Saturday, January 31, 2015

It's Not So Easy. Social Security, Power of Attorney, and Representative Payee

Everybody says "You have power of attorney...just (this) just (that)." 

Not so easy. For every hole I try to stop up, she can make the same telephone call and do the opposite.

Believe me. I know they mean to be helpful but it takes too much of my time trying to explain why it's not so easy.

But I think I have an idea.

I did a test and so far it has worked with small amounts of money. Will it work fully, when I try it next week, for real?

Do you have power of attorney for an elderly parent? Great. But unless you have guardianship, your elderly parents can, if he or she is clever enough, pick up the phone and undo what you've done to protect him or her. Even if you have PoA, you can't have the social security check auto deposits deposited in a safe bank unless your elderly parent makes the call and that defeats the entire purpose. The SSA doesn't accept PoA: You have to literally have your parent declared incompetent by a physician, file that with Social Security and get a designation which will give you total control... And what if you don't want total control? Or what if you don't want your parent legally declared incompetent? Like I don't. Then you have to figure out how to get the social security money into an account so that your elderly parents won't, under pressure, be able to write out checks and give the money away to some young and healthy person who would rather get fresh green money from his/her grandmother.

And my mother will do anything to do what this person wants, to do what she thinks she needs to do to earn his love, to keep him close to her. Even if it bankrupts her.

Reminds me of a drug addiction. You'll do anything for that drug. Anything.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When Your Elderly Mom Is Part of a Chronically Co-dependent Relationship

It was bad enough the $150.

The next day I got a bad feeling. Usually when I have a bad feeling there's something to back it up. Is this because I'm so smart? Or because God sends me little messages? Is this because I'm learning from experience?

My bad feeling led me to look online at her credit card charges. THERE IT WAS. $850 cash advance on one of the charges. Plus a $55 service fee, Not to mention the high interest rate on cash withdrawals.

Can you guess who this money went to? 

It was difficult to remain calm on what was supposed to be my Sunday afternoon and evening, my return to sanity, my return to looking after my own health, keeping my stress to a minimum, getting regular exercise and lowering my blood pressure and blood sugar level. I'd been warned, after all. I could feel my heart racing.

with the bank on the telephone, we conference in my mother. She immediately said she couldn't talk because she was tired. We kept her on the phone. She admitted it, the thousand dollars. I told her what I needed to do. She was argumentative and feisty.

After a few moments, I asked her to hang up. She refused. "You can't tell me what to do." Eventually she hung up.

Sadly, of all the credit cards she had, this is the only one for whom I had not yet sent in my PoA forms. But one thing I learned: If the next payment was made, then the credit card company would automatically block the card.   Good news, but two weeks away until the next payment due date.

That night I wrote a letter to an attorney asking how to initiate a Guardianship. I didn't want to do it. But as long as she had legal access to credit cards and her checking account, she would find a way to undue all the good things I had done to put her life in financial shape and all the good things I had done to rescue her from bankruptcy and homelessness herself.

How can you feel when you're doing this? I knew it would destroy my relationship with my mother forever, maybe even destroy her. And maybe not. It was, after all, her own behavior that was destroying her and undoing her life.

And she was 87 and doing it once again.

Always a Complication

Things were rolling along nicely. I thought. Isn't it always that way? You think everything is finally working well, and you can breath a sigh of relief?

The car was sold, she had some money in the bank for bills to just get ahead a little.

Then one day I noticed a check made out to a relative for a moderate amount of money - at least enough to have wiped out most of the savings per month on not having auto insurance.

I asked her about it. Is the word asked or confronted

Either way she was completely on the defensive, which means she was completely on the attack. "It's my money." and "I have enough to cover that." This implies that what she does affects nobody, not me, nobody, not even her, down the road. This also denies that it was me who signed her contract with the senior residence, as a "responsible party" and completely ignores or overlooks the fact that if she runs out of money to pay her rent, that my husband and I are on the hook for her rent and expenses associated with the senior residence.

Maybe I was wise or snide but I said, "Mom, if you can't remember what day it is, how do you know you have enough to be able to afford those expenses?" My question didn't get at all into the issue of Is this good for him? Will this help him establish independence and independent thinking and problem-solving skills?

What do you do or say when your parent has this approach? How do you feel?  What's your next move? What does it do to your relationship with this parent?

The next day I found another charge on her credit card for a $55. taxi ride. She didn't deny it, again. She tried to make up a few excuses that "he missed the bus" or some such nonsense. With that, the money I saved her from not paying car insurance for the money was completely wiped out. In 24 hours.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Who Are We Doing This For?

The battle between the generations never ends. At least some battles don't.

I don't want to feel guilty that some of these things I do, e.g. selling Mom's car, are partly for me. Or that I cannot make any decisions that will benefit me in any way. Fact is that she will have more money for the things she really needs, day to day, and that her life and financial decisions it will be more reality-based. And I will have less stress, which is great, because the stress of managing her life and her financial affairs is killing me.

Yet I feel that whenever I have this dialogue with my elderly mom about WHY I need to sell the car, that the reasons given have to be only about HER and not about me at all. She even got angry at me one of the calls before when I said again that she could use the money to get her hair done, go to the opera, have her meals delivered if she couldn't make it to the dining hall, etc., and so on.  She yelled YOU DIDN'T TELL ME THAT BEFORE. Aside from the fact that I most certainly did, many times, why does every argument have to be only about why it's good for HER? Why do I have to feel guilty that selling the car is also partly for ME - at least for my own health and sanity, given I'm the only family member who's helping her through this time of her life? That I'm the one making sure the insurance payments are made, that the leasing payments are made, that the Triple A is paid, ,that the car registration is paid, that when the car doesn't start that I'm the one making sure the part is repaired and then responsible for making sure that those payments are made....

