Friday, December 30, 2016

You'd think if you called to pay a bill, someone would take your information and allow you to pay it, right?


One of the biggest problems I encountered while helping out with mom's care was the bills we had to pay. Because of the privacy acts, no one will talk to anyone who is not authorized. Mom was so forgetful, it was difficult to have her remember to call a credit card company and add my name. Sometimes she was compliant, but most of the time she would say, "Sandra, I can pay my own bills. Why are you trying to get them sent to you?"

Several times bills were never delivered to me. Then I pretended to be her on the phone to change it myself, because she would not cooperate. For some reason she was always paranoid and thinking we were taking her money. FYI-If you ever want bills sent to you, memorize these answers:

  • Their social security number
  • The account number and the 3 or 4 digit security number
  • Their date of birth
  • Answers to their secure questions, like: Where were they born? Mother's maiden name etc.
  • Their address (might seem simple, but remember if they moved you need to know it)
I can't tell you how many times I had to change things. Dad's pension, which was a small amount of money, was auto-deposited into her bank account. She moved. I needed to get a letter from the pension place stating how much she got monthly. They refused to send it. Her address from her home with dad had never been changed. It took me 3 months to get this letter. I tried everything. They had to mail her a letter and she lost it. Without the letter I could not get the code they sent for me to go
onto the website and make the address and contact changes.  She was supposed to have a "pin number" for whenever she talked to them. She could not remember it. I tried everything: Her wedding date, dad's social security number, etc. Nothing worked. Finally she got the letter (thank God for my sister finding it) and I was able to make the changes needed.

The bank we had most of her money in was ridiculous. I made sure my name was on all of her accounts. I moved, and I wanted the statements to be sent to me so I could make sure she had enough money to pay the automatic bill payments. Even though MY NAME was on the accounts, they would not let me make changes without a written letter and HER signature.

Keep good records. Don't throw away anything you might need to refer to again. 

I started getting bills from collection agencies. I never saw any original bills (ie. hospital) I also did not remember mom being in the hospital for hundreds of dollars. So I called the collection agency and asked for an explanation of the bills. They refused to talk to me. I EVEN HAD a P.O.A. with the 
hospital and proof that they could discuss her care and bills with me.  I told them to check with the main hospital and if they could not speak to me, they would not get paid because I took care of mom's money. This was a bureaucratic nightmare. This happened more than once. Get your name on the hospital bills as well. I had mom's social security and VA letters all sent to me. If you do this, it is really hard to ever change the name on it again. (i.e.. VA-fiduciary)

Friday, November 4, 2016

The most stressful job in the world

One thing I think we never thought about is how difficult mom was going to be once she went more downhill mentally. Mom was never a warm and fuzzy momma anyway-at this stage she was downright ornery. We moved her to an assisted living community because at 88 she really needed some help. She forgot to take her pills and sometimes she would take more than 1 day of pills. Right after we moved her the community “accidentally” started to give her pills, even though she had a machine that told her when to take them. Brenda was stocking the machine and she was checking every couple of days to make sure she took the pills. So many residents had the medicine assistance that they automatically gave them to mom as well. She had double pills for 3 days when it was discovered. Luckily Brenda caught the mistake. They brought pills to mom with the date on it and she just took them, not thinking she had taken them already. The cost to dispense the medicine was an extra $900 a month. You can see why Brenda was trying to hang onto that job to save mom money.

The move seemed to set mom back and more confused than ever. I moved out of state the week after mom moved. She had been calling me 5 to 10 times a day. She didn’t know where she lived, where her stuff was etc. What made matters worse is she moved into a smaller apt. and she wanted to keep everything.

Her things would not fit but she was adamant that we not throw anything away. She had lost weight and she had clothes that were old and too large. We had to store them at my sisters, because mom did not want to throw ANYTHING away. Cindy came in town to help and by the end of the week she thought we must be saints. Mom was horrible to deal with, argumentative, and nasty. I was actually glad to move, even though I had always said I would not move until she passed away. My kids and grandkids were in Colorado, and I was just missing too much of my family. I did feel a little guilty, but not enough not to move.

I called mom every week. She told me repeatedly that I never said good-bye to her. She ended conversations often with , “Well, have a nice life,”  as though I never called her. My brother gave mom a wonderful adjustable bed, but it was a twin size, better for the smaller apartment. Mom called every one of us complaining about the “cot.” It was a $6,000 bed, and we had hoped she would rest more comfortably in an upright position, because she had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but would not wear the mask to breathe.  She said, “Sandra, I like to flop my legs around when I sleep and I hate this cot they brought me. I want my old bed back.” She badgered my sister so much they removed the bed. Every time they went over her apt. She had moved all the furniture. They were afraid she was going to have a heart attack, moving the heavy pieces. But no one could talk sense into her. She had become our worst nightmare, and we weren’t having to be with her 24/7. I can’t even imagine caring for her on a daily basis.

