and then writing letters to them to stop mailing her things, but I live 1000 miles away so I can't sit down and sort things out daily. When I visit the dining room table is covered with piles of letters and she is sorting them into boxes. I counted 8 big boxes last time I was there. HELP!

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a 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.

Your mom's newish preoccupation may seem disturbing and a bit out of control. But reading between the lines, there may be some very positive rays of hope in the situation you describe.

Your mom is engaged, interested"”and experiencing some amount of enjoyment in her activities. From an objective perspective, it's even laudable that she's willing to wade through the mumbo jumbo of health ads and try to make sense of them. Her description of "dreading" the mail may not ring entirely true, as she may well be using the mail as a way to stay busy, to feel involved, and to feel that she's contributing in some way.

Your first best course might be try to deflect her and channel her energy into a true cause she might enjoy. Local groups and an Internet search of, for example, may help turn up a number of activities of interest to her that need help, experience, and energy.

Other local organizations might offer visiting services that might help make your mom stay more active and involved if she is homebound or finds it difficult to make or stay in touch with friends. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging for local leads.

Practically speaking, eight big boxes to mail seems like a lot for any one soul. Since your mom still seems cogent and able in many ways, it might be preferable to involve her in attempts to control the incoming masses of mail rather than to highjack them on your own.

Perhaps you could focus on her complaint of "dreading" the stacks of mail"”and suggest that the two of you work together to find a way to make it more manageable. You might ask her to make lists of the mail she enjoys receiving"”and the mail that feels oppressive or redundant. (This, alone, might make a constructive chore for her.)

Then you can contact the Direct Marketing Association at to ask that all mail from its members be stopped"”or tailored to your mom's preferences. To stop pre-approved credit card and insurance offers, which may be the most dangerous type of unsolicited mail, call the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry Opt In/Opt Out service at 888-567-8688.

Community Answers

Mmark answered...

Thanks for your help, I've tried to direct her efforts to being more involved with local charities involving the church she is a member of. And yesterday she called and said she adopted a 9 year boy for christmas and went to Wal-Mart to purchase gifts for him. And a number of the ladies in her group are doing the same thing. I think that is great!

In re-reading the post I should say that the boxes are of the size of cases of paper we get in the office [They are not shoe boxs].

Maybe at Christmas I will ask her to let me know which letters she would prefer not to recieve and then go on the site you mentioned and see if that might reduce the mail.

Thanks again for your help.

Mmark answered...

An update:

A few weeks ago I moved mom and dad into an assisted care in the town where I work. [They downsized, from a big house to three rooms]. I forwarded the mail to my house, waited for the furniture to make the 1000 mile trip, and they stayed with me a bit. At some point I realized they were much worse than I knew (mindwise). I had prearranged an assisted living situation that turned out to be insufficient. Maybe it was the move, but mom, the caregiver to my advanced dementia dad was very slow to get into the whole routine. They have been in the assisted area for about a week when my dad wandered one night in to a couple of other units.

If you have parents with dementia, be aware that they are constantantly covering up - don't discount that. If you live 1000 miles away, realize facts are hiding from you possibly with the full support of well meaning family members and neighbors. Mom always made excuses that sounded acceptable to me. So speak up especially when you have first hand knowledge.

Today I will go back and talk to my parents again about moving into the secured area. They were not wild about it, but really it is the only option at this point.