Nightmare: Bankrupted by my 103 year old grandmother!

Hello Everyone,

I joined here in order to seek opinions regarding my predicament with my grandmother. She is a lifelong Catholic who prays daily and watches the EWTN mass without fail. I have been her sole caregiver for the last 5 years, and co-caregiver for 11 years before that.

I carefully wrote out my story - which is a quite involved - and it weighed in at about 1500 words. I see that the forum guidelines require short messages and I wonder if a one-time exception might be made.

In reading caregiving and legal forums I have seen so many cases of “elder abuse”, but nothing like my case, which could easily be called "grandson abuse’.

Sounds like you have it saved off in a file somewhere… just paste it in here in multiple chunks.

Although you didn’t post your story yet, my preemptive advice to you will be that “We are not qualified to offer legal advice; please consult a lawyer.”

If you are looking for advice that’s beyond what a lawyer can tell you, then split the story into chunks and post it.

I’m really sorry to hear that in as much as you did post, you have been unfairly treated by your grandmother, in fact, bankrupted. Your message would have posted successfully. If you exceed the allowable limit the post won’t be successful.
I’ll keep you in my prayers.

Thanks for the replies.

No, I am not looking for legal advice. Just sane opinions from honest people who are outside of the situation.

Sorry about using “War and Peace” mode - I’m sure there’s a quicker way but it didn’t come to me.

It all began 16 years ago. My grandmother, who is now 103, had remarried in her early 80’s, and had just become a widow again. Because she was alone and not comfortable with that, it was decided that my mother would look for a house that could accomodate the three of us: my grandmother, my mother and me.

We found a very nice house (S Florida) on a quiet oak-lined dead end street that had plenty of space and privacy for us all. It even had a quasi-guest house in back for me. It was much more expensive than the out-in-the-boonies retirement community that my grandmother had come from, but we discussed the finances and agreed that her contribution was to be $1200 per month. Since her income was approx $2000 per month, that was not a hardship for her.

She also gave my mother $50,000 for a down payment. However the house was a serious fixer-upper and we had the interior and exterior painted, purchased a new roof, new carpet, a handicapped toilet, and had two small bedrooms converted into one huge one so that my grandmother would have a wonderful private space.

My grandmother also made a promise to my mother that she would leave her everything she had in exchange for Mom taking care of her until the end. That was our working agreement.

OK, so far so good. My mother was a very kind and generous person by nature, (as am I) and was always doing things to make my grandmother’s life more pleasant. She took her to thrift shops once or twice a week, out to lunch or dinner often, a cruise every so often, and even paid for many dinner theatre outings which my grandmother greatly enjoyed. And of course, many gifts.

Now the problems began almost immediately. My grandmother’s constant theme was: “I’m paying too much.”, “I’m not getting enough for my money.”, or “YOU DIDN’T NEED A POOL!” (It’s a very small one) She turned out to be a very nasty and demanding person who expected us to kiss her feet, almost literally. Her basic attitude from the start was that if she did not get her way on everything, no matter how petty, she would punish my mother by threatening to disinherit her. This was not stated directly but was made clear nonetheless, as you will see.

Another key way that she would punish my mother was to stop talking to her altogether and basically sequester herself in her room. This effectively cast me in the position of go-between, and also required me to serve her meals in her room, and to listen to her hypocritical “I’m praying for Jesus to take me” claims. These “freezout” periods would last up to 3 months at a time, usually ending if there was a holiday coming up.

Besides that, my grandmother did not wish to be left alone in the house, and my mother - who had spent her career as a hotel manager and had an active life - was not allowed to have any kind of outside life. My mother’s way of coping was to believe that “This won’t last forever.”

During this time, my mother was working as a hotel manager, even into her late 60’s. That is a very tough thing to do, especially in a smaller hotel with no budget for assistant managers or department heads of any kind, and a job like that usually requires long hours that would burn out a younger person. Her secret of success was that I worked for her as an unofficial assistant for a nominal rate of pay, and filled in for all the low-paid derelicts who were incompetent, quit with no notice, etc. I was glad to do this, since it was temporary and helped my mother very much. So, with her job reduced to a survivable schedule, my mother could have kept going even further, but at my grandmother’s “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.” urging, she retired.