Now some people might think this is cruel. All I can say is, you never know how it is to walk in someone else’s shoes. They say caregiving is the most stressful job you can have. Well, when you are an adult child, even though you may not be helping every day, your parents can stress you out like you never imagined. I have talked to many people my age and we all share in this evaluation: we never expected it could be this bad. It had to be bad for mom, being so forgetful, but she never experienced what we have. Her parents were dead before they were 60.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

This is in case you have to sell a home for your parents. If I never mentioned it, I was a Realtor in the state of Ohio over a 37 year period of time.

Checklist  and information to sell a home:

  • Hire a good, professional Realtor that was recommended to you if you don’t already know them

  • Purchase a home warranty for the buyer (You don’t pay until home is sold.)

  • Make sure you have an original Power of Attorney for the title company to do their work, just in case your parent is unable to sign when necessary.

  • Find out the age of the roof, furnace, air, and the appliances are because you will be asked.

  • Clean out as much as you can ahead of time-have it not be cluttered if possible.   

Know that EVERYTHING CAN BE NEGOTIATED. This means commission, the length of time a home can be on the market, how you want it shown and advertised. Your Realtor should be working in YOUR best interest. They are a SELLER’S agent when they are employed by you. You might want to ask them if there is any situation where they would work for the buyer. Some states have something called “dual agency,” which means the Realtor can represent both the seller and the buyer. I, personally, feel that 2 opposing parties cannot be represented by the same Realtor. They can write the contract for the buyer, but they are facilitating the transaction. I do not  think they can equally go to bat for both parties.  In my state it is legal to be a dual agent. I just felt I was not working in the best interest of my client  to do so.

Sometimes sellers consider having a home inspector check out their home before they sell. I never suggested that, however, because it could open up a can of worms for the seller. Once the inspector gives you the report, you now have knowledge of everything that is wrong with the home. You should  divulge anything you know on the state disclosure form. That makes  you potentially more liable. If you wait for the buyer to have an inspection, there is less chance of you having to fix EVERYTHING. Every state is different, however. I noticed this when my son purchased a home, and also with buyers coming from out of town having to make extensive repairs in their former homes.

Some people have asked if it is better to sell a home that is furnished or vacant. I would DEFINITELY take pictures of the home while the furnishings are still in place. It makes it look more homey. Believe it or not, rooms look larger when they are not empty. If you have to get rid of the furniture, it is not a deal breaker, but online a vacant room looks horrible.

Most Realtors will put a lock box on the home. This is standard procedure. It enables the home to be shown when no one is there. The Realtor registers their name with the office selling or with a professional service. Just anyone cannot enter your home without calling their office.

If you have to make repairs, make sure YOU get some estimates if it is to be professionally updated. You want to be able to control any expenditures that have to be made. They buyer will get their contractor and you will be subject to their estimate. An example: Let’s say your electrical service needs to be upgraded, or that there is something that could be potentially dangerous, like the box being a fire hazard. ( a real problem that exists )This could be a few thousand dollars or hundreds, depending on what is to be done. Ask your friends the name of a good electrician if you do not know one. This could really cost you if you let the buyer do everything. 

I had a situation where there was a chimney coming away from the home, as well as some brickwork in the front needing to be fixed. The estimates were $2000 apart. The buyer and seller settled on a price between the two estimates. It’s all in the negotiation. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Investigate CCRC places to live or you might be sorry later

I wish we had known about CCRC. That stands for Continuous Care Retirement Communities. I had a wonderful friend tell me about this. A person can go from Independent living all the way through skilled (nursing home) care and including hospice in these places. Why should you care? Because, if the person needs more care they will have to be moved to another facility.

Mom had been in independent living for 4 years. She was still physically able to take care of herself, but her mind was going. The paranoia and inability to retain just about anything was impossible to deal with. She hid her purse at least 50 times and I purchased her a safe to put it in. Sometimes she still stuffed it in a drawer or under the bed or in a box. I spent HOURS looking for the purse. We even put a "tile" with a phone app on the purse. I changed phones and it would not work.  Money went missing and I even had to file a police report. ($300)  Some of the housekeepers decided they would take "breaks" in mom's apartment.  At least 3 times we know people were in the apartment unauthorized when she was gone. I had even thought of a "nanny cam," but I really did not want to look at video of my mother naked.  I just stopped giving her more than $20 at a time.

