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by Abigail Van Buren

Ne'er Do Well Son Mooches Off Mother's Meager Savings

DEAR ABBY: My mother lives on Social Security and has very little savings left since Dad died last year. I manage her affairs, and I'm trying to encourage her to save some of her money for emergencies.

The problem is my 38-year-old brother, "Jeff." He will not keep a job, and he's burning through the little bit of savings she has. It has reached the point that Mom is now hiding food in her own house so she'll have something to eat.

Jeff recently brought a woman to stay with him. Because he can't pay the rent and utility bills on his trailer, he now spends a lot of time at Mom's house. He has ruined the car he was given when Dad died and now drives Mom's car.

I want to put the deadbeat on the road, but Mom feels she needs to help him. Jeff has made three or four suicide attempts, but I think it's just to get pity and mooch some more. How can I get her to see that he's not trying to help himself and he's just using her? She knows my feelings but doesn't want me to say anything. -- WORRIED SON IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR WORRIED SON: Hiding food in order to eat? An adult son spending his mother's savings? Your brother may have emotional problems, but he may also be guilty of elder abuse.

I urge you to discuss this matter with a social worker or someone with a background in psychology who can help your mother recognize that she's not helping Jeff by enabling him. Not only that, she's risking her own health and welfare. The nearest senior center or area agency on aging, listed in your local telephone directory under Senior Services, can put you in touch with someone. Please don't wait.