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Adult Freeloaders Mailbag

This past summer, in sharing some thoughts on how to deal with adults who regularly take advantage of others, I received a number of thoughtful replies, two of which I share here with for added perspective for those who may benefit. Please note that these messages are being shared with permission.

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Dr. Kim,

I am on the board of directors for a homeowners association. Two of our owners died in the previous twelve months and we have found out that both of them had taken out Home Equity Reverse Mortgages.

Their heirs and assigns were unaware of this or that there was no equity left upon the owners’ deaths. Ownership has been released but not transferred formally. As a result, taxes are delinquent and yard maintenance is not being done. The burden is being transferred to the other association owners.

I’m sure that there may be a few legitimate situations appropriate for reverse mortgages. In the majority of cases though, the lenders appear to have a legal means of taking advantage of senior citizens with the lure of “free” money up front and ignorance of the consequences.

Pitches by celebrities on TV make it seem so very appealing.

John R.
Washington

Addendum: Reverse Mortgages are often called Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM).

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Dear Dr. Kim

I read your last newsletter about elder abuse and wondered whether you’ve heard from others like myself?

I am the main caregiver for my 97 year old mom with vascular dementia. When she first started having falls some ten years ago, my siblings wanted to put her in a home, but because of the falls she was put in extended care rather than assisted living. I had thought - and said - from the beginning it wasn’t a good idea but was overruled by my two siblings. Their thinking was “She’ll be safer there.” But her mind was still very active and being institutionalized with company that was almost catatonic took an immediate effect.

Within 6 weeks she had gone downhill so much that I asked her if she’d like me to bring her home. Of course she agreed and again my siblings fought it. But as her medical representative, I felt strongly that I owed this much to her, rather than leave her abandoned to a fate that was slowly devouring her. So I fought my siblings and managed to bring her home.

That was 3 years ago now. She has had 3 years in the home she loves while I took on all the necessary caregiving tasks - dealing with medical authorities; dealing with government funding offices; making/attending appointments with doctors, mental health practitioners, geriatric specialists; interviewing and training caregivers; ordering supplies and following up their sometimes waylaid deliveries; checking and managing all caregivers round the clock, even filling in when we couldn’t find a replacement for a sick caregiver; making time to sit and visit with her in between the hectic schedule I’d built for myself; etc. The list of things to do is never ending, but the reward is my mom is happy to die where she is and her care has been stellar for these past three years. She has not had any more serious falls and though my siblings have refused to be involved in her life (other than to police her savings accounts) we have managed to cope without them.

I’m sure you’ve heard about caregiver burnout and the sad reality that most children don’t want to take on the responsibilities of caring for their parents. But I feel quite strongly that if I’d had the support of my siblings, this special job could have been adequately managed by all three of us. My health is very poor now, and my emotional and financial situation are also degraded. On top of those difficulties, the other traumatic aspect is that I have been accused of elder abuse because I use my mom’s Visa to pay for all expenses incurred by her home care.

I know that elder abuse does exist but I wonder how many others there are like me who have been accused unfoundedly of doing wrong while giving up their entire lives for a parent? There is very little support for caregivers and at a certain point one has to choose between preserving limited energy and going to a support group: given all the other duties expected of us, there just aren't the resources of energy to go around.

These days my life teeters from one extreme to the other, either an overload of requests for my mom’s situation or a yaw of solitary time when I begin to know how the loss of my best friend will feel. That being said, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it differently. It’s been an honour to see my mom through her old age and watch the changes take over; I wish all of us could have the same peaceful ending without others finding a reason to accuse us of somehow doing it “wrong."

Sincerely,

Penny

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Many thanks to John and Penny for sharing their valuable insight and experiences. If you feel called to share any thoughts in response to either of their letters or on the topics of elder abuse or adult freeloaders, please feel free to use the comments section below.

- Ben

 
 

