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My brother lives with my mom, who has dementia. Now my brother won't allow me to see her and I'm fearful for my mom. It's a nasty situation - how do I confront my brother?


Question:  My mom has dementia and continues to live in her own home. My brother and I have a Durable POA. My brother has always lived with mom and dad. Now, dad has passed away. My brother, age 62, now collects his social security. He lives with mom and writes out payments for her expenses. He does not contribute to household expenses. He has provided caregivers for mom to help with her hygiene needs, as he also benefits from the caregivers' services—laundry, grocery shopping, meal prep and errands. My brother has now changed the locks on the house, and will not allow me to see mom. The last visit resulted with him calling the police because he said I didn't call first.

He has badgered the bank regarding joint bank accounts that mom and I had before she became ill, and now the bank has frozen her account. I have consulted lawyers and they all say to file for conservator/ guardianship. However, because of the nastiness of the family dynamics, the lawyers also say most likely it will be decided that mom will be removed from her home and a third party ward will be appointed. I have consulted a mediator who said my brother's symptoms sounds like a parasitic child. He has been nasty and I am fearful for mom. I have discussed this with the police and they can offer a police escort to make sure I can visit with mom. My emotions are running high and I need the strength to confront my brother. Any suggestions?

Dr. Amy:  It sounds like you are facing a very unfortunate and difficult set of circumstances, and that you are taking the right steps in consulting lawyers, mediators, and the police. My advice, before you approach your brother, is to be clear about what you want to accomplish. Are you concerned about mom's care, your ability to see her, your brother's behaviour, or a combination? What, specifically, would be a good outcome from your point of view? You may find it useful to talk to someone who can give you more help thinking this through. A therapist, mediator, or a support group are good sources of support. 

It will be important to approach your brother in a way that does not make him attack you. You may not be able to have this conversation alone. Is it best to have the conversation in writing or in person? A mediator can sit with you both to resolve this.

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