Q: My sister has mental problems, she just recently went on social security for her condition. I don’t know much about it, but I know her oldest daughter’s life was a unhappy one. My sister and her daughter had a fight 3 years ago and my mother now 81 took in her granddaughter. My mother loves her granddaughter, but as soon as she came into the house my mother had to go on meds for stress. Mom felt so bad for the life of this 17 year old girl she took care of her the best she could. Bought her a older car, and made all repairs, set her up with insurance, bought all her clothes, cooked for her and cleaned up after her. A year ago my mother started having health problems, she had a surgery 10 months ago and is now facing surgery to remove a large mass in her pelvic area, the doctors do not know if it is cancer or not. The only way they will know is with surgery.
A couple months ago my niece moved in with her boyfriend, but would come home and eat and drop off dirty clothes and get clean ones and act like that was still her home. My niece had car trouble and my mom took a credit card she had never used and gave it to her to get her car fixed. My niece told my mother she was going to get her own card so she would be able to get her car repairs taken care of. Some how she had herself put on my moms card and within a couple months charged over $11,300.
When my mother found out she told me in all her life this was the first time she felt like killing herself. I was so upset I called my son-in-law because I felt like he could handle it in a better way that I would. We don’t know where she lives and don’t know the last name of the man she lives with. She was told to take care of this and get it off of my mother. My mother hasn’t heard a word from her, so our family called the credit card company, told them what was happening, and they said she obtained the card under fraud. We went to my mom and had her talk to the credit card company and papers will be sent to my mother for her to fill out against my niece.
All my mother wants to do is get a mortgage against her house to help my niece, my mom is so very upset but loves my niece with all her heart. I tell her that my niece has to face this herself; I am trying to help my mother. But I also understand my mother. My siblings know nothing about this and my mom begged me not to tell them. I’ve tried to do everything right, but what do I do if my mother will not sign the papers? Am I doing this right? My siblings and I don’t get along, my mother and I have always been very close and I think they didn’t like that.
A: I think you have done the right thing by doing some investigation on your own and contacting the credit card company but I don’t think you can force your mom to sign the papers. I would come at her with love and compassion and let her know you understand that she only wants to help her granddaughter but if she just pays off the debt she is condoning illegal behavior. If she really loves her granddaughter she also needs to set good healthy boundaries with her.
It would be a different story if your niece had asked for the money openly and honestly but she took advantage of the situation. Ask your mom what she would do if she had that amount in the bank or in her house and her granddaughter took it without asking. She would most likely consider that stealing. This is really the same thing. If she still hesitates, maybe you could find an attorney nice enough to talk to your mom about the risks of condoning this kind of behavior and what it could do to her credit rating, savings, etc. Do what you can but in the end I think your mom will have to make her own decision on what she does. Good luck.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Sep 2007
Counts, H. (2007). What can we do about grandchild using credit card?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 9, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/09/07/what-can-we-do-about-grandchild-using-credit-card/