The Moneyist: My narcissistic sisters took over the funds of our alcoholic mom. You’re debiting your checking account. What can I do?

I've read your advice column many times and now I have questions of my own.

For many years, my mother was a smart, strong businesswoman who worked her way up the corporate ladder and earned a six-figure salary in her mid-forties.

She was also an alcoholic. A very well functioning but an alcoholic nonetheless. I noticed how serious their drinking problem was in their early twenties, as did other family members, but my younger sisters (twins, three years younger than me) denied it until it was too late.

In her late 60s, years of alcohol abuse finally caught up with her when she developed Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a form of brain damage with symptoms similar to Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. My sisters finally woke up and helped me intervene when my mother could no longer take care of herself.

“The first rehab stay cost over $ 30,000. My mother didn't drink there during her month and started improving, but as soon as she got home she started drinking again. "

The doctors told us that the most important first step in dealing with her was getting her to stop drinking. My sisters decided that rehab was the best choice, but all of the reputable alcohol rehab programs run by hospitals and led by doctors and psychiatrists said my mother was not a good candidate for their programs.

After my sisters had seen the numerous Hollywood films in which someone had been in rehab for 30 days and then "cured", they found a program that would record them and sent them to the first place they could find could. The first rehab visit cost over $ 30,000. My mother didn't drink there during her month and started improving, but as soon as she got home she started drinking again.

So another rehab stay, then another and another and always the same result. Before her first rehab visit, my mom had over $ 200,000 in her savings account, and by the end of a year almost everything was gone. I tried to talk to my sisters about what I consider rehabilitation thugs: centers that just want your money and have no real ability to get people to stop drinking. But they wouldn't listen to me.

At one point, I went to her bank with my mom and let her put $ 5,000 of what was left of her money into a savings account on her behalf that my sisters couldn't take for more rehab because I was worried about mine Mother would go broke in the end.

"There will always be two against one"

My sisters found out about this and accused me of trying to steal from my mother, trying to win other family members against me, and a lawyer who prevented me from having anything to do with my mother's finances. They told me that if I ever tried to see them again without their witnesses they would file an injunction against me.

I have sought help and advice from other family members, including my father, who my mother has been divorced from since 1990. My father says he agrees with me, but he has no control over my sisters so there is nothing he can do.

"My sisters accused me of trying to steal from my mother, tried to win other family members against me, and brought in a lawyer who prevented me from having anything to do with my mother's finances."

Because they don't know what to do or don't want to interfere, he told me not to fight with my sisters because it will always be two against one, so I should accept that there is nothing I can do.

My mother has no idea what day of the week it is or who the current President of the United States is, so she is unable to stand up for herself.

The COVID-19 pandemic started pretty much after that last showdown, so I haven't seen my mom in the past year, but I know my sisters took her to a nursing home upstate. I practically cut off communication with my sisters. As you can probably guess, we were never that close to begin with.

I speak to my mom at least once a week just to check in. The only silver lining from COVID is that she can't really go anywhere and the house she lives in doesn't serve her alcohol, so every week she sounds like she's getting a little better.

I am very concerned that my sisters will blow all my mom's money through (they pretty much already have it). They are now trying to sell their house, which is worth at least $ 1 million, and I'm worried they will blow that too.

My mom will be on Social Security $ 2,500 a month for the rest of her life, but I don't think my sisters can give her everything she needs considering the house that she put her in alone has cost over $ 3,500 per month.

I love my mother and I fear my narcissistic sisters, who never listen to anyone and are convinced that they are the experts in this and any other situation, are making a huge mistake that they only realize when it is too late – just like when you wouldn't acknowledge our mom was an alcoholic until it was too late.

My question is: are my relatives and my father correct? Should I just accept that there is nothing I can do and let my sisters spend every penny on my mother and just hope that they can take care of her? Or can I do something to intervene and have a say in my mother's medical treatment and life?

Thank you.

A helpless sister

Dear sister,

Helplessness as your mother's capable daughter is just a state of mind. Unfortunately, her mother is in a dependent state. I agree with you that she would have been better off in a nursing home from the start. Given her illness and alcohol addiction, rehab probably wasn't the best place for your mother.

The good news is that your sisters finally found out. The bad news is that money is running out and you need to actively participate in your mother's affairs and not be left out of her life due to the whims of your other two sisters. This is also a cautionary story for people who do not have long-term care insurance.

The dilemma of whether to move an elderly relative, especially a vulnerable one like your mother, to a nursing home is an issue made difficult by the high COVID-19 rate in such homes and the confidence you have in such homes will and on the sites they recommend (or may not).

"You may want to hire a lawyer who specializes in the conservatory and challenge your sisters' powers of attorney or apply to the court to take over the POA."

– The money is

Return to your description of yourself as helpless. You need support to help and support your mother and ensure that the best decisions are made for her. You may want to hire a lawyer who specializes in the conservatory who will question your sisters' authority, file a petition for your mother's POA in court, or at least become a joint POA.

This gives you the legal leverage to make good decisions and prevent bad ones. When no family member is ready or able to take in your mother, you need to develop a financial plan for home care for your mother. It won't be easy or cheap. Paying money for legal advice can save you money in the long run.

There are also a number of organizations available to advise you on the wisdom of selling this home, how to build a trust in your mother's expenses when you do, and what to do to get financial assistance apply for and / or qualify for it. These organizations include the AARP and the National Family Caregivers Association. There's more here.

They are not going to change your sisters' opinion of you – and while it would likely make your life easier, it shouldn't be the place where you direct your energies or focus. There are too many ad hoc actions and too little planning. However, you can let your voice be heard and make sure your mom is getting the best help she can.

You can email The Moneyist with all financial and ethical issues related to coronavirus at

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