We found a new community for mom to move where she could get minimal care (at first) and graduate to more care when needed. It was a smaller apartment and it had french doors out to a courtyard area. This way she still had an outdoor patio and a place for plants. We also were going to save $900 a month. The money was going fast. Our biggest fear was that she would take a dive mentally. Change is not usually easy for dementia/Alzheimer's patients.

Mom fought us on the idea of moving for over a year. We were to the point that we were moving her without her consent. We had the legal power to do so, but it's difficult looking your mom in the eye and saying, "You don't have a choice." I think mom realized she was going to have to depend on us more, plus she KNEW her mind was not clear. She told me she wants to die several times.

I am in the process of moving to another state, so my blogs might not be as regular for a few weeks. I plan on resuming on a regular basis by the end of October.  Stay tuned. I am  continuously learning more than I ever wanted to know about this subject of the elderly, family dynamics, legal issues and Alzheimers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

She wasn't a hoarder, but she wouldn't let us throw away anything!

On this blog I have not explained how we FINALLY got mom into another living arrangement, but I will save that for the book.

It had almost been a year since Dad was gone, so we decided to get the home ready
to sell. I have abbreviated the community she moved to and called it PC.

Cleaning out my mother’s home was a nightmare. She grew up during the depression and they were poor. She had the mindset that nothing should be thrown away. My dad was the same way. Needless to say, she had bankbooks from accounts closed in the 1950’s that she wanted to keep. NOTHING was worth throwing away.  Every piece of clothing or old rag was an argument. This was all before we sold the home. She was moving from a 1900 sq. ft. home with a full basement to a 2 bedroom apartment. She did not want to give away my dad’s clothes, even though he was gone. We even found clothes that weren’t his!  She had clothing for herself in 3 sizes. Since she had lost some weight, I decided that the biggest size would no longer be necessary to keep. I had to hide them from her and give them away when she was at her new apartment. She insisted on taking everything and boxing up the dishes and I kept them at my home. She did not need to cook where she was going. All of us inherited some of her junk. She said, “What if I decide to move again and need these?”

We tried giving the clothes from dad and the tools to relatives. No one was dad’s size, and the guys all had tools by this stage of life. There was so much in the garage, barn and basement that we ordered a good sized dumpster. It looked like a large boat in her yard. We also had a guy come over that bought scrap, and he loaded up his truck. We tried selling some of the larger items. My dad saved everything. He was a very neat and orderly man until he got sick. His garage used to be spotless.

We went into the garage and there was literally a CARPET of mouse droppings on everything. There were bottles of screws, nuts, bolts, washers, vices, saws, hammers. The guys took what they wanted and mom didn’t want them to throw anything away. We girls kept her busy and the guys loaded up the dumpster. It was filled to overflowing.We also had a "scrapper" guy come out and take a lot of metal items.  Every time mom walked outside she would grab something out of the dumpster and say, “We paid good money for this.”  We would distract her and put it back. Their home wasn’t really cluttered. Dad just saved everything and systematically stored it all in containers on the shelves. 

She had to rent the biggest, most expensive unit in PC. She crammed hundreds of items in the closets and her drawers, putting all her shoes under the beds. What did she need 10 quilts for? She fought us on everything. Her apt. is so cluttered. I am just glad I don’t have to live there. She kept everything she possibly could.There were at least 5 artificial flower arrangements just in the small living room-and they are old and look bad.

One sad thing about moving her is that 4 years later she still was asking us about clothing we gave away, a tv set that was in the dumpster, and countless other items she did not need. But with dementia she could not remember anyway. 

Mom’s car was the craziest story. After Dad died we noticed a horrible odor in the car. It was like something was decaying in the trunk. But we cleaned it and disinfected it but could not find the source of the smell. Dan finally took it to a detailer. He had to drive with the windows down in order not to throw up.

The detailer called Dan and with a thick, foreign accent said, “Mouse. Mouse everywhere. Mouse babies, dead mouse, mouse parts everywhere.”
Apparently, when the mice got in the garage to eat the grass seed, they squeezed into the car doors. Then they had babies. Then they died. They were stuck in the doors. That is why it smelled SO bad!!! It cost over a thousand dollars to get it refreshed.