That promise was empty, of course, and at the next disagreement over nothing, my grandmother decided to leave us altogether. No concern for the financial hardship this would cause for my mother. No recognition of her promise, “I’ll take care of you.” Anyway, using her standard trickery she arranged to go back to her home state to “visit” her sister. Her sister was shocked when my grandmother showed up with all her belongings to move in permanently. That sister was able to tolerate my grandmother for about 3 months before transferring her successfully to another sister. That sister put up with my grandmother for 3 months also, until I got a phone call, “Do you still have my room available?” Of course, an honest person would have had the decency to talk to my mother directly, to apologize for the trouble she had caused.

So she came back, and resumed life as it had been.

Well, this wretched walking-on-eggshells way of liveng lasted for about eleven years, ending when my mother died from lung cancer. My grandmother had brought so much constant petty misery into our lives -even during my mother’s sickness - that at one point on her deathbed my suffering mother cried out, “I HATE HER, and I don’t care if she hears me.”

To put my grandmother’s character into further perspective, here are a few quick points of reference:

First, in the retirement community where my grandmother lived prior to moving in with us, she chose that location because it was three houses down from her sister. They would be shopping buddies, and look after each other. But one Saturday morning her sister was not ready to go to the flea market at 9 o’clock sharp, as planned. Whammo, my grandmother never spoke to her again in her life. (approx 5 years)

Second, my grandmother got remarried at about that time. At one point her new husband did something that displeased her. Her response must have been severe because shortly after that, the man tried to kill himself by sitting in his car in the garage with the engine running. When my grandmother noticed something wasn’t right she rushed out and said “Don’t you dare shame me! Get out of there right now!” No concern for him, she was only thinking of how it would look for her.

Third, my grandmother had a little mixed breed dog. She was constantly punishing him - including days after the fact - and goading him with the grip end of her cane. Lots of snarling and growling. Although he always responded to kindness and love from me or my sister, there were at least 3 occasions where he went crazy, and shredded the flesh of my grandmother’s hand. Shouting “You bad dog!” constantly plus the goading had made him psychotic. Anyway, in his final years she did not want him to be able to hide under her bed, so she kept his leash attached 24 hours a day. Sad to see him running around the house trailing a 5 ft. leash.

Finally - the tsunami. I said “Grandma, you have been very fortunate in your life - I think we should send something to help the victims right away.” She agreed, but the next morning said that since was already having automatic deductions ($60 annual) made for United Way, she had changed her mind. Now let’s do the math here: she’s getting Social Security, extra large size, from her main husband, retirement and insurance benefits from her main husband, a small annuity from her last husband, and has saved a couple hundred thousand over nursing home or assisted living costs by sucking the life force from my mother and me for 11 years, and yet 20, 30, or 50 dollars for starving tsunami victims is too much???

This is from a woman who says the Rosary 2 hours a day and never misses the noon mass on EWTN.

Back to the homefront. Although my grandmother had promised to leave everything to Mom, it turned out that over the years, whenever her savings account reached a certain level she would have me take her to the bank to get a CD for one of her four grandchildren. At the time of my mother’s death there was almost $90,000 in CD’s for the grandchildren. That was almost half of what she had altogether. She completely violated the terms of her original promise to my mother.

Now, as for the grandchildren, there are four of us. Over the years, the other three grandchildren basically called her for holidays, period. I was the one who lived with my grandmother and waited on her in some form or other every day. Because she was usually at odds with my mother, it fell to me to help her with her finances, medical bills and corrspondence, take her shopping, tend to her pet dog and most other matters. My grandmother would occasionally show me the CD’s in my name - which by the end totalled almost $40,000 - and our informal agreement was “This is what you get in return for all that you do for me.”

I should point out that the housework, yardwork, and time spent as her companion / helper worked out to about a 3/4 time job. I worked intermittently either part time or full time as a hotel manager. The reasons for the patchy work record is that my real interest is in developing software, and I was focusing on my computer work at home in whatever time was available. But during those eleven years I had a number of offers to work in a far away hotel with wages, room and board. I could easily have done that and been able to do my programming in my spare time. But I chose to stay in that family arrangement as it helped both my mother and grandmother and - owing to the CD’s - seemed like a reasonable deal.

