How can I stop family from taking advantage of my mom?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is 96. She is giving away her possessions to family members that tell her my grandmother (my mom's mom) wanted them to have them. These are my mother's possessions but she believes the family members and gives things away. She is in a Medicaid assisted living facility and has little money. I have Power of Attorney. Do family members need to consult with me or is there any other way to stop them from taking advantage of my mom?

Expert Answer

Maria Basso Lipani writes a popular website on geriatric care topics, where she puts her expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to good use answering care planning questions. Maria is a graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work and is licensed in California and New York.

I’m assuming here that your mother’s judgment is impaired due to a dementia or other cognitive impairment and that you have enacted your Power of Attorney as a result.  If so, be sure to check the Power of Attorney document itself to confirm that your mother gave you authority over matters related to personal property.  If she did, I think you’re going to have to do something bold here to stop what amounts to some very unsavory behavior on the part of your family members.  

As soon as you can, I’d suggest taking stock of exactly what your mother has and separating what’s valuable from what isn’t.  Then consider storing the valuable items in a place where family members wouldn’t have access.  It might seem extreme, but I don’t see another way.  If these family members would look to exploit your mother’s compromised mental state, they’re not likely to respect your authority nor anything you have to say about what they've done.