After Dad got sick the mice must have taken over the garage. It used to be the cleanest garage I have ever seen. You could have eaten off the floors. He put grass seed in a filing cabinet and must have forgotten it was there. That is great mouse food, so they found it and took over his whole garage.

The biggest challenge we had in moving her was the rent payment. For the 2 br 2 ba apartment it was $4300 per month! Now there were 3 meals a day, some light housekeeping, bus service, and entertainment. There was no "care" in the cost, but at this stage mom did not need care. She needed to have a social life, and this was perfect. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


A Medical Power of Attorney (also known as a Health Care Power of Attorney) gives someone you trust the legal authority to act on your behalf regarding health care decisions if you ever become incapacitated or unable to communicate. 

Why is this important? If your parents (or spouse) has an accident or for some reason is incapacitated, they may not be able to discuss their medical care options. 

When my father was in the hospital psychiatric ward, they asked us if any of us had a health care P. O. A. At that time we did not, so they gave us forms at the hospital to fill out.

This is my first piece of advice: Get health care powers of attorney for your parents in the event one is needed. Otherwise, the staff at the hospital will not follow any directions you give them.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) I went to the
for this information for the explanation. We did have this for my dad.

What does DNR mean? 
DNR stands for “Do Not Resuscitate.” A person who does not wish to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) performed, for example, may make this wish known through a DNR order. A DNR order also addresses the various methods used to revive people whose hearts have stopped functioning or who have stopped breathing. Examples of these treatments include chest compressions, electric heart shock, artificial breathing tubes and special drugs. 

When completed by a doctor (or certified nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist, as appropriate), these standardized DNR orders allow patients to choose the extent of the treatment they wish to receive at the end of life. A patient with a DNR Comfort Care-Arrest Order will receive all the appropriate medical treatment, including resuscitation, until the patient has a cardiac arrest (heart has stopped beating) or pulmonary arrest (breathing has stopped), at which point comfort care will be provided. By requesting a DNR Comfort Care Order (DNR-CC), a patient chooses other measures such as drugs to correct abnormal heart rhythms. With this order, comfort care or other requested treatment is provided at a point before the heart or breathing stops. Comfort care (also called symptom management or palliative care) involves keeping the patient comfortable with pain medication and providing palliative (supportive medical) care. A DNR-CC does not mean “do not treat.” Your doctor can explain the differences in DNR orders. 

At the time of this printing, Ohio has two trigger points for the DNR protocol (the DNR Comfort Care and DNR Comfort Care-Arrest), but DNR protocol changes are being considered. Consult your health care professional for details.

**I suggest you speak to your doctor(s) about these. Usually the patient  or the spouse is consulted when this paperwork is being completed. It was difficult for my mother to choose the DNR for dad. Luckily, we never had to use it.

(My mother had a DNR-CC.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I am interrupting the chronological order of this blog. The information I am giving you may save you a LOT of money and a headache. It is about HOSPITAL STAYS FOR THOSE 65 AND OVER.

Do you think a 3 day continuous hospital stay while on Medicare will guarantee a paid admission to a nursing home? (For rehab, etc.)

Do you think if a person has a chronic illness they can be admitted to the hospital and have their insurance take care of it?

If you think the answers to the above are YES, you are sadly mistaken. This was just one of our experiences that I want to share about insurance and medical coverage.

June 2016
Mom was coughing a lot, and it sounded bad. My sister thought it was a cold or post nasal drip. After 2 weeks of this, I took mom to her doctor. They thought it was pneumonia. They took an X-ray and gave us antibiotics. The next day she sounded worse, so I called 911 for the first time in my life. They said they would take her to the hospital. The hospital said they would admit her, but just for 1 day because they were short on beds. They gave her lasics for the congestive heart failure, because her lungs were filling up with fluid. The pneumonia test came back negative, so now they said it was bronchitis. I took her home.

The next day I went over late in the morning and she looked really bad and she was lying on the couch. I made sure she got some food and I said I’d return later. That afternoon she looked like she was going to die. I called 911 again. This time we went to a different hospital.

Now this is the reason for my story and the questions above. They gave mom a form in the emergency ward and said, “We need you to sign this form. It is giving us permission to treat you.” She signed and they said nothing else. I was happy to have her in the hospital because I was afraid to let her stay alone. My sister was out of town and I was the only one checking on her. 

The next day, the doctor tells me my mother (staying in the hospital in a regular room) was not really “admitted.” I said,”What do you mean? She’s here, she’s being treated.” He said being old and having a chronic condition is not a reason to be admitted to a hospital. (Then what is?)