At the time of my mother’s death, the CD’s in my name showed up in my on-line banking and I felt very secure about that. As my mother’s days were dwindling down she said to me “Well, if I don’t make it, at least you’ll have a good start at a new life.” So it seemed.

When my mother died it was an incredible shock both for me and for my sister. My grandmother didn’t seem to care much, and did not attend the funeral or pay even one cent towards expenses. It was right about then that she approached me and asked, “If I promise to leave you what I have, will you promise to take care of me to the end?” Foolishly I agreed, making the worst decision of my life.

Anyway, the funeral expenses contributed to a growing financial crisis for me. Without my mother’s Social Security check, I could not pay our bills. The mortgage alone was $1800, and my grandmother’s contribution had been punitively reduced to an “I’m-still-paying-too-much” $1000. Since I had spent the last 10 months as a round-the clock caregiver for two basically helpless old ladies, I had no income and I was not in a position to start working unless someone could be found to look after my grandmother.

That left only one option - redeem one of the CD’s in my name ($5,000) to pay some of our bills, with the idea of buying some time to come up with a survival strategy. So that’s what I did. My grandmother - then at 98 - had an increased sense of her own mortality, and stated that she would be giving all the CD’s to the grandkids as they they came up for renewal in the coming year.

But there is where my real troubles began.

When I told my grandmother that I had cashed a CD to pay our bills, she went ballistic. I - formerly called her #1 Grandson - was now branded a crook and inherited the role of bad-guy-to-be-punished from my mother. My grandmother arranged with my brother-in-law to immediately go to the bank and change the CD’s back into her name exclusively. And of course my 2 cousins and sister all received their CD’s - their “inheritance” - as promised. Wow! In one step I had been turned into a pauper, and diabolically trapped into a role of servitude if I ever hoped to recover what had been promised to me.

I was going completely out of my mind. I can’t convey how maddening this was. Besides the incredible grief of losing my mother, the promised payoff for eleven years of being a nursing home attendant had just been stolen from me in an instant. For no reason. When I tried to reason with my grandmother, she cut me off with, “I’ve had enough of your malarkey.” End of discussion. So then I offered to try to find a priest to be a mediator, and of course she refused that.

To make matters worse, somehow in the confusion, I helped her to buy a manufactured home because she did not want to be involved with a mortgage. This turned out to be a very bad mistake because my sister and I had inherited the family home and we should have stayed there.

Because I wasn’t earning any money while taking care of my grandmother, our family house went into foreclosure. The mortgage holder gave me a chance to assume the mortgage that had been in my mother’s name, but they needed for me to catch up first. I explained this to my grandmother but she refused to help. $10,000 would have been more than enough. Can you imagine this? I had waited on her for 11 years, had been promised $40,000, and had never asked for any kind of favor before. The reason I was broke was that I’d been taking care of her! But she did not care in the least if we (my sister and I) lost our house to foreclosure or not. And meanwhile, my cousin had been given $22,000, no strings attached.

Well, with a spotty job history, and not much established credit, I was not able to get another mortgage. However, right at the brink of losing the house outright, I found a hard money lender who charged 12% interest-only for a one year period. Plus points, of course. Horrible terms, but at least we kept our house. The net loss from that transaction plus remortgaging at the end of the 1 year period was well over $100,000. All for no reason at all other than my grandmother showing me that she’s the boss.

This is the end of the first part of this story. The remainder involves the next 5 years with me taking care of my grandmother solely on my own.

I would really like to hear some outside perspective. Not legal advice, just sane human response.

I want to stress that both my mother and I are (were) are good sincere people who intended nothing but the best. Nothing but good was ever done for my grandmother. None of these problems should ever have come up. My grandmother had 2 dedicated servants and got things 99% her own way. Most elderly people would love to have a setup like that.

So… how could I have known that I couldn’t trust my own grandmother? If I’d had any clue as to her true morals, I might have said, “Hey Grandma, I would love to play cards with you 5 times a week, watch tv with you half the evenings, listen to your stories for the hundredth time, go out to dinner with you every Sunday, and all the rest of it, but you know what? - I have to MAKE A LIVING! I’ve got to start preparing right now in case you decide to cheat me or my mother in the future.” And when my mother lay dying, I could have insisted that my sister come over a couple of days a week, so that I could work at least part time to protect myself. But no, I trusted my family to be fair.

