I was interviewed on Parent Nation about why parents should have their kids document their usernames and passcodes. Most parents have no idea they have no right to the online accounts and assets of their children. It’s one of the ways our modern world has moved faster than the law and parenting guidebooks.
It’s not just a parenting concern, but should be a spousal concern. For those of you who share an Apple account, the The Washington Post recently carried a story, Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password. This relatively simple issue makes no practical sense, but is the reality for those of you not aware that no marital rights or power of attorney can grant you this access. The idea of digital executor is still just a theoretical practice–unless you document your usernames and passcodes for the one who will step in and help or settle your affairs.
I think it’s so important, I have been giving away the chapter on “Taming the Internet” from MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This chapter gives you free forms to help you take control of your online assets, as well as share the worksheets with loved ones who can document their accounts and put them in a sealed envelope you hope you never need to open. I keep mine by my computer and frequently rely on them to help me access the more than 80 accounts I have. Every quarter, I give back the envelopes to my family to update and return to me.
I never expected to learn so much during this phase of my life, but the least I can do is share it with others in hopes that it will save you time, effort, and grief.
Today is the day we move my parents. My last sibling arrived late last night so we could all show up to help our parents with the move. My home can’t manage all 3 of my siblings comfortably, so one brother and sister stay in my parent’s town house, and another brother stays with me at our house. We decide to meet in the morning and set the game plan over breakfast.
Our parent’s are looking forward to having all the kids in town. After they were notified and we spent the rest of the day discussing and dealing with our very agitated mom, we stopped talking about the move. When we set the timing with the Executive Director of the retirement community, she strongly suggested that someone stay with my parents full-time after they are notified. My oldest brother W. was the freshest, so he took the last day and a half with my parents.
At so many twists and turns, our parents have surprised us. We were concerned they would leave the retirement community and go stay in a hotel. By not raising the subject, we have avoided the debate. By day two my mom had either forgotten the impending move or assumed her refusal to accept it made it go away.
Today we will arrive a half hour before the movers are set to show up. We know it’s not going to be easy, but the day is here and we need to help our parent’s manage through and make this transition. It’s the best place for them going forward. Undertaken.
Today is the day when my parents will be told that they are being transferred to Assisted Living. My mom knew she had this appointment with the Executive Director and has been asking me if I think it’s about moving the frame chopper into their apartment. When I arrive today my mom is anxious.
My parents didn’t ask me to accompany them, but the retirement community requires that I’m at this meeting since I hold my parents power-of-attorney. My parents are happy to see me and my mom wants to discuss all the reasons they should be allowed to move the frame chopper into their apartment. We spend some time walking through the measurements again.
I feel like a jerk. I know what’s coming. I sit down and we talk through how the chopper would fit in their guest bedroom. She shares that she’s worried they might be asked to give up the second half of their apartment. They took a 2 bedroom and connected it to a 1 bedroom.
I remind her that they moved into this retirement community because they wanted help managing through the retirement years. The apartment they created and decorated was featured on many of the open houses the community hosts for prospective residents. It is a nice, gracious apartment. She tells me I’m a good talker and I stated that so well, I need to speak on their behalf at the meeting today. Double Jerk!
We have been concerned for my parents safety and enough events have occurred that the retirement community is exercising their right to transition my parents to Assisted Living. My parents have resisted every change or suggestion of change. We knew this would be difficult, so my siblings and I worked with the Executive Director on how to best communicate and make this transition.
I tell my mom that the Executive Director called this meeting and we just need to show up to hear what she has to say. I know I played a role in orchestrating how this news would be communicated and while I know it’s the right decision, the process has made me uncomfortable. Shamefaced.
I saw the card on the phone table in the kitchen. On the back of the card was a request to have my parents call the representative of Adult Protective Services (APS). I knew the retirement community staff had placed a call with concerns about my parents safety and well-being.
I decided that I would not insert myself in the process. However, when my brother visits, he hears the messages and contacts the woman from Adult Protective Services (APS).
The woman from APS shares that she has tried to meet with the parents and visited the community several times. On one visit she came when my mom was running the weekly bridge game and my mom shooed her away. My brother confirms a day and time he knows my parents will be in their apartment.
The woman from APS asks my brother two questions:
- Is he afraid my parents will walk into the lake?
- Does he worry my parents will set the kitchen on fire?
He answers “No” to both questions.
My brother hears back from the woman who shares that she is closing the case on my parents. She remarks that she can see the family is engaged and while my parents obviously are struggling, they don’t pose an immediate threat of harm to themselves or others.
