What Do You Do When Your Senior Mother Starts Boozing and Cruising?

Savage Love Letter of the Day



One other point about Alzheimer's is that very often people with this condition once institutionalized "chose" to leave their spouse and start new relationships with other Alzheimer's sufferers. Such was the case of John Jay O'Connor, husband of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who left the Supreme Court in order to care for him, only to have him begin a new relationship. I point that out only to show the complexity of dealing with a disease that robs people of their essence before their bodies expire. The relationship dies before the person does.

I do think that MMM needs to make sure that whatever her mother is doing, that she is playing safely. MMM's mom isn't just having secret sex, it sounds like she's fallen in with a whole new group of people, in addition to her boyfriend, and that she is going on over night trips that involve more than just sexy time with her boyfriend. That and the fact that MMM's mom is now drinking heavily would make me suspicious. A 65 year-old whose been married for 40 years may not be as careful or attuned to danger than a dating veteran.


The question isn't about sex. It is mostly about money and a little about alcholism.

From what I can tell, MMM's mother owns the house, but MMM pays the bills. If MMM withdraws as her siblings have done, she loses the place she lives and feels guilty. This might be the best financial decision, just moving on and pouring MMM's own resources into her own life.

MMM will find advice and support from Al-Anon. They can help her with the guilt.

A lawyer can help MMM with the money. That might mean using the courts to help MMM and her siblings to have Mother declared incompetent to manage her own affairs.

It's a tough knotty problem regardless, and I wish MMM the best.


It's glaringly obvious that MMM doesn't have the emotional distance to see clearly what's happening, let alone respond to it appropriately. I agree that Al-Anon is a good place to start. Boundaries!


Ordinarily I would say stay out of your parent's love life, but it sounds like Mom may be a danger to herself or others. Hard to tell from this letter how much her behavior is dangerous vs annoying but things a grown woman should be able to do. But if she is making TRULY bad decisions, (not just drinking, but drinking to the point of loss of control, not just leaving overnight, but leaving for days and returning worse for wear), all of which you NEED TO DOCUMENT, you may need to take legal action to protect mom from herself.

When a person has not executed the necessary legal documents to designate a decision maker and can no longer make decisions for him or herself, a guardianship is often an appropriate and necessary step. It is sometimes also necessary when a Power of Attorney does not adequate keep a person safe. Guardianship is the most restrictive option because a person can lose a number of or all of their rights as the result of a guardianship. Courts will first look to any available lesser restrictive alternative, such as a Power of Attorney or a Representative Payee. Guardianship is the last resort when an individual is putting him or herself in danger of personal or financial harm.


What a really nice and sensible response. Impressed.


She doesn't want to talk to you, LW, because she can tell that you don't approve of what she's doing, because you don't. LW needs to read those articles maybe more than anyone. Dan nailed this one.


Mom can bang whomever she wants, but it’s really the minimum level of courtesy to tell family you live with where you’ll be, when you’ll be back, and how to reach you.


This give me flashbacks. We were living with my grandpa when he went a bit off the rails after grandma was put into care, moved in with his new gf, and things got really weird, stalkery, and finally litigious. The house was ultimately sold, and our family connection with him never recovered. I hope it works out better for the lw. It taught me that it's not just youth that is flighty. Someone can decide to burn it all down at any age.


The way the LWs mom is refusing to identify her new friends, where she’s going and what she’s doing should be a matter for concern. Mom could well be getting financially fleeced by these unknown people, as well as possibly getting an STD.
We went through s tough time with my mom and her finances. We ended up getting the services of a daily money manager through the local senior center. The DMM makes sure the bills and taxes are properly paid and keeps an eye on day to day spending. We get updates once a month. This way mom doesn’t feel that her kids are micromanaging her money but we know her power won’t be cut off and she won’t bounce checks or give random sums of over $250.00 to the cleaning woman just because.
LW should See if a similar service is available, to protect their mom.


I think Dan hit this one head on and some commenters are getting ahead of themselves with the concerns about the mother's competence. I mean, those concerns could turn out to be right, and there's a lot going on that's not about the sex, but the sex and 'cheating' is what the LW needs to sort out first. If you can stop judging her you can start to talk to her and start to assess the situation.