A social worker with long hair, a squeaky voice and looked like she was 14, told me we were going to have to pay by the hour because insurance was not paying for her stay. I said, “How much is it an hour?” She didn’t know. She said mom was not admitted so we were responsible
for payment. I questioned her more, and she said it was “All on the form mom signed.”

I said I needed to see it.


Farther down it says, “Medicare and insurance companies classify an observation stay as an outpatient visit…..Medicare and/or your insurance company will hold you responsible for co-pays and deductibles associated with an outpatient claim.”

“You should be aware that Medicare and some insurance companies do not provide coverage for most medications administered while you are an Observation/Outpatient. 


Then there is a box to check (no one checked it) I have a Medicare insurance plan and I have received information entitled “Are you a hospital inpatient or outpatient.”

I told Ms. Squeaky we never got a copy of that. She gave it to me.

The form talks about what insurance mostly does not pay for. It says you should always ASK if you are going to be an inpatient or outpatient. I am still fuming over this!!!

THIS IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY AND THE NUMBERS FOR THE HOSPITAL. The elderly NEED hospitals and nursing homes!!! An old person does not just bounce back. Mom got dehydrated from the lasics, she got an infection, and death was at her doorstep. Before Obamacare, a person could easily be admitted to a hospital for 3 days and be released to skilled care. There is no way we could take her home. She could not even stand up, and she was in an independent living situation. None of us have a 1st floor bedroom, so we could not take her to our homes, and we would need a wheelchair and a different toilet.

Being old and having a recurring, chronic condition does not qualify a person for a good old fashioned hospital stay any more.

My dad was hospitalized and they released him to a skilled community for rehab. Once he got stronger (2 months) we took him to a community with Alzheimer’s care and a skilled staff. He did get the 2 months paid for by Medicare. Who knew it changed?

So mom went to a skilled facility that cost us $305 A DAY! OUT OF POCKET.  There was no way she could go home. She would not eat. She was so weak we had to actually feed her. Her hands shook so bad she could not do anything but sleep. We made sure mom had multiple visitors each day. We wanted them to know she had a family that cared. She got a bed sore, too. When a person lies in bed it is so easy for their skin to break down. She complained of her back hurting, but it was a breakdown of skin on her behind. I took her outside in the wheelchair to get some air and sun, Brenda made her eat.  Dan visited whenever he could. Then they washed mom’s bedding and her cell phone was in the sheets. Dan had to get her a new phone. 

We had no idea how long this was going to take, but we knew $305 x 30 = $9,150. She is also paying over $4400 a month where she lives.  This was an expensive July!  I talked to someone who had a lot of nursing home experience. She told me to request a family meeting. I am sure they would have gotten around to it eventually, but the money was burning up! We had a meeting and we scheduled a home visit with a physical therapist so we could see how mom could get around. In the family meeting we learned that her progress was ok, but not great. The 
home visit was helpful. We got a high toilet seat and another grab bar in her shower. We had to get rid of all the rugs so she would not trip. We actually pushed for the discharge sooner than they wanted to release her, but we promised to check  on her twice daily and we ordered  physical and occupational therapy, which mom’s insurance paid for. We also had a nurse 2 x  a week and we requested VA assistance, since mom was getting VA benefits. The Home Health Care was a godsend, because there were plenty of eyes on mom checking her progress and her safety.
A well meaning friend told me mom might qualify for hospice care, but I found out you can’t get both Home Health Care and Hospice. Choose one or the other.  You don’t have to be dying to get hospice care. Call  your local hospice organization or look up their website for information on the services they provide.

Mom went home and immediately started perking up. She missed her apartment and her friends. She did not go out of the apartment too much, because she was too weak. The recovery was slow, but steady.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Georgia was on her mind.....

Dad had been dead for about a month now.

Email Nov. 7th:
Mom's insurance will end 11/30. I am working on getting her another plan or at least
 finding out about it. She can opt in to Medicare Senior Advantage Jan.1st, but she will need coverage between 11/30 and Jan. 1st. Dan, I know you are also looking into this.

I think her antidepressant has kicked in. She seems more level. She says no one is stealing from her since her locks are changed. But she did tell me her sisters stole all her hats when they were here 5 years ago. I asked her why they would do that and she replied, "They are all THIEVES.” (????)
 Just updating you all!  Sandy

An email 11/10/11 from Cindy (edited)
Remember, at one point we did go through her drawers to find checkbooks, policies, Dad's clothing, etc.  I did go through her pantry and refrigerator and throw away 2 huge bags of way-expired stuff.  I did buy a few things that I though she needed (cotton balls, witch hazel,  a bag of already-cooked Tyson frozen chicken), etc. Maybe Sandy or Brenda or Daniel has done something similar.  I told her that I did these things; full disclosure is the only way to go here. 

