7/18/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A daughter discovers that a cousin, acting as family caregiver, was taking advantage of her mother, taking money and possibly being abusive. Now, the family insists that the daughter forgive the cousin. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson has to say in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

My cousin was living with and taking care of my mom near the end of my mom’s life.

My mother needed constant care. I was living hundreds of miles away at the time, so this was a good solution at the time.

In 2013, I moved back home to Florida to be with my mom for whatever time she had left.

I soon found out that this family caregiver, my cousin, was taking almost all of my mom’s SSI for herself. My cousin got $1,100 per month, leaving very little money left for my mother’s use.

I finally removed my mom from her care, and my mom was happier for it.

I just can’t forgive her for the harm she caused and for taking advantage of someone who obviously cared for her.

Mom died in 2014. My problem is that my other cousins and family members still talk to my cousin and treat her like she is part of the family.

They say I’m being unreasonable for not forgiving her and letting it go.

I believe she was abusive toward my mother – financially and physically – but I can’t prove it.

Am I wrong for not wanting to forgive her for what she did?


Dear Betrayed:

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If you know that this family member abused your elderly mother, then your anger is justified. Why should you forgive this person?

From the tone of your question, it seems that this allegation against your cousin has not been disputed. Nor has your cousin acknowledged, explained, apologized, or asked for your forgiveness.

You don’t mention what the financial arrangement was with your cousin. I assume that it was not contractual, but more of a casual arrangement between family members, involving housing and other benefits for your cousin.

There is no excuse for your cousin’s behavior, and you might investigate any possible ways to pursue this legally.

I urge you to explore ways to forgive yourself for any guilt you might be feeling.

You liberated your mother from her challenging circumstances, and she was happier at the end of her life.

In my opinion, “moving on” would be you accepting that you cannot control these other family members. You cannot insist that they cut out this cousin. But they don’t live in your reality, and they don’t have the right to judge you for your residual anger.

Related: Recognizing caregiver abuse

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from an abusive, thieving family caregiver to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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