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Comments

That second letter was so interesting because that's such a common thing to happen I think especially these days with so many people back in 2008 when the mortgage crisis was thrust upon America Millions if not tens of millions of people ended up homeless and a lot of people are really hurting financially because of divorce the divorce rate in the 1990s where man gave up on their wives and children and took off and married their secretaries. That was a remarkable letter because a friend of mine is going through that exact thing right now she gave up everything but she was in bad financial Straits anyway but at least she had a nice house in two renters so there was three people kicking in on the rent and she had a job although a very stressful job she's in her sixties she went over to Bishop California to help with her mom and stepdad who were in their late 90s will the mother took a turn for the worse which was not unexpected at her age and they would not take care of themselves in regard to diet and so on she cooked for them what they wanted because there's no dealing with them and changing their mind but she's going through the same thing the mother has days or weeks left to live she's at home being cared for mostly by my friend and her sisters come in and out but there they live far away and it's mostly on my friend's shoulders and instead of leaving the stepdad there with my friend so she could take care of him they want to put him in some kind of a home he's got dementia not full-blown Alzheimer's at all but it's going to end up her being put out on the street with nothing and it makes me very angry. In my own family of origin I'm 70 years old now the person that was supposed to be handling my mom and dad's estate mishandled it and gave the most precious things away which was a Stradivarius copy violin my dad had in his Gibson banjo which was also worth 10 to $20,000 if the time that was in 1990 my niece now plays that violin in the symphony she's been doing so since 1990 when my older sister gave that violin to her dad which is one of our brothers and all of those musical instruments which had great value are now in the hands of people that have no financial problems at all and never will and those of us in the family that certainly could have used the help get nothing so life certainly isn't fair and I there are no words to describe how devastating this is and how evil it is and believe me I know what that person is talking about that wrote that letter to you I am in Arizona been here since 1980 and we are watching the entire that second letter with so interesting because that such a calm and thing to happen I think especially these days with so many people back in 2008 when the mortgage crisis was thrust upon America Millions if not hands of millions of people ended up homeless and a lot of people are really hurting financially because of divorce the divorce rate in the 1990s where putting men gave up on their wives and children and took off and Mary there Secretary. That was a remarkable letter because of friend of mine is going through that exact thing right now she gave up everything but she was in bad financial straits anyway but at least she had a night owl listen to renters so there was three people kicking in on the rent and she had a job although a very stressful job she's in her 60 she went over to Bishop California to help with her mom and stepdad who were in there late 90s well the mother took out turn for the worse which was not unexpected at her age and they would not take care of themselves and regard to diet and someone she's cooked for them what they wanted because there's no dealing with them and changing their mind but she's going through the same thing the mother has days or weeks left to live she's at home being cared for mostly by my friend and her sisters come in and out but they're they live far away and it's mostly on my friends shoulders and instead of leaving the stepdad there with my friend so she could take care of him they want to put him in some kind of a home he's got dimension not full blown all timers that all but it's going to end up her being put out on the street with nothing and it makes me very angry. In my own family of origin 970 years old now the person that was supposed to be handling my mom and dad estate miss handled it and gave the most precious thing away which was a strata various copy violin my dad had and his Gibson banjo which was also worth can do $20,000 if the time that was in 1990 my niece now plays that violin in the symphony she's been doing so since 1990 when my older sister gave that violin to her dad which is one of our brothers and all of those musical instruments which had great value our now in the hands of people that have no financial problems at all and never will and those of us in the family that certainly could have used the help get nothing so life certainly isn't fair and they're are no words to describe how devastating this is and how evil it is and believe me I know what that person is talking about that wrote that letter to you I am in Arizona been here since 1980 and we are watching the entire area of Prescott and surrounding area be completely destroyed by this unbelievable invasion of California with big fat pensions driving hundred thousand on what I know now God bless you all that have been damaged by selfish family members which almost always are the ones that worship money and will do anything to get it. Oh in 1990 Paul Harvey made an announcement on his radio show any violin worthy of being played in the symphony is worth a minimum of $80,000 so if anybody out there has a guess I'd like to know maybe how much that violin would be worth now it's a Stradivarius copy it's Extremely Loud and has a lot of resonance it's a beautiful instrument almost totally encrusted with Gorgeous mother of pearl I've never seen one like it and when those family members became aware that I was very angry about them getting that violin That was supposed to be sold and divided among all seven siblings not just given to one sibling I went I asked my brother's wife if I could come over and take a picture of it she hemmed and hawed and finally said yes I went over there and she had it sitting on the counter I opened up the case and it was my dad's other violin it was not the high dollar beautiful violin and then she claimed that other violin never existed and all the rest of the family chimed in with her if you can believe this it is unbelievable in my sister who control the estate try even told me there are no photos no pictures of my dad playing that violin which is a huge lie because my dad was a prolific photographer and had pictures of everything so I have no photos of that violin but I can remember it like it was yesterday in a friend of mine who took me to a play once where the orchestra was playing he saw it but I have no way of getting ahold of him anymore he has a photographic memory so he would definitely remember it but I don't think there's anything I can do about this and that violin would be worth I'm guessing possibly as much as $800,000 or more it has incredible tone and resonance and it is absolutely gorgeous

Working in the financial industry for almost 20 years it was common to see this type of elderly abuse and there wasn't much that could be done to prevent it because the parents enabled it. I often seen a parent(s) of a child financially supporting them well into their adult lives and once the parent needed help and care it was the problem child who was given control of the finances. No matter what was said to the parent, no matter what alternative resources were given to them, they still chose the wrong path. The problem starts with the parent, not the abusive child.

I think that is not totally fair, to blame it on the parent. Remember that by the time that help is needed the parent will be in declining health and perhaps not reasoning properly.
Also, the parents who take care of an adult child probably think that that child will be the most grateful and therefore the most likely to take good care of them in their old age.
Also I have seen situations where an adult child basically never left home, or leave for periods of time then move back, and when their parents grew elderly, took exceptional care of them.
The blame should be placed upon the deceitful person, not the parent or person being decieved.

When I was with Canadian Mental Health I received a phone call from a senior who, after her husband passed on, started a reverse mortgage and had just been informed that in a relatively short time she would lose her house to pay back the mortgage. She had used all the funds to support herself. She asked what to do but also wanted me to write about her experience to benefit others. It was the ideal topic because when it comes to mental health preservation of it and information about it is vital. Unfortunately when I went to the director to request permission to write this I was refused. The director was also the person who at the yearly Christmas party refused to have our clients sit with her at her table. I loved that event, each staff member would sit at a round table with several clients. At that time we were also instructed not to use the word client, but consumer. Terminology to this day that I find highly offensive. Sometimes the people in charge shouldn't be!