Changing the locks with NO ONE having the key was the only way that this could be solidly stopped.  
She can no longer accuse anyone in the family of theft.  She will have to file a complaint with the police if anything is missing.  Did anyone find out where the tractor went?  Has anyone filed a police report on that?  That is major screwed up. 

You are wonderful to go to her house and write out her bills in her presence.  Mom just wants to be in control once in her life.  Having a watchful eye is the best that you can do.  If a serious red flag goes up, then it will be time to intercede. 

Taking her to her appointments and looking in on her is wonderful, too.  I wish that I could be there to to that.  What I worry about is Mom driving one day and not being lucky.  I don't even want to think that out loud.  No one has ever mentioned that her drivers license be taken away, right?  I think that will be a red flag when it happens.

Thank you for the updates on Mom.  And Dan, you get better, too. 
love, Cyn

Brenda and I were having to step up and do some things for her. Brenda was taking care of the doctor visits and her medicine, I was helping with the bills. Mom accused me of stealing money from her. She canceled a bank account and took my name off it.  She was thinking all of us were after her things. She forgot to pay her car and house insurance. I found a notice and asked her about it and she was really nasty and told me she didn’t need my help. I was really hurt that my mother would think I would steal from her. 

I was thinking maybe she should not be alone, driving, or conducting her affairs. She wanted nothing to do with going anywhere but where she was. Apparently she really needed the antidepressant.

Email Nov. 10th
Mom is getting better since she knows no one is entering her home without her knowledge.  Just today she found her pink sweater that she told me Sandy must have taken.  I said, "See, Mom, I told you that you just misplaced it "  and she agreed.  I rescheduled Mom's eye surgery for 12-14 so I can take her since I have a dental appt on 12-7.  She is going to Ga. to visit her family over Thanksgiving and plans to stay 2 weeks.  When she gets back, she needs another pre-op and then her surgery on the 14th.   I'll keep in touch- Bren
My mother was born in Columbus, Georgia. She moved to Ohio when she was about 19 years old. Then she met my father and they got married. She visited Georgia and Alabama  a few times over the years. Columbus is on the border of Alabama, so some family lives there.  She had some contact with her family and some of them came for a family reunion to Ohio in the early 2000’s. That was only the second time I ever saw her family members.

After Harry died, mom decided she wanted to go to Georgia. For years she talked about moving there some day, but that didn’t seem realistic. She wanted to visit her brothers and sisters. So she did, and she had a wonderful time. They showered her with love and affection. It was good medicine to her hurting soul. She went over the Thanksgiving holiday and got to see everyone she wanted.  

Hi my Sisters and Brother!
I talked to mom last night. She has every intention of moving to Alabama. I just listened. I knew this was coming. I told her that she and dad had an "unsocial life" and I figured she would not like it when he passed.

Don't get excited-she isn't going there just yet. It seems that there is "more family" there and she thinks her social life will be better, she can see her sisters and there are lots of relatives. I told her it was Thanksgiving and probably not like that all the time-she said, "It WAS."

 What she didn't acknowledge is that she cannot remember anything. I said, "Isn't it going to be difficult getting around driving and you will have to learn a new city? She has an answer for everything. She said it's a small town and she knows it by heart. How can a town not change in 64 years (this is sarcastic me) and she says it's the same. They tried to sell her a home that was new (built by a relative) but it was not in a nice neighborhood.

I have dealt with mom and her finances and some of her health issues. I think it is NOT a good idea. My psychologist said it is not a good idea as well...but how are we going to stop her? But we either have to just let her GO or make her feel as loved and cared for as possible. I opt for #2 for right now. I don't know how long her life will be...She has a funeral plot here. But she has been saying she will go south for years.  She said we never visit her.  Not totally true.  San

12/8 later that day

When Mom came home from Georgia, she told me she remembered a conversation she had with Dad a while back(maybe even as far back as 2001 when dad had his shoulder surgery).  He said if anything happened and he should die, that she should promise not to do anything big like sell the house for at least a year.  She seemed to think that was a good idea.  We just need to call Mom often and try to see her a bit more so she doesn't get any crazy ideas. I will have Christmas dinner and invited mom but she said she might be doing something with Danny. Danny, you and Connie are invited to our house if you like for Christmas dinner as well.  Let me know what is going on.  Brenda 

THANK GOD MY DAD HAD THIS CONVERSATION WITH HER!!! It helped a lot in the months to come. This was the ONLY voice of reason in her head. She would have moved in a heartbeat.

