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Periodic Contributor

My elderly mother's neighbor and finances--is this ok?

Hi there,

 

My mom is recently widowed and lives alone. She's 75 and has Parkinson's and mild cognitive impairment. She lives next door to a former co-worker, Pam, who has become a friend. Pam is 15 years younger. Mom is fairly independent (drives, shops, cooks to a limited degree), although she has a nurse who comes once a week to help arrange meds. I live several hours away and so I'm only there about once a month.

 

Pam seems friendly and generous but I noticed she is also on the bossy and nosy side, and sometimes my mom reports that Pam tells her what to do or gets frustrated with my mom. But, my mom also says she loves Pam and Pam helps her out so much (running little errands, going to eat with her, or helping her with random small household things).

 

At some point, Pam started helping my mom pay her bills. Pam had her passwords and also switched over my mom's phone to her own account. So my mom now pays Pam a monthly cell phone bill. Pam also rearranged my mom's pill organization system from a tackle box to individual baggies. She also changed my mom's garage door code to an insecure code (think 111111) which I'm not happy about.

 

I started to feel uncomfortable about the finances and pills, so I asked my mom to let family only help her with finances, which she agree to. I also asked Pam not to touch my mom's medications. Pam responded in a hurt, negative way to both requests: "Well, if you don't want me to help..." I reassured her that my mom loves having a friendly neighbor and friend next door, but that I felt these two things were better handled by family and my mom's medical providers. I hired a nurse to come in once a week to rearrange my mom's meds which solved the meds issue. After this conversation, Pam stopped coming over to my mom's when I'm there. (She used to come and say hi.)

 

I changed all of my mom's passwords and have been managing her bills for about a year. Today, my mom called to tell me she has an appointment at a new bank and Pam is going with her. My mom had a question about her home equity line of credit (an old debt that she is anxious about) and asked Pam. Pam suggested she refinance this loan, suggested a bank, and told my mom she'd take her there because she's also doing the same thing at the same time (refinancing buddy system, I guess?) 

 

It sounds like my mom's interest rate will be a couple of points lower at this new bank, which is great, but I feel a little weird about this person being with my mom at this appointment given her personality and the past. Since it's a debt it seems like there probably isn't any worry of financial abuse though--is that correct? Or should I be wary? I asked my mom to be in on the meeting via phone and she agreed. I'm my mom's POA.

 

I guess I'm being paranoid, but I worry about my mom and someone taking advantage of her. My husband feels like Pam is just nosy and not to worry about, but my dad (my mom's ex-husband) says I should keep an eye on her and that "people get weird about money." I guess I mainly want to know whether it's unusual or ok for a neighbor to accompany my mom to a loan refinancing meeting, and whether I'm being too paranoid about this person, who might just be someone trying to help.

 

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Newbie

I think it is very strange that this person is so involved with your mother's personal information. Pam may be a friend but that is what she only is.  Any financial changes or whatnot should be handled by you as her power of attorney.  I too had a line credit that needed to be refinanced so I know it is a worry for us older folks but that being said you should be the only one handling her refinance.

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My stomach is tied up in knots just reading this.  Pam's name should be spelled NIGHTMARE.  I hope that you have contacted an elder care attorney.  I would do a background check on her to see if there have been any other incidents similar to yours.  I think you are right to be concerned.  I think her responses make it very likely that she has ulterior motives.  Please post an update.  

 

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Pam sounds WAY to interested in "helping" your mother. My guts started churning right off and tied right up in knots when you told about visiting the bank together. Definitely something to worry about. Since it's a month ago that this was happening it would be nice to know how this all turned out. We hope OK. Please let us know.  

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This just came up in my email today so it may be a little late since your posting is over a month old, but here goes.  Personally I hate to be cynical but this neighbor really has no business involving herself in your mom's financial affairs.  Seriously, if she were truly above board then why not ask for your number and talk to you if she has concerns about your mom.  We read and watch programs all the time about elderly people being scammed.  I don't know if that is the woman's intention but you need to really keep a close eye on this.  People prey on the elderly when there are no family members close by.  Under no circumstances would I allow this woman to accompany your mom to the bank without a family member present.  Unfortunately, you may alienate this neighbor but it's better to be cautious.  The fact that she got all defensive when you wanted to change the way your mom's medication is handled raises a red flag to me.  Keep cautious Jaimie.  It's better to be safe than sorry.  Hope I helped you just a bit.

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NOBODY outside of immediate family (though in certain familes, even that's not an option) should be considered safe.  If there isn't a financially stable family member who can be trusted, hire someone who is bonded. Set up automatic debits for utility payments so checks don't have to be written. Use only 1 crefit card for all other purchases and monitor it and bank accounts closely. 

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This is definitely not a good thing! Make changes to everything immediately!!

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@JamieE244040 wrote:

 

It sounds like my mom's interest rate will be a couple of points lower at this new bank, which is great, but I feel a little weird about this person being with my mom at this appointment given her personality and the past. Since it's a debt it seems like there probably isn't any worry of financial abuse though--is that correct? Or should I be wary? I asked my mom to be in on the meeting via phone and she agreed. I'm my mom's POA.