I had never heard Sandra Day O'Connor's story. May I do as well as she did.


Oh, Karma is a bitch. So Mom is now acting the way daughter did when she was an adolescent. I can't stop chuckling.

My Dad got to the point where he never knew where he was or who any of us were. Yeah, it sucked but it gave us the freedom to not have sit for hours with him everyday at the facility because he didn't even know if anyone was there.

I don't blame Mom for cattin' around. Who can fault her for wanting to escape such a dismal shit show with some good times.


Sorry for you, MMM. Unlikely and I hope not - there is a small possibility your mother has early signs of frontotemporal dementia which can result in poor impulse control and changes in social behavior, different from the pattern of decline you've seen in your father. Most likely it's what you think, she is "just" acting out due to the cruel blow and stress that the universe has delivered, and hopefully you will not have two aging parents with dementia. Wish you and your family good luck.


Since you have no problem snooping through her phone anyway, you could install / set up Where's My Droid or Find My iPhone on her phone so that if she does completely disappear you can get her location.


Also, since it hasn't been said yet, bless you MMM for stepping up and moving in and helping to look after your parents. Not enough kids are willing to do this these days.


I like Dan's advice that MMM demonstrate support for her mother's active sex life and hope that lines of communication improve on that basis.

This line made me very uncomfortable: "There is no way this would have been ok with my father." Your mother is not your father's property and he doesn't get a say in her decisions about how to spend her time.

The main practical issue MMM seems to have is "If she were to vanish on one of her trips, I wouldn't know where to begin looking for her." After demonstrating an accepting attitude about her mother's adult choices, MMM could encourage her mother to install a "find my phone" app or to list MMM as an emergency contact on her mom's cell phone lock screen.

MMM might also suggest her mother see a therapist for support in grieving her husband's deteriorating condition.


Not sure how someone fixing a mobile needs to read any texts. Just popped open I guess.
The drinking is a worry, especially if it is only recent. Means there is some complex emotions LW's mom is not dealing with. If it's a long time problem, might be harder to treat. Either way, LW, I think you have to stand up to your mom on this one. And as others have said, go to support groups for family of alcoholics.
Your mother is sixty five not eight five, she's still got some life in her yet, so don't infantilise her. She doesn't have to tell you or any of her children what she's up to, just like her children don't have to tell her.
If you sense she's in real danger, then you must act. Talk with her, help her untangle what emotions she wants to share with you. And don't judge her, she's probably feeling enough guilt along with relief she can have her life for herself, at last.


I'm with the rest...having a social life isn't a problem. Having a sex life isn't a problem. Drinking heavily IS a problem, and that's the one LW should address first. Al-anon is a good start. So is keeping a record of how often her mother comes home drunk/is drinking.

I would advise knocking THAT one on the head PDQ. If LW is going to be her mother's primary caretaker, being the primary caretaker of an alcoholic AND someone in nursing care is a hefty burden. It doesn't even have to be a full-on Dr. Phill intervention...I once realized that a relative of mine coped with extreme stress with extreme drinking, and told it to them when they were sober and not under stress. (This person had already had some issues with it, so they were aware.) I told them, please go to a therapist and learn a healthier way of dealing with your stress, because being blind drunk is not okay. And that person did.

Also, for the sake of everyone's privacy and sanity, I suggest that LW have a conversation with her mother about how her phone isn't as private as she thinks it is. And I didn't interpret that as snooping...but that LW gets to fix her mom's phone when it isn't working or that she's accidentally getting messages meant for her mother (I have had this happen to me, thankfully for all of us they weren't graphic, the intended recipient has a name that starts with the same letter as me and their partner hit the wrong one by mistake).