I began to call her youngest sister and so did Dan. We tried to underscore how difficult it would be to have her  move there in her state of mind. I told them that mom had dementia and paranoid type symptoms. I told her she would have to take care of my mother if she moved there. I know that she listened, because in the next few months mom stopped talking about moving there altogether. All of us kids tried to talk her out of it as often as we could. Being in a state of grief and making a major moving decision would not have been a good idea.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

CHANGE BEGAN AFTER THE FUNERAL...and someone is in the house!

October  2011
Email from Dan (still in the hospital after the funeral) 
Thanks for coming last nite. It always nice to see you dead father via tv. He will go in the ground today and that seeing him before that happened will mean a lot to me.
Thanks for all  that you have done to help me and mom. 
I am going to take mom to see where my mother-in-law  lives. Introducing her to independent living slowly will give her security knowing that there is a better place that serves three good hot meals a day,  has work out facilities, nurse on staff, daily activities and field trips, gives mom the social networking she craves and has not had in years, if ever.
If Cindy wants to take her to Florida for a month and I think it is  a good Idea....for mom to take a little break from the house. Anything is possible. Mom can continue to live in independent living and keep the home or do other things.
In any event if she ever runs out of money I will help her, I have already told her.
If you guys want to meet before cindy leaves let me know. I will crawl out of here by monday 
Your #1  brother


Now mom was alone in the 1900 sq. ft. home with a basement on 2 acres. She was sad and very agitated most of the time. She had made a practice of seeing Harry every day for months.  She would make her meals and get dressed up to go to K House. She made a social life out of talking with the women who were there to see their ailing husbands. She would have a good attitude and seemed to enjoy it. As long as he was alive, she was happy.

Now she had nothing to do. We got a service to shovel her snow and mow her lawn. She rarely left the house.

Dad died in October. This meant we had his birthday in November, Thanksgiving and Christmas  without him,  shortly after he passed. It was a huge hole in our family routine. Mom was starting not to cook like she used to. Since I am the oldest, I offered to prepare or organize the holiday meals. We still met at her home, but I coordinated the food. Everyone brought something.

Mom was acting as though she lost her mind. I have seen this more than once: women who married young and lost husbands after 50+ years of marriage  are rendered helpless and unable to cope. One of my mom’s childhood friends lived in a nursing home for 6 months after her husband died, then returned to her home.  My mother forgot to pay her bills and she didn’t remember anything. She was married for 62 years and she could not handle the loss of her partner. 

I understand the loss, but what surprised me was mom always seemed so competent and strong, able to deal with anything. Now she would sit around, doing nothing. Mail and papers began to pile up. The house was getting messy. She didn’t care any more.  She was going downhill and it scared me. When we talked to her about moving someday, she would glare at us and say, “Harry built me this home and I am going to stay here.” She accused me of stealing money from her. She canceled a bank account that had my name as a beneficiary. She lost a checkbook and canceled it altogether.

It hurt me that she thought I would take her money. Sadly, the accusations would become an almost daily occurrence in the future. She forgot to pay some bills and someone needed to help her. I was the one in charge of her money.

Email October 28th from Dan:   
Hello Everyone
Today I went to moms. before anybody gets weird I want to say mom loves all her children. She just lost her husband. She is alone. And most of all she wants control of her own life.
 Now there have been some gremlins in her house yet mom is not a danger to herself. She is freaking out a little though, and like all of us this manifest itself in stranger behavior
than normal. 
 The sky is not falling. None of us have control over mom. 
 We all have control of her home and her money. 
 Mom wants some control....changing locks etc. 
The locksmith is coming Monday at 3 pm. She said she would give me a key and  I said NO!  I want her to have as much dignity and control as she can muster in her last years. If she sees things and none of us has a key then SHE WILL UNDERSTAND SOMETHING IS WRONG. Right now it just seems like everyone’s against her.  Let’s all step back and breathe a little. A lot has happened to all of us these last couple of years. If all of moms money burns up (because she does something that we cant control) then I will personally guarantee her care.  I want nothing in return EXCEPT all of us stop the general insanity (which effects all of our health  and relationships) 
If anyone wants to communicate their feelings do it by email and send to all the other kids. None of us have to hide our feelings. It is unhealthy, and time consuming to call each other and vent anxiety, fear and misplaced anger.

