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.
DEAR ABBY: Last February you printed a letter I wrote signed "Sports Dad Down South" about how to handle my out-of-control son, "Trent," who was a star athlete in school. In May, you featured an entire column of letters you had received in response to mine. I thank you for that.
Just as an update, my son was expelled from his high school for behavioral issues and three failed classes. The scholarship offers he had received from several Division I universities were withdrawn.
As one mom wrote to you about her experience, the coaches pushed my son on to the next game, where he performed up to all expectations. But they forgot entirely that these kids are called "student athletes" for a reason. They are students first, athletes second. As a result of that insanity, Trent lost any chance of having a career in baseball.
A word to the wise to other parents of rising young stars: Be careful. Watch for the warning signs that you are losing control to the sports mania. I didn't recognize them and respond in time. There is no going back. Abby, if my voice can prevent another family from falling into this high school madness, I will feel I did the right thing by writing. -- SPORTS DAD SPEAKS AGAIN
DEAR SPORTS DAD: I'm glad you wrote, and so -- I am sure -- will be the parents of high school athletes everywhere. Your son has learned a bitter life lesson. But better that he learned it early than if he had been similarly pushed through college with no skills to show for it.
What happened to your son doesn't have to be a tragedy. There is still time for Trent to get his GED, to mature emotionally and decide on a direction for his future. He will find more than one road to success once he decides which path to take.
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