Bravo, Dan. Mom sounds like she's going through classic teenage rebellion. She took care of Dad for years and now she's finally getting a chance to let loose. And MMM is judging her for having a relationship when she can't with Dad -- of course that attitude will encourage her to lie about where she's been and with whom. The only thing that's MMM's business is the drinking, which does sound problematic. The trips? Not your business. The social life? Not your business. Accept this, and there's a much better chance Mom will engage regarding her drinking and her safety. MMM should apologise for her attitude towards Mom's new relationship and ask to meet him, if they're serious. She says he's "a man from work" so Mom can't be that decrepit -- she's an adult capable of making her own decisions. This man is no doubt providing her with some comfort (in addition to the sex) so the best thing to do is accept him as part of Mom's new life, post-Dad.


MMM is seeking reassurance that it is okay for them not to be okay with their mother going on with their life. Period.


Yes, the LW's first step should be to tell her mother that she, her daughter, does not judge her for starting a new relationship while her husband is alive, nor for drinking, going on trips or partying.

This should precipitate greater honesty on her mother's part about her new life. Then MMM will, after a while, be in a position to judge how far, if at all, her mother suffers from dementia and poses a danger to herself.


Slinky @17, if one of my kids is fixing something on my mobile or using it for some reason, they would need to click on messages to find texts. Then see who was there and click further, to read texts. This young woman read her mother's mail, rather than just ask her mother if she is seeing someone. Dad is being looked after and mom is finding adventures again.
The drinking is not ok, and if your mother knows you love her LW, and only want the best, she'll listen, about the drinking. And as others have said, some therapy might help steady her as she enters this phase of her life.


MMM needs to make sure her mother isn't drinking and driving, because that's a huge safety issue for her and others. Loneliness is a such a hard issue to deal with and going off with people who aren't really helping your mother heal that loneliness or the lack of an intimate connection are not going to keep her happy when she subcombs to alcoholism to the degree she seems to be doing now. I think she needs help. I hope she gets it and stops drinking so she can sort through all these confusing feelings and keep her own health together. Good luck to MMM for trying to be a good daughter.


Harriet @20: I didn't see any sign that the mother was suffering from dementia -- it's not contagious, after all. Dad may be significantly older. Mom is still working. I don't think the "sudden forgetfulness" is medically based; it sounds more to me like Mom is being evasive because MMM is giving her grief for having a life. Agree that her version of "having a life" seems to involve more booze than necessary, but her self-medicating in this way is understandable; if it's recent, I'm hoping it's just something she needs to get out of her system. Patience will be more helpful than nagging here, provided sensible steps like making sure she's not drinking and driving and that she checks in when she's not coming home at night are in place.


@23 Bi. "I didn't see any sign that the mother was suffering significantly from dementia..."

"She will recount conversations with people whom she suddenly cannot remember the identities of. She goes on overnight trips to vague places... I am worried sick for her and don't know what to do. [...] But if she were to vanish on one of her trips I wouldn't know where to begin looking for her...."

Now, as you say, this may be the newly liberated mother being evasive to her daughter because she fears her daughter's judgment. Or it may be signs that the LW's mother's grip is indeed slackening.

I think that. in cases like this, it's hard to tell. We only have one person's testimony to go on, and they're hardly a disinterested party. It may be especially hard here, because of how the letter is structured. It begins by avowing a degree of disquiet with how MMM's mother is living her life, which MMM understands as perhaps unfaithful in spirit to her father. Then the list of activities MMM's mother is getting up to mount up; and it begins to appear (maybe) as if the mother is a danger to herself, over and above any concerns MMM might have that she's trashing the family's past.

I absolutely wouldn't blame MMM for feeling hurt, even for her father's sake, that her mother is acting up. This seems to me inevitable. But there's clearly a need to dissociate her feelings in this regard from an attempt at a genuinely cool assessment of how capable her mother remains. Let her try to disarm her mother's (also entirely natural and justifiable) defensiveness, first of all. Some of her evasiveness may not be actual forgetfulness or befuddlement. But some may be. My sense is both 'moralistic' or self-righteous positions here are wrong--both 'you go girl!' to the older lady, and 'intervene to save your mother' to the concerned but hardly objective younger woman. The first can fail to arrest a real problem, and the second can heavy-handedly intervene in an older person's exercising their autonomy in making the most of a life they've got back.