IMO, what my grandmother did to me was outright theft. She turned my mother and me into subordinate nursing home attendants who were working for a deferred payoff that never came. And turning her back on me after all I did for her during the ordeal of my mother’s sickness was completely inhuman.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

PS - Part 2 with me inheriting my mother’s role gets alot worse.

***I am sorry for what you have been through, sounds like a lot.

I would say that your grandmother sounds like she has been set in her ways for a while. It also doesn’t sound like her antics were personal with you or your mom. (I’m sorry for your mom’s passing, too by the way) I think that seeing your grandmother is 103, she might just not be completely cognizant anymore of the pain and hurt she’s causing…I’m not excusing her behavior…but she treats sisters, friends, your mom, etc this way…you are not any different. I don’t know what caused your grandmother to do these things, but pray for her. I know you’re upset, but pray for her. She is very old…and it just seems like she has been set in her ways for some time. Maybe the deaths of two husbands caused her to grow bitter…angry. I will keep you in my prayers…you are such a great grandson to care for her. It is hard when loved ones upset us over and over, but at her age…it’s hard to say what or why she is behaving in this way. There are a lot of wonderful assisted living facilities that take care of their residents very well…I might look into that for her…she sounds like she needs someone to be with her more often…

Good luck with this, prayers are with you.***

I’m so sorry for your situation, mate. And your mom as well. The only possible advice I could give you for all that is to find a priest and talk to him about the situation. I have absolutely no idea how to figure out the finances…I’ll keep you in my prayers.

pax tecum

:frowning: “Grandson” My prayers go out, to all of you. I know that it’s not easy to care for an elderly person. I’ve been doing it myself, solo… for 6 years. No help from any other family members.

You have certainly had more than your share of difficulties. I hope things will improve for you. May God bless you.

We are commanded by God to honor our parents. Jesus rebuked those who did not care for their elderly parents.

We do not do this because we will hit a jackpot when they die, we do it because it is the loving Christlike thing to do. Grandma paid 1200 per month so you could live in a house with a pool and guest house of your own.

Prayers that your family heals and puts money in the proper perspective.

‘Love of money is the root of all evil’ says The Word - money with its false promise of power ; while it is easy to empathise with the plight of the O.P , along with the good advice of prayers, another good remedy may be to make up for the above root vice by charitable giving , in atonement , for all areas of so called familial / familiar bondages ; hope this can be done in 'one mind ’ with the rest of the family and being careful to see to it that satan has not already taken hold through resentments !

( Even Greogorian Masses for the mother who died - in case there has been unforgiveness !)

Involvement from priests and such may be what could really help in this area ( of helping the grandmother to see the need for almsgiving !)

Hopefully , once the joy of giving takes hold , she could become a changed person of peace , with lot less need for control and the same peace could also come into O.Ps heart , free of all resentments !

Looking at the whole situation as an area of spiritual battle that include the grandmother , in one sense as a victim too and doing all that can be done - house blessing , asking our Lord constantly to have mercy on her and all other persons like her , offering up the love with which our Lord dealt with the suffering from Judas and even giving supplemental , B12 under the tongue, to ensure absorption , since many older persons who are deficient can become paranoid, fearful ) , all these can be of help !

Your heartache and sufferings , let us hope, have already been a lesson to many who might be hoarders and unjust - how it can become a source of much misery !

God Bless !

P.S - just remembered too , while there is mention of Grandmother watching Mass on EWTN, if she has been away from the Sacraments and if there has been any negligence in this area from the caregivers ( unlikely since she seems to be the kind of person who would have found a way to get to Mass if it was important enough but then again - there are times when even admonishing a sinner, if needed , is an act of mercy in such important areas !) ; with God’s grace and mercy, much healing can take place , esp. with a good confession !

It is sad to hear of even Catholic groups who go for nursing home ministry and spend the time on rather frivolous games with barely any prayer time !