So mom thinks she has a tractor missing. I stood there and went through papers with her and after 20 minutes I thought I would get the real story. Brenda, your version is right. However, if mom thinks she gains control, dignity, or her identity back by getting a stupid tractor. Please give it back. I am not trying to be a dick by saying I would buy it back, I'm just trying to make something right for an 83 year old women that was told what to do and how to feel for 64 f……g years by a tyrant of a husband. Can’t we all give mom a break!
How many years do you think she has left?  Dan

We did not know mom was going to behave like this for the rest of her life, although sometimes it wasn't too bad.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why we LAUGHED at the funeral...Not what you might think.

I was the only “child” to see him before he died. I have NEVER felt guilty, not for 1 minute. I am so glad I got to visit him before he passed. Cindy lives in Florida. She was taking her state final to be an optician. Bad timing, for sure. Brenda was out of town on a vacation.  My brother had just returned from Europe,  battling a blood clot he had developed on the trip. Everyone was angry when I called them to inform them of the death. Those were terrible phone calls to make. 

I had to arrange the funeral because I was the only one there.  My best advice is to PRE-PLAN your parent’s funerals! It is so much easier and less stressful. We pre-planned my father-in-law’s funeral and it was so easy. THIS was a gut wrenching experience. 

There was no one but me to try and comfort my mother. She was like a zombie. It was a complete surprise to her that he died, and she did not know what to do. As we were at the funeral home, stressed beyond comprehension, I kept getting calls asking questions and challenging all the arrangements. I tell people that a family member wanted us to go to “CASKETS R US” and not buy our casket there. I was ready to start screaming. I vowed never to wait until my mom died to make arrangements for her, and let someone else be in charge. Not me. This was one of the most horrible experiences I have ever had. I felt helpless and powerless to help my mom, love her, and make good decisions while I was struggling as well. I never had a warm and fuzzy relationship with her, and lately all she had done was accuse me of stealing and coming into here home when she was gone. This was the worst day of my life. I wasn’t even sad dad had died. It was almost a relief, yet I wanted to be sensitive to her. We postponed the funeral for 7 days so Cindy and Brenda could be in town for the services.

Note: Funeral homes make most of their money on the caskets. There are other ways to save money, which will be detailed later in the book. I talked to a former funeral director and he gave me some great tips.

The funeral itself was nice. LOTS of people showed up, mostly friends and co workers. My brother was unable to attend, because he was in the hospital for almost a month due to the blood clots. Because he was hospitalized, I asked the director if we could hook up to Skype so Dan could see what was going on. It was the first time they had ever done anything like that. We set up the laptop and people who were Dan’s friends and clients paid their respects and talked to my brother on the computer screen. Luckily there was a young man at the hospital who helped Dan set up a connection on his end. His long time friend, George, made sure people talked with Dan and didn’t miss him. It was really good we did that.

I can only imagine how awful my brother felt not being present at this time. Even though he had a difficult relationship with Dad, he still wanted to be there. It was extremely painful for Dan to not be there, which we found out during the service.

A mass was performed at the funeral home at my mom’s request. The priest had never met my parents. Luckily my sister is Catholic. The priest began to talk about Harry’s life and family. My mother had given him a lot of information to use in the eulogy.

Apparently, Dan was overwhelmed and beside himself. I think he felt guilty and angry, all at once.  He had no idea that people could hear what he was saying on the speaker of the laptop. All of a sudden we heard loud sobs and the F word, repeatedly. “Oh F…Oh F… Oh f…”  We could hear my brother swearing on Skype, louder than the priest.  (It was very surprising to hear that during “church.”) 

At first I thought, “Is he saying F…?” Then his wife LEAPED  out of her chair and ran to the laptop, turning the volume completely off.  I felt really bad for Dan, but it was SO funny because that is not supposed to happen at such a solemn moment. We all had to compose ourselves. It reminded me of a sitcom I once watched where someone started to giggle at a funeral and could not stop.

When the priest stopped, my sister, Cindy, gave a very nice talk about our childhood and some memories. I think Dad would have been glad that she found such nice things to say.

We buried Dad the next day. It was just us 3 kids, my mom, and Dad’s only surviving sibling, Tina. We even got a “buy 1, get 1 free” gravesite because Dad was a Veteran and there was a special going on that October.  Brenda  ordered a lovely headstone that had both parent’s names on it. It is really creepy to see someone’s name on a headstone before they are deceased. (mom) It was just another “better deal” so that is how it was purchased.  We did not put the stone in the ground until the following year, when it was ready.

Little did we know more difficult challenges with MOM were ahead.