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My 73 year old brother moved back in with our mother, 94, but stopped paying the rent while she was in the hospital and uses her bank card. Do we have to worry? Money psychotherapist VICKY REYNAL answers

My brother lives in my mother’s house. He moved back home after my father died when his marriage was in trouble. He is 73 and she is 94. He has been paying her £400 a month in rent for more than a decade, but has a large pension. He uses my mum’s bank card – whether it’s fish and chips for them or his petrol. Him being home reassures her, but he spends most of his time in his room or lying on the couch with his cell phone, so he’s not much company for her. She was recently in the hospital for three months and he didn’t pay rent – ​​she knows that. There are five of us, brothers and sisters, we don’t have power of attorney and we don’t know how to discuss the subject with him or our mother. Can you help?

VICKY REYNAL ANSWERS: I understand why the situation warrants a warning as a potentially exploitative scheme. I think it’s important not to make assumptions. What we don’t know is whether your mother sees it as exploitation or whether she doesn’t mind covering your brother’s expenses.

As strange as it may seem, there’s a possibility that she doesn’t mind: it could be a defense against her fear of being alone and lonely (her generosity keeps your brother around) or maybe she feels needed and helpful by providing part of the financing. its costs. You wish he was a better companion for your mother and that he put in more effort and care, but again, we don’t know how much your mother experiences this as you do.

Money psychotherapist Vicky Reynal answers your financial questions

I suggest you talk to her first: have an open conversation. Start broad: ‘How is x (your brother)?’ You can tell her that you know he hasn’t been paying rent and has been using her debit card a lot, and you want to make sure she is aware of this and agrees. Ideally, don’t put words in her mouth: ask open-ended questions like ‘what do you think about it?’ instead of “I imagine you’re furious,” which says more about how you feel than what she might be thinking. If you sense any uncertainty in her answer, you can gently ask, “Are you sure?”

If it bothers her, it’s important to understand whether she’s tried to confront him about it before and been undermined or rejected. Any of these would indicate possible financial abuse (this is when her financial freedom is at risk) and it would be important to expose this to protect her.

Divorced adult children can sometimes wait too long after financial worries force them to move back in with elderly parents (photo taken by models)

Divorced adult children can sometimes wait too long after financial worries force them to move back in with elderly parents (photo taken by models)

It may be that your mother is bothered by it, but never said anything. You can then encourage her to talk to your brother, or you can initiate a conversation if you think she is unlikely to initiate. You can explore the idea of ​​a power of attorney with your mother as an option if she feels vulnerable to exploitation.

When you speak to your brother, don’t start with an accusation: listen to his version of what’s going on. Avoid using foul language and maintain a calm tone. Focus on what you and your mother feel as a result of his actions to clarify what he needs to change. “If you don’t pay the rent, she will feel uncomfortable asking you,” for example, or “I worry about Mom’s autonomy when I see you spending money with her debit card.”

If you find out that your mother is not actually bothered by the current arrangement, or even has no difficulty with it, you may be left with a lot of feelings. Presumably anger towards your brother, who is not the son you wish he was. Maybe also jealous that he gets away so often (and I wonder if that’s ‘typical’ of the past?) You could also be angry at your mother for letting this happen – she often lets people take advantage of her generosity?, or maybe because she hasn’t shown you any gratitude for the efforts you put into it. After all, you’re telling me that you take your mother to all her hospital appointments and manage all her utilities and bills. And maybe there’s jealousy in the mix if money represents love or attention that you think your brother is getting now or has gotten more of in the past. When current situations evoke strong feelings, it can sometimes be because they connect to emotional remnants from the past.

Acknowledging and allowing space for the range of feelings this situation brings up will help you untangle what is in the past from what is in the present, and what your feelings about this situation are versus your mother’s possibly different view.

Do you have a question for Vicky Reynal? Email: vicky.reynal@dailymail.co.uk