Many of us have possibly cherished memories of childhood days when a grandparent had us sit with them before an afternoon nap , with an assigned reading passage ( and somtimes , in the hurry to not waste play time ,the reader skipping parts in the passage hoping that the listener did not notice , till recognising years later that these were familiar passages to them and it was an act of pure love and mercy - their pretending that the mischief was not noted ; all they wanted was a little time with the grandchild ! )

May His mercy bring abundant healing and blessing !


Your grandmother should be paying for her own living expenses. It sounds like she has the money. What you need to do is get her to move out of your house and into a place where she will be cared for. She is responsible for her own living expenses.

Everyone in your family should completely forget about her money. It is her money, not yours. She needs to use it to get some professionals to care for her in her old age. I am not an attorney, but I think it is problematic for her to be giving her money to her relatives. If she ever needs to go on medicaid because she is out of money, the money she gave away will be considered part of her assets.

As an adult, you are responsible for your own living expenses. You need to get a job and work to take care of yourself. If you can’t afford the house, then you should sell it.

After work, you can come and visit your grandmother at her assisted living home, and you probably don’t need to visit more than once a week. If she is mean, just remember that she is over 100 years old, and her mind may not be what it used to be.

If you find all of this impossible to do, you may need a family meeting and help from Social Services.

Remember, that you can’t love your neighbor unless you love yourself first.


Dude, at 103 years old she’s living on borrowed time.

What exactly in this situation is hilarious?

I am so sorry for all of the pain involved here. I don’t have any advice,only prayers… and hope that writing it out was at least helpful to you in some way to find relief.

Hello to all who responded.

I will post the remainder of the story very soon, but wanted to thank everyone for their responses and prayers.

Many interesting points were raised, which I would like to respond to as well.

Thanks again.


Grandson, I’m not as nice as the other posters.

Just a warning.:wink:

You can’t take promised money to the bank.

An inheritance isn’t an inheritance until someone is dead and buried. Doesn’t sound like Grandma is gonna die any time this century.

God won’t have her and Satan doesn’t want her.

Reminds me of a story of an earthquake in Iran some years back. Seven days later they pulled a 102 year old woman out from the rubble. She was alive. They gave her tea and she complained the tea was too cold.

I’m sure her 70-year old daughters in law were sobbing that she didn’t die.

Your mom knew her mother. She took care of her anyway. She let herself be bullied and taken advantage of. She put up with it. And you helped. Let’s be honest. You’ve all catered to her. Everyone knows she can’t get along with anyone. Your brother in law even helped her stick a knife in your back. I hope by now your sister understands that no good deed goes unpunished. She’s next.

And everyone is being nice to the rich old lady hoping when she dies the wheel will stop on their number and the payout will begin. And she’s smart enough to know everyone hates her and only puts up with her for her money. So she uses it like a tool to make you all jump through hoops. Better for her to watch than tv!

About 10 years ago you should have gotten a full time job and passed her on to the cousins for their turn. By now they’d hate her too. Everyone would understand how capricious and mean she is.

It’s a moot point that your mother didn’t inherit anything. If her mother wasn’t dead before her, it doesn’t matter who inherits now. You watched this woman make your mother’s last days miserable. And you have stayed and taken abuse, not out of love, but out of what? Hoping she’ll reward you? Have you seen her reward anyone in 103 years? She won’t change now.

That money is hers, not yours. If you didn’t have anything in writing with someone who has been jerking her family around for a century, well, it doesn’t matter how much money she has, it’s not yours.

Get a job and earn money while you’re still young enough. Give responsibility for the old woman to whoever thinks they can earn the inheritance. This woman has made everyone orbit around her. She didn’t turn you into anything without your consent. You did right by helping your mother. But you both knew this old woman didn’t play fair. And you went and bought a manufactured home for her?? You should have spread around the joy of taking care of her with the other family members.

The only thing I can suggest is to suck up your losses, sell the house, get a job and let her go stay in a nursing home. Pretend there is no rich old lady, no inheritance and no supportive family. It was never yours. Walk away from it. Build a new life. The woman is making you bitter and angry. Stop giving her control over your life. She owns you, but you gave her permission.

Set yourself free.
But pray for her.

Here is Part 2, the remainder of my story about being the caregiver for my 103 year old grandmother.

