Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Check's in the Mail

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The Check’s in the Mail

My mother’s  dementia starts  out slowly.  I first notice it in phone conversations.  I hear the same stories I heard the week before. I also hear about the bills she needed to pay and how she was writing out her checks that day. A few days later when I call she is still “working on those bills”.  Several times Verizon or the gas or electric company did call her about her bill and she had to pay it over the phone.  We worry that someday she won’t pay in time and her utilities will be cut off.

My mother has always been  very independent, even when my father was alive.  She has definite ideas about the way things should be done and she is extremely organized.  In contrast to my sporatic record keeping, she kept a balanced checkbook and a journal where she wrote down everything she spent for that month.  She likes to boast that she has  journals for every year since she married, fifty-nine in all.

When I go up for a visit I find her latest journal in the den and have a look.    Her last entries are in sharp contrast to her earlier ones.  My mother’s usual neat, precise handwriting is light and shaky.  She had gotten mixed up on some of the months and a few times had even written the wrong year.  I knew I needed to do something, but would have to proceed slowly.  When I first make the suggestion to help she reacts as I knew she would.  “I have been paying my bills all my life,  I don’t need any help!”  After awhile I do convince her to let me take her utility bills and set them up to be paid automatically.

I take her bills home, but what seemed to me like an easy job turns out to take hours of phone calls, computer time and paperwork.  I am put on hold and  they won’t talk to me unless I am my mother. Half of her accounts are still in my father’s name.  They don’t know that he has been gone for 12 years.  On the websites I have to know or create numerous account passwords and give out out personal information and  I am required  to mail numerous Power of Attorneys.   My Mother’s SS#?  I have it memorized!  What have I learned, though don’t say you heard it from me:  It’s much easier to just pretend to be my mother.

I gradually take over all of her banking and have sole use of her ATM card to deposit and withdraw money she needs.  She’s mad about it, although she doesn’t complain to me. She does bemoan to my brother and sister that “Kathy tries to control me.  I can take care of my own money; I have been paying bills for years!!” She is always griping about needing money, but she can’t keep track of it.  She has two small coin purses as well as her wallet and glass case in her purse and money can be found in any one of them.  She also sometimes hides money in her nightstand drawer and forgets she put it there.  Her checkbook is a mess.  Though I hate to do it, I think that’s going to go too.

 

We're in It Together

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Do you have a parent that can’t do many of the tasks he/she used to do easily?  Is your mother or father requiring more of your help?  You are not alone.  My mother is 94 years old and for the past ten years I have noticed a steady decline in her abilities.  It is hard to watch a vibrant, capable person undergo changes that they struggle with and may deny.

Thanks to the advancement in medicine more people like my mother are living longer healthy lives.   Those in my generation who are into our sixties and seventies have raised their children  and we are ready to enjoy retirement.  However, we are sometimes faced with caring for an aging parent.   This parent may have physical health problems, but the ones most vexing are the mental ones.  We hear a lot about  alztheimer’s and sometimes joke about it when we have a “senior moment,” but we know the reality of it is sad and awful.  What we don’t hear about as often is the more common form of memory loss that affects far more of the eldery population: Dementia.  This form of memory loss is often explained by your brain has accumulated so much information it can’t hold it all.  The truth, however, is that the electrical synapses or cells in the brain are breaking down.  While you can remember events from the past clearly, your short term memory starts to deteriorate.

It was only after relating my many stories to friends about  difficulties with my mother and hearing  stories back about problems with their aging parents that I decided to share my story.  Believe me, I don’t have all the answers.  What I would hope to achieve is to create a forum for those of us who are having to make these difficult decisions for our parents where we can share or vent.  I will post resources that I have found helpful and I encourage others to do the same.
This is my mother’s experience and my story.