Sunday, July 04, 2010 momiandbebe, Community Member, asks

Q: My mother has Alzheimer's. My brother has 100% control of her $ + med proxy. He's stealing her $.

I live in AL. My parents lived in FL when dad called me and said he was having difficulty taking care of mom, who has Alzheimer's.  I was the only one of 4 children that wanted to help, they all found reasons to say, not me. While living here, dad found out he had prostate cancer. So after spending 2 years in AL, he told me that he felt the need to move back to Greenfield, MA, his hometown.  And we discovered it was easier to get mom into a nursing home there, and it was. Dad passed away last Nov but not before giving my brother, who also lives in Greenfield, medical proxy so he could make decisions for mom. I relied on my brother for updates on mom. After a few calls, I was told me to stop bothering him, call the nursing home if i wanted to know something. Since he would give me little to no info, become defensive and hostile if asked any questions, I started calling the nursing home. I found out that some of the things he told me about mom weren't even close to being true. Ex: she doesn't ask about dad anymore. No they said, she asks about him constantly!!  I began to wonder if he was visiting at all. A nurse confided in me that mom consistently ran out of diapers, that they were having to supply them for her even tho they weren't supposed to. She also had no panties, and right now was wearing a bra of another resident. She has to wear her coat all day because she didn't have any sweaters. I asked if they had told my brother but she said when he was there he didn't stay long enough for them to catch up with him. I immediately had everything over nighted and made sure they knew to call me if mom started to run out of anything. They even substituted my name as POC and took my brother's off.  When my brother found out I had sent her these things, he became livid, went to the nursing home and exercised his 'medical proxy' and forbade them from excepting packages, letters, cards, phone calls, anything  from me from now on. If I did disobey his orders and sent her something, they were to set it aside, call him and he would come pick it up.  I called the nursing home the next day for an update, not knowing what occured the day before, but was told not to call anymore, not to send packages/supplies, etc.  They could no longer speak to me or give me any updates. I was told that my brother informed them that any communication from me was detrimental to his mother's health. I was stunned, I couldn't believe the people who were so happy to know I cared were now telling me to quit calling.  I don't blame them, I understand they were doing what they had to do, or at least what they believe they had to do. Now, after 5 1/2 months with no word of my mother, I realize that my brother felt 'exposed' because I found out he was not using mom's money to supply her with things others take for granted. I do know that there was quite a bit of dad's life insurance money left after paying his expenses.  And there is mom's social security check. Mom's checks and dad's insurance money are in dad's checking account, of which my brother can withdrawal money whenever he wants.  He is robbing my mother of her money and her dignity! I've heard that he and his wife have now been able to do the major renevations needed on their apt building so I have to wonder where this new found money has come from. My older sister told me, right after dad passed away, that jeff "was having trouble hiding money from the nursing home".  Now, for whatever reason, she has allied herself with my brother. I've tried contacting the company that owns the nursing home but never received a reply. I don't know what to do. My intention in sending my mother those items had nothing at all to do with my brother. The nurse who told me about mom's needs said she was surprised to hear mom had any other children and was glad to know she did have one who cared!  I love my mother, I want to know how she is, I want to visit her!  My father would never, ever have believed that Jeff could be so evil and selfish. I can't believe it either. Is there anything at all that I can do?? I live in Huntsville, AL and I feel so helpless. 

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Answers (5)
NC, Community Member
7/ 5/10 1:06pm

Hi, Joe and Carol have said the right things.

 

I just want to add some comment: What is wrong with this nursing home??? Why can't they do the right things? If she has no clothes, they should enforce it to make sure your brother does it. I am surprised the nursing home does nothing about it. I hope there is a rule that the nursing home can tell the authority that the brother is not doing the job! The home needs to know your mother is in bad shape and they should not even allow it!!!

Please talk to a lawyer for elder abuse about this and I hope the attorney will tell you what to do. At this point, you need to be his guardian by the court - that means civil suit.

Sorry that this happened to your Mom.

 

Take care,
Nina

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momiandbebe, Community Member
7/ 5/10 6:17pm

Hi Nina, Thanks so much for caring enough to reply. My theory on the nursing home is that my sister provided my brother with some legal terms/threats and that, along with his proxy, scared them enough to shut me off. I'm sure he threatened to have their license taken away.  That is why I tried reaching the company who owns this particular nursing home.  They own maybe 10 others in Massachusetts,.  But I'm not done with them yet, I'll keep trying to reach them. I really can't blame the nursing home for all of this, they were taking from other residents and giving to mom along with footing the bill so she would have diapers. The nurses I spoke to knew alot about mom so I know they were spending time with her.  That alone is the only thing that keeps me going. But I plan to try every avenue I can think of. Thanks again for your advice. Carole

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NC, Community Member
7/ 5/10 7:23pm

I think it probably is about redtapes and politics. I am sure the nurses are innocent because their hands are tied.