In the first part I explained that my mother and I took care of my grandmother for 11 years. Her only alternative would have been assisted living, or more likely a combination of that and a nursing home, since she did have a heart attack at one point. The higher costs of those would have drained her savings completely, despite her relatively decent monthly income.

So, even though she was saving a considerable amount of money by living with us, and had a much better quality of life pampered by two “attendants” and companions, a huge private space, a pet dog, and essentially had everything her way, she insisted on seeing her life there in terms of “I’m paying too much!” She was constantly complaining about that, and punishing my mother for the tiniest thing.

Her attitude was truly amazing because while there are so many serious external problems in the world: war, disease, famine, crime, etc, my grandmother was protected from all of them. I really believe that 99% of all people in their 90’s would have been delighted to be in her shoes. Of course, getting old is no picnic, but allowing for that, she had it made.

I just want to write a little about my mother, since she was a key figure in this story.

My mother had a pretty hard life. My father was an abusive alcoholic who would often come home drunk and scream the most disgusting insults at her until dawn. He would degrade her in public, even hit her, and it was unbearable. After almost 20 years of that, she divorced him and had the responsibility of raising the kids on her own. Child support never came, so she had to make it just with her meager skills as an office clerk. But somehow she parlayed that into a position of executive secretary at a hotel, and when the home office realized that she was effectively running the place instead of their goof-off manager, they gave her a chance to be a hotel manager if she would move to the East coast. She took the opportunity and had a successful career in hotels, including being a regional manager at the high point. That kind of work required frequent moves, but it’s the price you pay. Her management style was to cultivate key loyal employees who became close with her like a family.

My point here is to establish that she was successful and respected, and not a liar, nor a cheater, nor a crook of any kind. And that she did not deserve to finish up her life being browbeaten by my grandmother.

For anyone focusing on the monetary aspects of this story, it was never supposed to be about that. I mentioned that my mother took Grandma often to dinner theatre, well she even took us all to Broadway and we got to see Jerry Orbach singing and tap dancing in 42nd Street.

My grandmother used to watch Chef Jean-Pierre on PBS and liked him a lot, so on her 95th birthday my mother had a nice surprise for her. We all got into a rented van for a trip to his 5 star restaurant “The Left Bank” in Fort Lauderdale. Wanna guess who came over to wish Grandma a happy birthday?

Getting back to the story, the 9 or 10 months between my mother’s lung cancer diagnosis and her eventual death were really demanding. She was in and out of the hospital 5 times, had chemo, radiation, many doctor visits, constant deliveries of oxygen, the works. I took care of everything, and made sure that Grandma got all her meals and was not alone too much either. Very little sleep, since I always wanted to peek in on my mother a couple of times per night. In between all that, I was also researching the medical angles re lung cancer hoping for a miracle.

So my whole life for that period was Mom, Grandma, housework, yardwork, and studying.

If I had had any inkling that my grandmother might take away those CD’s in my name, I could have protected myself by insisting that my sister come over a couple of days per week, allowing me to work part time. But because my mother and I were both honest, I just ASSUMED that my grandmother would be as well, and that once we got thru the crisis, we would work things out fairly. In other words, I did not spend any time visualizing, planning, or negotiating our future life in the event of my mother’s death.

I explained in Part 1 that the loss of my mother’s income forced me to cash in a CD to pay our mortgage and other bills. I discussed the situation with my sister and her husband, and they agreed that I had no choice other than “Pay the bills now, explain later.”

Maybe you are wondering why I couldn’t just come clean with my grandmother at the time - honesty being the best policy. Well, simply put, you just cannot reason with her. I couldn’t say, “Hey Grandma, remember how you agreed to contribute $1200 per month toward expenses when you moved in 11 years ago? Well, there’s this thing called inflation, and that means that when you punished my mother by paying only $1000 or $800 - depending on your mood - it sometimes worked out to be EFFECTIVELY half of what it should have been. We never bothered you about that, but because of it my mother ended up in credit card debt, and I am in financial trouble, too.” Anyway, it would have pointless to explain, especially in the numbing grief just after the funeral. I know my grandmother very well, and she would have just ended up accusing my mother of being a crook. To prove my point, when I eventually did explain it to her, I was the crook, and she took away the CD’s that had been promised to me.

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