DEAR ABBY: "Going Broke in Maryland" described her 85-year-old husband as a cash cow for charities. She said they live on a fixed income, and he keeps insisting they "don't really need the money."
In my father's case, what she described was the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. It started several years before the usual signs such as confusion or getting lost occurred. He, too, spent a fortune trying to "win" a million dollars from sweepstakes companies.
Since "Going Broke's" husband has clearly lost his good judgment, it's unlikely that legal counsel will bring it back to him. (My dad seemed to understand our advice, but continued sending money to sweepstakes, humane societies, etc.). What "Going Broke" needs is an attorney to protect herself and her husband financially. She should also try to get a medical exam for him. If they have children, they need to help her with this NOW.
"Going Broke's" local Alzheimer's Association can offer assistance and advice. The Maryland attorney general's office will have a consumer protection or omsbudman's office that may be able to advise her. There is probably a Council on Aging in her county. Also, please make sure she has the address of the Direct Marketing Association to stop the junk mail. She may need to block phone calls, too, if telemarketers are a problem at her house.
If she has to take away his control of the family finances, she should try to do it in a way that allows him to put the blame on someone else, not her.
My father never did win the shiny new car or the million dollars he was promised, even though the sweepstakes companies called to get directions to his home and had him fill out official forms requesting color and style of the automobile. He is now in the dementia ward of an assisted-living facility, and my mother wishes she had those thousands of dollars he spent on sweepstakes entries and charities to help pay for his care. -- HOPE THIS HELPS, COLUMBIA, S.C.
DEAR HOPE: You and your family have my sympathy for the way your father's condition was exploited, and I hope "Going Broke" will heed your suggestions. She should also write to each charity that is soliciting her husband and request to be removed from the mailing list.
Readers, you can write to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association Inc., P.O. Box 643, Carmel, N.Y. 10512. The Web address is www.DMAconsumers.org. If you're drowning in junk mail, contacting it can cut down on the volume.