 

I guess I'm being paranoid, but I worry about my mom and someone taking advantage of her. My husband feels like Pam is just nosy and not to worry about, but my dad (my mom's ex-husband) says I should keep an eye on her and that "people get weird about money." I guess I mainly want to know whether it's unusual or ok for a neighbor to accompany my mom to a loan refinancing meeting, and whether I'm being too paranoid about this person, who might just be someone trying to help.

 

Thanks.

 

 

 

 



It sounds to me like you should be worried -

 

It does not sound like you have initiated your POA over your Mom affairs - so your Mom is still in the drivers seat. 

 

Do you trust your Mom's ability to stop this neighbor from pushing her to something she should not do?  Like signing a Quit Claim Deed or refinancing for much more than just what might be needed to pay off the remaining HELOC.  And hey, since they are at the (new) bank anyway - maybe they could open up a new joint credit card.  Or maybe the neighbor needs a co-signer on whatever loan she is trying to get.

 

You have already explained to the neighbor about the finances.  Now your Mom is getting a new bank and the neighbor is going with her to do a refi together?  Who knows what might occur.

 

If your Mom has cognitive impairment, Parkinson's and she has problems fixing her own medication and you are now paying all her bills - should she be able to sign important financial papers (refinance)?  Will the bank even let her sign the papers or should they?  Will she understand what she is signing for how much, for what, for how long and for whose benefit?

 

It sounds like to me that you need to go ahead an initiate that POA and you make these financial decisions for your mom - that way, no one else, no matter who,  should be able to manipulate your mom's finances because she will no longer have control over them. 

 

If you don't think that is necessary - your Mom is still in the drivers seat and it is legally still her decision.  Perhaps take the day and go to the (new) bank with them - if the neighbor begs out - you will know that some hanky-panky is going on -

 

The neighbor needs to do what neighbors do - giving a helping hand, not directing the show.

Good Luck and let us know how it comes out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Periodic Contributor

Thank you, I am so glad I asked. This made me realize something when you said "deed"--as part of estate planning last year, my mom's lawyer encouraged us to set up an irrevocable trust for the house, with my sister and I as trustees. My mom deeded the house over to us then. I just did a quick google search, and who knows if this is correct, but I saw some things are concerning--that the whole amount of her HELOC might become due if a property is transferred to someone else. I don't know if a trust counts as that, but it seems like it might. Holy crap, and another reason a neighbor shouldn't be involved in my mom's finances! 

 

>>Will the bank even let her sign the papers or should they? 

 

That is a good question. She has a financial advisor for her 401k, and he let me know that he was concerned at one point about her ability to manage her account. (I've now mostly taken over that responsibility, although my mom still calls him from time to time.) So, if she showed up a bank and they notice she has trouble following the details, I can see that being a problem.

 

>>And hey, since they are at the (new) bank anyway - maybe they could open up a new joint credit card.  Or maybe the neighbor needs a co-signer on whatever loan she is trying to get.

 

Thanks, these are all good things to watch for. I'm going to ask my mom to hold off on going into this bank.

 

I'm not great at finances and learning how to help my mom manage this stuff has been a learning curve. Thanks again.

 

 

AARP Expert


@JamieE244040 wrote:

Thank you, I am so glad I asked. This made me realize something when you said "deed"--as part of estate planning last year, my mom's lawyer encouraged us to set up an irrevocable trust for the house, with my sister and I as trustees. My mom deeded the house over to us then. I just did a quick google search, and who knows if this is correct, but I saw some things are concerning--that the whole amount of her HELOC might become due if a property is transferred to someone else. I don't know if a trust counts as that, but it seems like it might. Holy crap, and another reason a neighbor shouldn't be involved in my mom's finances! 

 

>>Will the bank even let her sign the papers or should they? 

 

That is a good question. She has a financial advisor for her 401k, and he let me know that he was concerned at one point about her ability to manage her account. (I've now mostly taken over that responsibility, although my mom still calls him from time to time.) So, if she showed up a bank and they notice she has trouble following the details, I can see that being a problem.

 

>>And hey, since they are at the (new) bank anyway - maybe they could open up a new joint credit card.  Or maybe the neighbor needs a co-signer on whatever loan she is trying to get.

 

Thanks, these are all good things to watch for. I'm going to ask my mom to hold off on going into this bank.

 

I'm not great at finances and learning how to help my mom manage this stuff has been a learning curve. Thanks again.

 

 


GaiLL is always on the ball. I have other questions. I used to be a geriatric care manager and in the metropolitan area of DC and surrounds, there were bill paying services that would take care of everything. Why is your mom refinancing? I think its long overdue for your mom and other invested members of the family to sit down with an elder law attorney to look at assets and possible care options down the road. Does she have enough money to pay for a paid aide who could help her with more than Pam can? Could she pay for a geriatric care manager who can look in on her and go with her to doc appointments, advise you and your siblings on next steps, check the home for fall risks.... At some point she's going to need more care than your long distance oversight can manage. 

 

Right?

Jane

Periodic Contributor

Thanks. I just needed help with this specific question regarding a neighbor and boundaries. 

 

I read A Bittersweet Season after my stepdad died and have taken care of everything you've mentioned, and then some, but thank you.  

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AARP Expert

Excellent, glad to hear it. Yes, boundaries are a good thing! Carry on...
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