A Different Degree of Elder Abuse

checkbookA few years ago, when we didn’t yet have a diagnosis, but knew something was wrong with mom and dad, we were concerned that our parents would be victims of elder-abuse scams. We had a major incident when my mom hired two contractors for the same work, one of which charged 5 times a reasonable rate for the work that needed to be done. Thankfully, we were able to get the contract cancelled in time.

While we wanted our parents to hand over the checkbook and let us help them, my parents refused and were a little angry that we even suggested such a notion. I now understand that keeping control and having a sense of meaning and purpose is not just important to recognize, but a monstrous roadblock for many to overcome.

As my parent’s were losing control of the world around them, the one thing they could do was pay bills and send off donations to the growing number of charities asking for money through the mail. I started to notice that my parents were making a LOT of donations to new charities. For years, they had always done the donations once a year, after doing checks to validate the varied non-profit organizations and their finances. Now, I was watching weekly mailings to new charities I had never heard of.

It seemed that the charities that got money, freely shared the names of donors with others. The mail seemed to grow with more requests for donations. Most of the mailings showed up and looked like bills, or had language on them to the effect of “Here is confirmation of your pledge.”

When I asked my parents, they couldn’t even tell me what most of the charities did. When I asked why they were changing their annual donations to monthly, they brushed off my question.

I still feel like many of these charities took advantage of my parents. They seemed to count on the fact that my parents wouldn’t remember they didn’t “pledge” funds and in a way, coerced them into donating.

I fought with my godly self because many of the charities were indeed well run and regarded and doing good work. But my logical, righteous self grew angry over the ploys and tactics they were using on my parents.

Eventually, the checkbook did get turned over. As I was cleaning up some old files, I came across an old register and more than half of all the checks were to charities. While I still carry a bit of rage over the tactics, now that mom is unable to manage to even sign her name, maybe a few hundred dollars every year to these charities was worth the sense of independence it gave my mom when she could still write a check. Conflicted. 

The difference between Puberty and Dementia



This morning I am told “I don’t understand why, when things are dirty, you need to wash them.”

While this came out of the mouth of my ten-year old daughter, I realized that at any moment I might get the same statement from one of my parents, most likely my dad. He’s been wearing the same clothes over and over and my mom has been encouraging him to get the sweater to the cleaner and go a little deeper into his closet.

My 2013 resolution was for more patience. I’ve talked about it so much that I think my daughter’s resolution would be for me to not talk so much about this resolution.

I got to try out my resolve when my daughter poses this question to me. I was pleased that I was able to get her jacket washed and ready overnight. So the conversation started with me patting myself on the back “Yeah, your coat is clean. It’s ready for you by the front door. ”

I didn’t get back a “thank you” which of course is what I was wanting … but I get back “I don’t understand why, when things are dirty, you need to wash them.”

Humility, patience … the things you need to employ when you deal with a parent who has dementia is also a grace-giving skill when you apply it to the tween who is going to repay to me every unkind word I unfurled on my mother. Deserved. 

The constant promise of change when dementia arrives

While we all seem to wait for the person with dementia to change, the most important change has to happen within ourselves, the caregivers.

I’ve shared this article before, but in re-reading it, I find new meaning in the words Pamela R. Kelley shared in A Caregivers Resolution: No Push-Push.

I’ve had an interesting few weeks as my parent’s dementia has become evident to everyone around them. They still refuse or are still unable to accept any of the advice and recommendations from friends, doctor’s and even the staff at their retirement community.

I’m confounded by the huge difference I feel when I bounce between responding to my parents and my soon-to-be ten-year old daughter. Your first instinct seems to be to take charge and direct, like you would your child. However, that is possibly the worst strategy I might use with my parents.

I’m working on being a better collaborator with my parents. In turn, it make me a better mom in the process. Altered.

Love More and Expect Less.

I was a sandwich generation caregiver. I was raising two children and caring for two parents with undiagnosed cognitive issues. It was incredibly difficult. I turned to blogging to help keep my siblings in touch with what was going on and found it became my own public therapy. I was pleased to learn how many other adult family caregivers found hope, healing, camaraderie, and a few laughs in my posts. I originally wrote this in 2012 and am resharing one of the many life lessons I learned on my journey. 

It is hard to deal with any loved one when they change. Over the past two years, I’ve gone from passive to confrontational to detached. And repeated this cycle a few times.

When I started to view my parents through the filter of “head injury,” my visits with my parents changed, in a positive way. They have no control over the changes to their cognition and I have to be patient.

Today, their united front reporting that nothing is wrong is unraveling. The number of late bill payments, denial of products purchased with their credit card and lost calendars and checkbooks are increasing.

Meanwhile, my siblings and I collaborate and support each other as we all deal with my parents in different ways and on different timetables.

On one recent post, Kate Swaffer who is dealing with her own dementia sent me a note encouraging me to “Love More and Expect Less.”  I’m still refining my own coping mechanisms and this was timely and sage advice. Appeased.