The senior care managers arrived at my parents’ house where they immediately took care to set my parents at ease. They chatted with them about their lives, their background, asking about family health, children, grandchildren – things that seniors love to talk about. My mom, although she had no idea who they were, was gracious and friendly – the mom I knew. After a while the care managers split up and one of them asked me to give them a tour of the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. They took note of the steep stairs to the basement. After that, the care manager in charge talked to my dad privately, asking about my mom and about their daily routine. They discussed Dad’s driving, his overall health, safety concerns about the stairs. Dad agreed to the following:
– Visits from the Care Manager every two weeks to check Dad’s medication
– Arrange for Mom to be visited by a geriatric physician to assess her condition.
– Arrange to have Meals On Wheels delivered three days per week.
– A housekeeper would come in once a week to clean and prepare meals for the weekend.
You could see a physical change in my dad as some of his worry and strain was relieved.
The care managers also asked if my parents had wills, a Power of Attorney document, Health Care Directives, and living wills and if I had copies of these. Fortunately for me, my parents had drawn up all of these documents nearly 20 years ago, but they needed to be updated due to changes to the state laws. My parents’ attorney worked with me and my parents to get things squared away.
What turned out to be vitally important was having my name included on their bank accounts and credit cards. It wasn’t enough to have a Power of Attorney document unless there was a court document declaring my parents to be incompetent. Banks are very careful to protect account holders, and the paperwork was arduous and required both parents’ signatures. If we had waited too much longer, my mother would not have been able to sign her name. Likewise their broker required all the documents before they could communicate with me regarding their investments.
And a word of warning. My parents’ had a trust account with one bank, and there are a whole slew of rules regarding trust accounts. The bank’s legal department required a copy of the actual trust (all 52 pages) before they would even talk to me about adding my name as a co-trustee. This took several weeks to accomplish. So don’t wait to tackle this one.
The care managers were able to arrange for the geriatric physician to conduct Mom’s assessment while I was still visiting. Mom and I just sat chatting with the physician in the living room which she asked my mother questions about her family, whether she had children, siblings, how old her parents were when they died, family health history, her work history, etc.
This was when I truly saw the state of my mother’s mental health. She turned to me for a lot of the answers such as grandchildren’s names, siblings names, health history and other things. It was totally shocking to witness the disappearance of her memory.
The physician then asked my mother if she would mind if she did a quick exam in the bedroom. Mom liked her so she said yes. The physician looks at the state of the person’s skin, hygiene, how she moves, whether she can follow directions.
The doctor asked my mother to take some daily vitamins but she absolutely refused. The only way around later was to tell her it was aspirin for her arthritis. Because she had always taken aspirin for her condition, she consented. But she never remembered to take them.
Care in the Home
The care managers sent me their report and the physician’s diagnosis of dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and said that it was only a matter of time before my parents would be unable to stay in their house without a fulltime caregiver. Only RNs are allowed to dispense medication and the expense for such care was astronomical, and it wouldn’t include medicine, groceries, transportation, etc.
The housekeeper started coming once a week, but my mother became increasingly agitated about having “strangers” into the house. She was afraid of being robbed and didn’t want anyone near her things. My dad tried to calm her down, but he wasn’t always successful.
Although they tried Meals On Wheels for a month, Dad said that they brought too much food and that there were piles of leftovers in the refrigerator. So he stopped the service.
The care managers came regularly and established a great rapport with my parents, but it became obvious that my parents were very isolated; they had no outside stimuli; no other visitors (most of their friends were either deceased or moved away), and their neighbors were busy with their own lives. Other relatives in our family lived more than an hour away. That’s why my dad drove daily to the store or take-out place just to see people.
A few months later I got a call from the police department. It scared me to death. They said that everything was okay, but that my dad had lost his car in a parking lot of a nearby shopping mall, and that they were treating it as a stolen vehicle. He was calling because Dad, in his distress, seemed very confused.
The car was later found in a different area of the parking lot. It turned out dad had left and come back to the mall and parked in a different place. But he didn’t remember that he had done this. On my next visit a few weeks later, the neighbors told me the truth (because Dad asked them to help him find the car). The neighbors told me the real reason the police couldn’t find the car at first was because Dad gave them a description of his old car, which he had gotten rid of years ago.
The life changing event had happened.
Stay tuned for Part III tomorrow
Please feel free to leave comments or questions. I’ll be happy to help if I can.
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