How can I protect my mother from being taken advantage of by my brother?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is 92 and of sound mind, but cannot say no to her son. He can talk her into anything. He is getting money from her account and she is giving him money and checks. Now he is trying to get her to buy him a house. He is an alcoholic and his record is extremely bad. What can I do to protect my mother and her money?

Expert Answer

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.

It's time to steel yourself for a frank talk with your mother, letting her know your concerns and framing them in terms of the need to protect her and her money, rather than a desire to see your brother get cut off. Be as specific as you can about how and why funds are being squandered or stolen and what this might mean for her.

While this talk is bound to be tough, it can be easier on you if you approach it from a place of empathy: It must seem impossible to your mom that her own child is plagued with such a tough problem--and she may optimistically feel that throwing money at your brother's problem will make it better.

A frustrating truth for you will be that you will need your mother's cooperation to effect changes here--and at 92, she may be less open to change. If you do get a willing ear and mind from her, you can also reinforce the benefits in getting her to finalize estate planning documents--and one of those could be a power of attorney for finances that names someone other than your brother as agent responsible for handling her money. That should effectively cut off his unbridled access to her money.

As a last drastic step, if your mother does not seem willing to change and you remain concerned that your brother is fraudulently taking her money and other property, you might consider contact the Adult Protective Services agency in your area for help. You can discuss your concerns first on the hotline and locate a local agency though the website run by the National Center on Elder Abuse .