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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Caught in Tug of War Between His Wife and Son

DEAR ABBY: My 80-year-old mother lives alone in a small apartment and maintains a fairly independent lifestyle with the help of public assistance.

I live across the country, but talk to her on the phone several times a week. During one conversation, she told me that my 50-year-old brother has been storing furniture in her tiny living room even though she asked him not to. I wrote to my brother, asking him to remove the items immediately and to apologize for causing our mother aggravation. (He has a good job and a grown family.)

Mother has since reiterated to me that she wants the furniture out, but says she's afraid my brother will retaliate -- which shocks me.

While I can't fathom my brother taking advantage of our mother this way, I wouldn't put anything past him. Several years ago, he took a jazz album collection that belonged to me out of Mom's apartment without my permission and refused to return it.

Is there something more I can do -- or some agency that can help? -- FRUSTRATED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR FRUSTRATED: There certainly is. Since you are concerned about elder abuse, contact the Administration on Aging Eldercare Locator service, toll-free (800) 677-1116 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time, or on the Web at: www.eldercare.gov. Please don't wait. Your mother has the right to feel safe and secure in her own home.