The first year of my nearly daily involvement to help Mom and Dad was horrible. I wanted to help them, but they could not recognize that they needed help. They could see that their spouse was not doing well, but they did not recognize it in themselves. While my Mom would complain about Dad’s memory, they never betrayed each other.
I would try to offer logic and reason, and inevitably, I would leave frustrated, and often in tears.
One day, my mom called to ask me to come over to help with the checkbook. When I arrived, she looked at me like I had grown a second head and berated me for suggesting she needed help with the checkbook. My Dad sat in his armchair watching the entire heated exchange. I felt like a teenager again getting lectured. To examples I gave, my Mom would deny and suggest that I was making it all up. I was so angry and frustrated. How could I have believed my Mom really wanted my help. I left in tears.
That evening around 9:30 PM, there was a knock on my door. My Mom was there with a gift. She told me they were sorry that I was so upset and had been driving for hours. She told me somehow, they ended up in Baltimore, MD. Their home was in Arlington, VA and I lived 15 minutes away in McLean, VA. We hugged and at that moment, I realized that the advice the Psychiatrist gave me to “be sneaky” was the only way I would truly be able to help them.
I had to work even harder to help them without it being noticed. When I visited, I would pick up the piles of mail and stick them in my bag to review later. At that point I started to copy account numbers and information to get a better handle on their finances and cash flow. That pain and anguish lead me to create the MemoryBanc Register and transition to a career as a Daily Money Manager.
Things got easier and eventually, my Mom would thank me for helping take care of the bills and finances. That would be more than two years later and after my Dad passed away.
I would later recognize how much I missed the Mom that would debate me. The dementia stole away my parents bit by bit, even the parts that drove me crazy. They were unable to change, so I learned how to adapt to meet my parents where they were — even when I was trying to do a good deed that would never be recognized. Recalled.
5 thoughts on “No good deed goes unpunished”
It’s a pity that most of us learn too late for the knowledge to be applied. If more friends, family member, care partner, care workers and medical personnel better understood what to do and not what not to do, the experience would be a whole lot easier for all concerned.
So true. In the thick of it, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Kay! You are a wonderful resource!!
Kay, your last sentence is so, so important for us to remember. “They were unable to change” the path they were on. Dementia victims can’t rejoin our world, so we must get in to theirs. Trying to make them remember or perform to our standards is so frustrating for them. Regarding finances, my dad is still able to write checks and have a credit card, but he doesn’t remember well the things I share about not answering telemarketing calls, not giving out personal information, etc. Therefore, the best I can do at this stage is to monitor his accounts online that I am a joint owner of. He retains his independence, and I am assured that nothing wacko is going on.
Your dad is lucky! Keep up the good care.