DEAR ABBY: My mother died last year. My 93-year-old father now lives with my sister "Lila" in her apartment back east. I have four brothers and another sister who reside in the same state.
I live in Arizona. Although I'd love for Dad to live here with me, he doesn't want to put such a great distance between himself and the rest of the family.
Dad gets $3,000 a month from Social Security. Since Lila doesn't work, she decided that she should be the one to take care of our father. All of us agreed that she should take Dad's Social Security check and use it for his care. Dad also has about $400,000 put away that is to be split among his children when he passes away.
Recently, Lila took $21,000 of our father's money, claiming it was a "gift" so she can purchase a co-op. (Dad would buy it; her name would be on the deed.) Someone, I'm not sure who, called Dad's lawyer and reported the withdrawal. The lawyer met with Lila and my brother "Hersch," who has our father's power of attorney. The lawyer told Lila she can either pay back the $21,000 or it'll be deducted from her inheritance. The lawyer then put Dad's money into a trust fund so it cannot be touched.
Now that she can't have the money as a gift, Lila is very angry and refuses to let anyone speak to Daddy on the phone. We are pretty certain that Lila never informed our father about the withdrawal -- she was trying to steal it. I think she is afraid we might say something about what happened.
Besides retaliating against us, it is also punishing Dad. Because I live across the country, the phone is my only means of communication with him. I'm at my wit's end. Lila has never gotten along with us siblings, and it has always been like pulling teeth to get her to let me speak to my father. Now she's severing the lines completely. Is there anything I can do? -- HELP! IN ARIZONA
DEAR HELP!: There sure is. Pick up the phone and discuss this with your siblings and your father's lawyer. Your sister is attempting to isolate your father, and there is no guarantee that his Social Security check is being spent for his benefit.
If your brothers and sisters do not live close enough to check regularly on Dad's welfare, it may be necessary to hire a social worker or care manager, or move him to an assisted-living facility. Please don't wait. Do it now.