Two weeks later, I get a call from Adult Protective Services. I am asked the same questions. She confirms that she is not concerned to warrant any immediate follow-up visits with my parents. Predicted.
What I have since witnessed and learned is that Adult Protective Services will only act if the actions of the individual do pose a threat to themselves or others. Most of the employees are overwhelmed with cases. Everyone will be better off if you can resolve the situation. If they do find that your loved one is a harm to themselves or others and there is no legal powers in place, you will be facing court proceedings to initiate a petition for guardianship and conservatorship. These are both invasive, expensive and may result in someone being appointed by the court to act in these roles.
My parents have had a hard time with the day of the week for almost a year. I got them a Day Clock, but it wasn’t something that has been a long-time habit so they don’t use it to see what day of the week it is — or maybe they do but they do not remember.
Time seems to be a difficult concept in general for my parents. We were discussing the Christmas holidays and when my dad says it’s 2010, my mom tells him “No! We are in the 19’s — what do you mean saying it’s 2010?”
My daughter is with us and confirms to my dad it’s 2012. My mom stares at my daughter and asks “What do you mean, we are out of the 19’s and into the 20’s?” We all nod yes.
It’s remarkable how quickly and how intermittent some skills seem to ebb and flow. While my dad is the one who was clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, most of the cognitive testing lead us to believe that my mom had Alzheimer’s. It’s not worth pushing for more testing at this point, I’m just trying to watch and learn most days.
Last week at the doctor’s my mom correctly stated the day, date, month and year when asked by the doctor. I was surprised since on most days she will ask what day it is … over and over.
We all wait as we watch my mom mentally chew on this concept. “It is going to be 1913! We can’t be in the 2000’s,” she states. We just move on to the next topic. Shifted.
I don’t quite understand the dynamic, but I’m starting to become a part of my parents. The trust I was appalled they didn’t give me months ago has developed over time. It could leave at any moment, but for the last month, they freely accept and seem to appreciate my help.
As I learned to sit quietly when they recreate history and events, my parents learned that I could help fill in the gaps when they were struggling — if they asked.
My mom asks if I expected to be raising four kids. I only have two. I’m touched that she realizes that the time and energy I’m spending with them now is like having two additional children. I told her I always wanted four kids so this is working out well for me.
My dad turns to my mom and asks her if they planned to have four kids or did it just happen? My mom crabs at my dad about leaving for war and leaving her with kids. She is in a cranky mood.
I jump in given my mom’s crabby response and share that my belief was that they had planned on stopping at two. My sister K. was first and my brother W. second. My dad is a 3rd (III) and we heard stories how our great-grandmother “Granise” called on my parents to find out why they didn’t pass down the tradition and name their first son the family name (her husband was the 1st).
They promised Granise they would name their next son the family name (and would jokingly say because they never expected to have another child.) My mom is outraged by my story. “I just can’t believe that!”
For a moment, I sense what it’s like to have dementia as Kate Swaffer described it to me. At 48 years of age, I am not sure whether my belief that I was a mistake was real or imagined. Unsettled.
On the way back from the grocery store, my parents and I were talking about an event that just happened. I recounted my version, my mom recounted hers, and my dad just responded that he had no idea what we were talking about. We all giggled. He then responded with “That’s just your demented dad talking.”
I almost hit the brakes. Was my dad reading my blog? Did he see the debate I started when I used the term “demented” to describe my parents?
During this process, my parents have been sitting through the medical discussions with doctors. My dad typically doesn’t say a word while my mom will refute each statement made. My dad admits that he has no memory, and my mom say’s “her brain is bad.” However, when a recommendation is made to consider changes to their lives they refuse to budge.
We recently had a follow-up with the neurologist who shared the results of the MRI tests. Mom, dad and Kay are all sitting in the examination room. We are told that my Dad has Vascular Dementia with signs of Alzheimer’s and my Mom has Vascular Dementia.
While my mom had a stroke (that left no physical traces), she can see many other smaller strokes occurring in her brain. The cognitive testing lead us to believe my mom had some Alzheimer’s but it’s not apparent on the MRI test. My dad has been having many smaller strokes and they also saw signs of Alzheimer’s which was not apparent in his cognitive testing.
My parents were in the room so I didn’t ask questions beyond, what pills do they need to take to minimize the stroke risk and help with their memory. It seems the repetition is starting to sink in. I just hope they will accept help from more than just their children in the coming months as things progress. Prayed.