Dear Ann: My 93-year-old neighbor died last week. While living to the ripe old age of 93 is quite an accomplishment, his last years were anything but pleasant. He had been to the hospital numerous times for fractured bones. He claimed he fell. The truth was, he had been beaten. His home had become a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes and career criminals.
I live in an upscale neighborhood in an affluent retirement community. This elderly neighbor allowed a young prostitute to move in with him. He said she was his "niece." The woman looked like a tramp and entertained an assortment of weird characters. Several people in the neighborhood tried talking to him, but he said everything was fine. When he was beaten last month, we called the police, but the man refused to file charges.
This man had two sons who lived a few hours away. When their father died, they were shocked by what had happened to him. They were not aware of the beatings, and were stunned when they learned their father had given nearly $200,000 to his "niece." We would have been happy to keep the sons informed, but we had no way of getting in touch with them.
Ann, please tell your readers with elderly parents to make sure at least three neighbors have their phone number. Ask their parents' banker to notify you if there are any large withdrawals or unusual activity in their bank accounts. If something seems peculiar, investigate, and if necessary, contact an Elder Abuse Care or Family Protective Services organization for help.
Our old neighbor signed away the title to his house to this "niece," and now, we have to worry about a nasty legal fight and the possibility that she will open our lovely neighborhood to more of her slimeball friends. Tell your readers to take a more active role in their parents' lives. John in Florida
Dear Florida: They say "a word to the wise is sufficient," but I believe the truly wise don't depend on neighbors to watch out for their elderly parents. They phone and visit often enough to know what is going on.
I hope you readers who have elderly parents will pay attention to what you read here today. If you don't, you will regret it.
Dear Ann: My only brother, "Tom," is married to a woman who is incredibly nasty, not only to our family but to everyone. My husband and I have tried to maintain a relationship with Tom, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.
Tom calls me from work now and then (he doesn't want his wife to know), but I see his family only once a year. He has a lovely young daughter who barely recognizes her father's relatives. At the girl's last birthday party, his wife invited her entire family but not one person from our side.
Tom knows how we feel about his wife, but it doesn't seem to matter. Her efforts to isolate him from his friends and family are succeeding. Every time I speak to him, he sounds more and more like her. I am dealing with this situation as best I can, but it's very hard on my mother. Tom is her only son.
I realize there is no way to give this evil woman a personality transplant, nor do we expect Tom to leave her for our sake. However, is there anything I can do to make this easier for my mother? Tracy in Missouri
Dear Tracy: Probably not, but give it a try. Show Tom this column, and ask if he sees anyone he knows. I hope it helps. Meanwhile, fill in the holes in your mother's life, and spend as much time with her as you can. She needs you.