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Eldest sibling worries about elder care

Q. I have three siblings. I am the oldest — 10 years older than my next sibling.

My wife and I are now in our mid-70s. We are retired and live on Social Security, her modest teacher’s pension, and a six-figure nest egg. Two of my siblings have large incomes and considerable real-estate holdings. Another brother and his wife have professional jobs. All the grandchildren in the family are now adults and on their own.

The controversy involves my 100-year-old mother, who lives in the East near my siblings in an expensive care facility. We live in another part of the country.


My siblings insist that we share the cost in equal measure. We have offered to care for my mother in our home at no cost to them, but they have rejected the offer.

I believe that contributions should be based on individual circumstances and ability to pay. The disagreement has caused a rift among us.

Is there a solution here?


A. Moving your 100-year-old mother to another part of the country to live in your home does not seem like a viable option for anyone, especially her. If she is happy and doing well where she is, then she should stay there.

I agree with you that siblings should contribute to an elder’s care according to their circumstances and ability to pay. When your siblings chose to move your mother into this expensive home, you should have made it clear at the outset that this was unaffordable for you.

Given your older age and more modest assets, you need to be careful with your own spending, and your younger siblings may not quite grasp how for many people retirement brings on an extreme drop in income, along with the possibility of increased expenses.

This is a “you can’t get blood from a stone” situation, but you should offer to be of service to your mother in order to share the burden with your siblings. At the very least, you could offer to come to the area in order to be with your mother during times when your siblings need to be away.


Q. I’ve known “Stacy” for 10 years. Not too long ago, Stacy had to move to another city because she was catfishing several people and it turned into a huge mess.

Recently she has been behaving in ways that are out of character. I have noticed that every time she and I go somewhere together, a guy who is NOT her husband always comes along.

She and I have identical cellphone covers on our phones, and recently when she and I were together, I accidentally picked up her phone and saw a very explicit message from this other guy on her phone. I put it down and walked away. I think she is catfishing people again.

What should I do? Should I say something to her, or keep this to myself?


A. You mention that your friend “Stacy” is behaving in a way that is out of character, but your description of her current behavior actually seems to be consistent with her character.

To clarify, “catfishing” is the practice of someone pretending to be someone else online, in order to “fish for” — and catch — unsuspecting people who are most often looking for a romantic relationship. The catfish is basically a predator who victimizes people, sometimes scamming money from them, and almost always creating an entirely false romance with them. This is emotional as well as financial larceny.


Catfishing can become something of an addiction for perpetrators, who may get a rush from the power of these entanglements, in addition to financial gain.

Stacy is always showing up with a man who is not her husband. You saw an explicit text message on her phone that you find disturbing. She has a history of being a catfish.

Yes, you should ask her what she is up to. Prepare yourself for her answer.

Q. I love the answers that people use responding to intrusive questions, when these answers shut the conversation down.

I have one grown son who I could not love more. He is my only child, and I often get asked why I didn’t have more children. It was not my choice, and I don’t like discussing it with people I barely know, so I tell them, “Because I got it right the first time.” That stops any further questions.


A. Perfect.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.