This sister of yours seems to be closer to your brother? Have you tried to talk to her? Maybe she needs to see the nursing home for herself to decide that you two should help your Mom together. It is hard at this point if your brother is really abusing him. I can only say please try to find some evidence and see if some nurses are able to be the witnesses (but maybe not due to fear.)

 

I suggest that you talk to the lawyer anyhow. I am sorry about your divorce. Caregiving is hard work.

 

Take care,

Nina

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Joseph, Community Member
7/ 5/10 5:56am

Hello Momiandbebe,  First, I want to tell you how sorry I am to hear that you are experiencing these difficult family dynamics problems.  There are things that you can do about this situation, but they may be very involved and have very unpleasant consequences for your brother and you.  In other words, you may not be very popular with any of your siblings if you decide to intervene legally.

 

There are two ways to legally intervene and you would need some sound legal advice perhaps before deciding which was appropriate.  You have suggested that your brother is stealing your mother's funds.  It would be wise to suspect that behavior rather than stating it as a fact publicly.  If you suspect criminal conduct and are willing to subject your brother to an investigation and possible criminal charges, you would need to contact the prosecutor's office for the jurisdiction where your mother lives and tell them your story.  They would need to have enough evidence from your information to develop probable cause to initiate a criminal investigation.  Simply being ignored by your brother and his actions to bar you from contact with your mother are insufficient evidence.  You would need some pretty compelling facts that show how he has abused his appointment as guardian or power of attorney.  They might be willing to contact the nursing facility to inquire about your mother's needs being met.  Neglect, if indicated, would probably lead to further investigation.  However, a lack of diapers or borrowed undergarments may not satisfy the definition of neglect.  It may be that these things have been taken care of already, too. 

 

The second way that you might intervene would be through a civil action.  You would need to hire a lawyer at your own expense and then see if a case can be made to terminate your brother's appointment and access to your mother's funds.  The lawyer would probably want to hire a private investigator to look into the financial dealings of your brother and also to see if he is caring adequately for your mother's needs.  Whether this is successful or not, you will be billed for it.  If a case can be made and it goes to court, you will be billed for all of the costs associated with the hearing, service fees, etc.  You could spend a lot of money and prove nothing.  It could take many months just to get a ruling and then could be extended further through the appeals process.  You would need thousands of dollars to do this and a fair amount of money up front before an attorney would even represent you.

 

I would think long and hard about pursuing this matter.  Your father chose your brother for this task and unless you are absolutely able to prove that he has not performed his duties or has misappropriated funds, you would be ruining some important family relations, possibly.  I am sure that you are heartbroken with worry about your mother, but there is a lot at stake to tackle this problem.  Because you live in another state, you are further disadvantaged in any efforts that you undertake.  I would recommend that you maintain a good relationship with your sister and ask her how your mother is doing.  Perhaps your sister could keep you informed and notify local authorities if she observes any wrongdoing.

 

As a last resort, contact the senior services office in the city where your mother lives and see if they have any advocates who would check on your mother's situation and get back to you.  It might give you some peace of mind to have an impartial third party provide some feedback on your mother's condition and care.  If the bills are getting paid and the facility is providing and billing for the missing supplies, the basic needs of your mother are being met.  Her emotional and spiritual needs might be addressed through the advocate. 

 

I'm sorry that there aren't some easier solutions to your concerns, but perhaps these ideas will be helpful to you.  Best Wishes,  --  Joe  --

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Carol Bradley Bursack, Health Guide
7/ 5/10 10:12am

Momiandbebe, Joe did such a wonderful job answering your question that all I can really add is that you could contact the National Assn. of Elder Law Attorneys  at www.naela.org/ and see if they can help you. Legal action is likely the only way to take care of this. It's heartbreaking (and more common than we'd like to think) that people skim off the money meant for their elders and use it themselves. Elders deserve dignity, and you brother not supplying your mother's basic needs is doing just that.

 

However, as Joe said, that may not be enough to bring a suit. Your sister's earlier comment is telling, and she could be asked under oath to repeat that. All of this is ugly business, and could be expensive, so you'll have to think it through. But many attorney's will offer a free or low cost consultation.

