I Am the Caregiver for My Elderly Mother Who Owes Discover, Citi and Chase. – Kay

“Dear Steve,

My elderly mother for whom I am caregiver and have power of attorney is in debt to three credit cards (Discover, Citi, Chase) and has a total income of $2,000 a month from social security and a pension, due to a combination of depleted savings, rising costs, and other expenses, etc. we can no longer meet minimum payments on all three cards.

Added together they would take almost half her monthly income just to meet minimums and makes no dent in the balance and there are certain months like when insurance premiums are due it would be impossible to pay everything.

I have tried and tried to negotiate with the cards to get lowered monthly payments but they won’t. We are both so afraid and worry all the time now about getting sued as we are now 3 to 4 months behind on all payments. I just don’t know what to do. I have no lump sums lying around, I cannot work outside the home due to being a caregiver for her, and we have nothing of value to sell anymore we already sold off her doll collection to pay off one card that had the smallest balance. And there are so many companies out that that advertise being able to cut debt but there are so many complaints and scams I just don’t know what to do. I am so tired of feeling afraid and like a hunted animal all the itme. Can you please give me some advice?


Dear Kay,

First off, bless you for being a caregiver. It is a tough job and certainly takes its toll on the caregiver as well.

If your mother has no other assets, like equity in a home, or stocks and stuff, then one option is actually to do nothing and let the creditors sue you. If your mother is only receiving a pension and social security the creditors can’t garnish that income.

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Your mother would fall into what is commonly called being “judgment proof.” It is actually a bit of a misnomer. Being judgement proof does not mean she won’t get sued and get a judgment against her, it just means that the judgment can’t be collected on.

This route would prevent the sale of more items around the house and knowing what the consequences are, which is not much, it may be easier for you to deal with. It will also not cost you a dime so there is no reason to pay any company for help and prevent you from getting ripped off.

So absent any assets your mother may have I would ask you to consider to stop paying those cards, let them flow through the normal collections process, talk to the collectors when they call and honestly explain the situation, don’t promise to make any payments, and if or when she is sued you can relax about it knowing that it appears there is nothing more the creditors can do.

Since this does involve some potential legal issues, like verifying your mother is truly judgment proof, I would suggest you make a small investment and talk to a local attorney to confirm that.

Please update me on your progress by

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Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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2 thoughts on “I Am the Caregiver for My Elderly Mother Who Owes Discover, Citi and Chase. – Kay”

  1. Steve, thank you for your clear answer to Kay’s question.  I am trying to find out how to manage my 89 year old father’s credit card debt.  He gets a pension and social security amounting to about 3000 per month.  He got a reverse mortgage on his home a few years ago to help defray the expenses of my mother’s last illness and to lower his monthly payments.  He has a little money in CD’s.  His health is declining rapidly and needs more care.  He can no longer pay his credit card debt (five cards, total debt 25,000) or meet the monthly minimums and pay his living expenses.  My idea was to lower the monthly minimums to token payments.  What kind of risk is there to him if I do this?  My dad has suffered a number of strokes which make him very absent minded.  I don’t think he could deal with the harassing phone calls.  He wouldn’t understand what was going on.  Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.  

    •  Hello Kathie, I think speaking to a Bankruptcy attorney about your fathers situation will be a wise move at this point. An attorney can let you know if your father would qualify for a chapter 7 and if he would be able to protect the assets he has left. If not you would need to ask about a chapter 13. Once you have that information, you may want to explore settlement although that doesn’t seem like it would be a good option unless you learn some things during the BK consultation that you have not mentioned here.

      Making smaller than minimum payments is not a good idea and really just a waste of money.


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