Wednesday 7 December 2005

letter to Mum's Solicitor

...As for my Mum's mental health, I am confident that you will be reassured when you meet her that she is not incapacitated. I believe she is competent enough to shop for herself and organise her weekly cleaner, her hairdo and the dog grooming (though she has on more than one occasion left her handbag at the supermarket!). My worry is that she doesn't understand how much money she has after this. When I visited in August, I found to my horror that she was giving away by direct debit and by individual donations three times what she had coming in before her own spending began. This had been going on for some time and she had quite severely depleted her savings. Feeling like a miser, I helped her cancel a lot of charity direct debits, plus some redundant ones (she had two dental plans, two pet insurances and was also paying insurance for electrical items she no longer owned). I am sure I will find a few extra direct debits when I come down for Christmas as she is a soft touch for any sales pitch or sob story.

After Dad died, Mum was often confused whether he'd left her with £50 or £50,000 to her name, and would ring me up either terribly worried or offering to give me sums of money that I knew she couldn't afford to give. This hasn't really improved very much. Despite being on a decent income, she's consistently sold off her shares to pay for things, running down her assets. When I intervened in the Spanish flat fiasco, I found that Mum didn't know how much money she'd already paid (we recovered £25,000 but it was never certain that she'd not given more). Blissfully unaware of her own vulnerability in Spain, I watched my Mum walk past her hotel bedroom door each night and morning, even trying her key in the door of the gents bathroom on one occasion. Discussing the exchange rate, I found she had no idea of simple maths and thought that 250 Euros was a fair tip for the hotel maid, after 4 nights (she thought this might be £10). Mum still has a problem with zeroes, and her account of the cost for something varies by a thousand percent within one conversation. She is unable to reliably read things out to me over the phone, as each attempt contradicts what she's said before.

I get panicky phone calls from Mum almost every week, and have to intervene on her behalf to sort things out that she doesn't understand. Mum's visit to your offices last week was a case in point, by no means untypical of the stuff I have to sort out all the time. Most of the time it's simple stuff, like explaining that she doesn't need to buy a Freeview box because she has a digital TV already. Unfortunately, sometimes I am unable to easily help, like when she's been signed up for a BT package she doesn't need or understand how to use. I don't imagine that taking Power of Attorney will stop her doing things wrong (I usually only get to hear about something AFTER she's done it - arrgh!), but if it could mean that I can represent her for organisations like BT or her Car insurance company, then that would be a help. I'd also like to be able to log into her bank account and just see what Direct Debits have been set up, but I'm not sure if that's allowed....

[To clarify about Mum's visit to the Solicitor, she had received an offer for some shares which we determined that she should accept. Since she had given all the shares to her Solicitor, she needed to obtain the details and post the form she had been sent. I organised an appointment for her to attend and reminded her on the morning to go. Apparently by the time she arrived at the office, 20 minutes later, she had no idea why she was there or who she was to see. She waved the form at the receptionist and asked for a signature on it. She then posted the form off incomplete and managed to lose around £5,000 in one morning]