 

Reading you letter brings me to tears. I hope you can find some peace with this. Bless your for being so caring.

Carol

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momiandbebe, Community Member
7/ 5/10 6:29pm

Hi Carol, Thanks so much for your advice. It is discouraging to hear that there is little I can do unless I am willing to spend an unlimited amount of money, which I don't have. I am going to go to the website you recommended. I can't tell you how comforting it is to read these comments, especially coming from people who do not even know me.  I am so glad I found this forum.  I hope sometime I am able to console someone the way you all have done for me.  God bless you.  Carole

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momiandbebe, Community Member
7/ 5/10 6:24pm

Hi Joe, I typed a lenghly reply to you but this is my first time using this forum and it didnt go through. In summary, I don't have any concrete evidence against my brother.  Just what the nursing home told me and what my sister told me. Now the nursing home won't let me call and something happened to my sister that caused her to cut off communication with me. I don't want to call her and have her talk to me the way my brother did.  None of us kids were very close growing up so I have no problem at all reporting my brother.  I am currently going thru a divorce, my husband of 10 years couldn't take all the drama, so money is tight. I am going to have to reply on elderly programs and organizations in that area that are willing to help.  My brother and his wife own an apt buildling and another small business in that town.  I am going to call the mayor's office just to tell the mayor my story.  Who ever it is, I'm sure they won't do anything to help, burt who knows!  Thanks so much for your advice and your concern.  I know God will take care of my mother, it is just so painful not being able to see her in person.  Thank you again, Carole

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Joseph, Community Member
7/ 6/10 1:42am

Hi Carole,  I understand your suspicions and your concerns.  It is a complicated problem and one that you want to navigate through very carefully.  Since you and your brother were never close, he'd probably sue you if you gave him half a reason.  You don't want that to happen!  Also, because you are in the middle of a divorce, you have plenty of things on your mind without adding more.  I hope that your sister will keep you posted on your mother's care and condition.  It seems reasonable to ask for that with assurances from you that you won't drag her into a nasty legal fight.  Otherwise, look for a third party to assist you with the nursing home problem and your other concerns.

 

The most important advice that I can give you at this point, is to be very careful to report your suspicions without any suggestion that what you are reporting is an actual fact.  I'm sure that you realize this, but sometimes when people get a little passionate about a cause, they can very easily embellish the truth to improve their story.  That would be a disaster and would destroy your credibility.  At that point, your case would be over and nobody would listen to you later when you had more facts.  Please be very cautious!

 

I wish you well and hope that you'll keep us posted.  Best Wishes, --  Joe  --   

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Unhappy With Family, Community Member
12/ 8/11 3:46pm

Need some advice.  My husband's brother has recently stated that he had to "borrow" a large amount of money from his father who has alzheimer's and is living on his property to take care of a wifes' demand for a recent divorce settlement.  That same brother (assigned Power Of Attorney for father) has also stated that he is in the process of "renovating" his bathroom.  On another occasion while his mother was still alive asked her to intercept a Visa charge card bill in the amount of $8,000.00 and yelled at her when he found out she had confided in me about the bill.  

 

Now my husbands' brother is demanding we care for his father two weeks out of the month.  Does he have an jurisdiction in this matter?  (We live in the house deeded to the father but when the father passes will be trusted to my husband.) 

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Unhappy With Family, Community Member
12/ 8/11 3:55pm

How do we force a cancellation of a power of attorney knowing that this person is misappropiating funds?  Does this power of attorney have the right to demand that we care for a family member with Alzheimer's?

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Carol Bradley Bursack, Health Guide
12/ 9/11 6:29am

I think you'll need an elder law attorney to change the power of attorney. You may have to seek guardianship. If you don't seek guardianship, you likely can't be forced to provide care, but if you do, that could happen. In my opinion you need legal advice. State laws vary, so there's no one right answer.

Good luck,

Carol

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Carol Bradley Bursack, Health Guide
12/ 9/11 6:30am

I think you'll need an elder law attorney to change the power of attorney. You may have to seek guardianship. If you don't seek guardianship, you likely can't be forced to provide care, but if you do, that could happen. In my opinion you need legal advice. State laws vary, so there's no one right answer.

Good luck,

Carol

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Susan, Community Member
12/ 4/12 11:41pm

This is classic elder abuse. You have a responsibility to report the abuse. Call the police and a lawyer. In the meantime get a restraining order on your brother and go see how your mother is doing in person.

 

Susan

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By momiandbebe, Community Member— Last Modified: 01/01/13, First Published: 07/04/10