I was sad to read about Mickey Rooney’s death. Although he had enjoyed successful acting career that spanned more than 80 years, he’d suffered emotional, physical and financial abuse while being “cared for” by his stepson Christopher, who reportedly stole $2.8 million dollars from Rooney while keeping him isolated at home and depriving him of food and medication.

I mentioned to my hairdresser how awful I thought it was for people to do this to family members, and she said, “My sister-in-law’s doing that to my husband’s mother.” Sheila went on to say that her sister-in-law wasn’t being physically abusive. She was only living with her mother and siphoning away her money.

When I said, “You have to stop that!”, she said she didn’t feel like she had the right to interfere since she was the daughter-in-law, not the daughter. She shrugged and said, “If there isn’t anything left when Mom dies, then there won’t be anything left.”

I had a fit. I said, “That would be fine if you knew your mother-in-law was going to be healthy for the next several years and then just drop dead one day. It’s more likely that her health will decline gradually. At some point she’ll need someone to take care of her. Do you think for a minute your sister-in-law is going to stick around and be her caregiver when the money’s gone?” NO!!! She’ll be on the first train out of town!”

Even if Sheila’s husband is different from most men and takes on the responsibility for his mother’s care himself, it still puts their financial security at risk. (I forgot to tell Sheila that if her mother-in-law gives her money away to a family member and then needs long-term care, that she might not be eligible for Medicaid.)

I truly believe there are more good people in this world than bad. However, I’ve been around long enough to know that in almost every family there is one person who is weak, manipulative or constantly in a state of down-and-out.

The fact that these conversations is uncomfortable works to the abuser’s advantage. But you must understand that protecting a person who is old or vulnerable, is NOT interfering. It’s the only way you can keep them safe and protect your own financial security in the future.