My head is reeling from finding out yesterday that my Mom owes about $22,000 in credit card debt. She’s 75, retired, divorced from Dad and living on a fixed income. She has 5 credit cards, the worst has $12,000.00 on it. This month there is a finance charge for $270.00, the highest rate is 31%, there’s a late charge and the minimum monthly payment is $1,229.00.
So how did she get to this point? Senility, mostly. That and the black hole known as the dining room table.
She was getting upset and told me she thought she was a victim of identity theft because she hasn’t charged anything on the cards in a few years. My sister was living with her a few years ago before Sis ended up in a mental hospital and Mom thought that my sister had charged God knows what on her cards. (She didn’t). Somewhere along the line Mom missed the monthly payments or paid the charges late. She didn’t know the rates would go up to 33% because of that. From there everything just snowballed. And snowballed. And avalanched.
Mom gets her bills and mail and puts it on the dining room table until she gets around to paying them. Unfortunately, that’s also where she puts magazines, grocery receipts, flyers, junk mail, you name it. Whenever I visited her she’d hand me a stack of papers and mail for me to go through because she didn’t understand what it was. I’d have to throw out or shred the fake plastic credit card offers, the life insurance offers, and basically separate the junk from the legitimate. She couldn’t identify the offers from the real policy. She never showed me any of her credit card bills because it was “private”. I spent last night and this morning cleaning off the dining room table and my nerves are shot.
Mom is an Alcoholic and was in rehab about 5 years ago. I believe this is how her brain turned into Swiss Cheese in the first place, she used to have a couple scotches every night to help her get to sleep. She fell off the wagon 3 years ago and got back on again, but she has all kinds of problems and almost got kicked out of the retirement community she lives in. My ex brother in law and his girlfriend have been living with her, so she’s not alone, but they don’t want to get involved in her personal business and I can’t blame them. I’m glad they’re there to cook and clean, I’m sure if they weren’t there she wouldn’t shower, wouldn’t clean the house and would live on cookies and Burger King.
Mom has been paying for the credit card protection on her balances and thought they kicked in automatically when she couldn’t make her payments. She didn’t know she was supposed to call the 800 number next to Credit Protection on the statement. She has been in the hospital a few times in the last few years, I don’t know if it would have helped much if she did call.
She thought her purse had been stolen back in 2006 and she reported it to the police. My Dad drove to her house and helped her cancel all her cards and do the paperwork for getting her license and SS card replaced. Three months later she found her purse in a drawer where she “hid it”. (Dad and I live a couple hours away from her house).
I love my Mom, I do. I was going to pit her brain, but I don’t have the heart to do it. Tomorrow I’ll be calling the credit card companies and the NFCC to see what I can do to help her. Dad and I can’t afford to take on her debt. She’s in the hospital right now for an infection in her gums and a “heart irregularity”. I don’t know how many years she has left, but I would like to make them as stress free and comfortable as possible.
Has anyone else gone through this with a parent?