Welcome to the Oreo generation – those of us coping with elderly parents while we raise our own children to adulthood. Your aging parents present unique challenges, especially if they develop an addiction to gambling.
While gambling is not legal in most states, it is available through the Internet, and if you live in a state that has gambling, or is adjoining one with legal gambling, your family members may have access to the casinos.
Gambling has existed as long as mankind; it is one of the oldest pastimes in existence. Gambling is not a problem for most of us; however, for those with addictive tendencies, gambling can become a disease, just like drugs. Elderly people have more trouble with gambling addictions than you might think, as their abilities to recognize consequences is dimmed, especially if they are beginning to experience dementia-like symptoms.
What You Can Do
If you have an elderly family member who is showing signs of a gambling addiction, you’re going to have to intervene. If you are not the legal guardian of your relative, or you don’t have a power of attorney, your options are limited. If the family member in question is not your parent; perhaps it’s an aunt or uncle, then contact your cousins or other relatives and let them know what’s going on with their mother or father.
You need to evaluate the situation as quickly as possible, including getting a guardianship or power of attorney if your parent or parents are showing signs of dementia. If both parents are still living, you need to talk to the unaffected parent and discuss what to do about the other one. If the elderly parties are not affected with dementia, getting them help for a gambling addiction is a must. Start with Gamblers Anonymous, and if they resist, try counseling.
If they resist all efforts at helping them deal with the issue, take steps to protect the unaffected parent’s assets. Move money and investments out of joint accounts into separate ones, and don’t give the affected relative access. If their house is paid for, encourage the unaffected relative to be sure their name is on the deed, to prevent the affected relative from taking out a mortgage or selling the property without their knowledge. If you can make sure they don’t have access to their ATM card and credit cards except under supervision.
Coping with the Problem
If the relative affected is not in your immediate family, there’s not much you can do beyond alerting their closer relatives to the situation. If the gambling-addicted relative is your mother or father, you should consider counseling for yourself and your family, to cope with the stress. Your best bet in dealing with the situation is to find a competent family law office and learn what steps you can take, to protect your unaffected relative from the consequences of financial loss through gambling, and to help the one with the problem.
Be aware your affected parent may try to enlist your children, to enable them in their addiction. Educate your entire family about the problem, to head off family conflicts down the road. It is possible you may have to place your relative in a nursing home if they are showing signs of dementia; make sure your kids are cognizant of the facts before it comes to this point.
Gambling addiction among seniors is a growing problem. Learn how to head it off before it becomes a major issue for you and your loved ones.