My own doctor is warning me that my blood pressure is going dangerously UP and that my blood sugar level is going dangerously UP because I'm so stressed out all the time managing her affairs that I'm ignoring MY health, I'm stressed, getting no exercise, etc. and etc.

There's nothing wrong with it being partly for me. Or saving MY life too. Literally. My mother should be able to discuss this with me. It should be a part of our dialogue. Of our human dialogue.

I wonder if these issues that she and I deal with are the same issues we dealt with earlier in life - except now they're being revisited as we help our elderly parents through these years of their lives when they're sooooo dependent on others.

It's a difficult dialogue when we're making decisions that affect our elderly parents. It's a lot easier when they understand and accept that the wise decision may be the emotionally difficult one.

Fact is the car is sold, I feel great, and she may have been angry then sad, but I think she's going to be okay now.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This Afternoon I Sold Mom's Car

Mom's upset but she's not talking about it.

She sees the petty cash that I've brought her back to help her with daily expenses,, eg tipping people who come deliver her prescriptions, etc., asks where I got that, and I tell her. "I don't want to talk about it."

This is the WRONG thing to say to me. I hate denial. It starts a fight. We  fight. She gets upset. I get upset. I pack up and go... I HAVE to get away from the denial.

Dinner is being delivered to each and every apartment tonight because of the flu outbreak. So a few of the residents decide to eat together when their dinners are delivered. There are four of us. We are laughing and having fun. By the end of the evening, hard feelings seem forgotten.

The car dealer who sold her her car and who bought it back said to me: She will forget it. She will be angry for a day or two but then she'll forget it.  Tell her you want to do it so that she'll have money to go to shows or plays or to travel. I tried to follow his advice. His advice was wise.

It's now 10pm and my mom is telling me how much she loves me. I feel I've added years to my life. I've shed tons of worry. I can sleep tonight. And I do.

Tomorrow I'll try to take her to the fitness room and we'll get some exercise. I'll show her that life goes on - without the car. I'll show her that a good life will go on - without the car. Maybe even a better life.

Maybe she even will be relived at some point. But right  now she's not open to that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Today I'm Selling Mom's Car

Today I'm selling Mom's car.

I go to her apartment in the morning and tell her I'm calling Triple A now. I tell her I'll be out for a few hours until I can sell the car then get back. She tries another few arguments. Like how her mechanic can pick up the car and bring it to her place. Nice try, but it worked when she had money and when she was living just a few blocks away. It won't work now. And I share with her: It's like a human body. If you don't use it, you lose it. The car has to be driven regularly, and she's not driving it at all. She has given up on the argument about when she gets her memory back. These are her last attempts.  She can't retain the financial issue. I get frustrated.

I call Triple A. They tell me 45 minutes. THREE HOURS later I'm still waiting. It's okay. I go into her apartment, we talk. Maybe it takes  the pain away for both of us. I hang some pictures and things on the wall, which she loves. I do a laundry. It takes our minds off of what today's task is.

Eventually Triple A comes and I leave. I drive the car STRAIGHT to the dealer. He's waiting there, so calmly. I need this.

An  hour later, they have the car and I have my freedom AND a check which I go straight to my mom's bank, which is conveniently across the street. She's actually coming out of this with some cash!!! 

Then the car dealer drives me back to my mom's senior village.

She's not thrilled that she gets cash out of this. But then again, what did I expect?

It's not always so easy to sell Mom's car.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tomorrow I'm Selling Mom's Car

There are lots of stories online about taking an elderly parent's car keys away. This was no problem. She stopped driving a long time ago. 

Today I have a sick feeling in my stomach. My chest is tight. If I didn't know what's causing this, I'd be taking myself to the emergency room. I breathe deeply and tell myself this will soon be over, I hope.

At mom's apartment, I don't say a thing about it. I think that she knows what I'm thinking, and what I'm doing. Despite her memory loss, I'm certain that she knows. We try to have a good time. We go do yoga together. Wow, she's good! Much better than how she makes out to be when we're talking on the phone. The class is 45 minutes, much quicker pace than my own yoga classes... This teacher goes from position/pose to position pose like somebody at a salad bar...but it's good! And mom's keeping up. About 30 minutes into the class, she wants to sit it out. That's fine. Then she joins back in for the last 10 minutes. Even I'm a bit out of breath in this class, with all elderly!!

After the yoga class, we go to her apartment. I sit in the armchair and brace myself. I take a deep breath and then just get to it. I tell her again what I need to do and that I'm doing it this afternoon. But I tell her that I'm discussing it with her because I want her support with this. We have a bit of a circular discussion again. But at this point I have no choice. I have to sell the car and it's getting later in the day.

I call Triple A to get the car started....It's freezing out and the car won't start. I knew that that would happen. The guy comes, tests the battery, tells me it's dead, charges it up, and I drive the car around for a while but I fear that the next morning I have to call again and I count on this. The battery is dead as a doorknob and it won't retain the charge. Each piece tells me THIS is why I'm selling the car. Each additional "trouble" each additional cost. Mom says it's easy to get a new battery and I know that but who's going to DO all that? Who's going to sit outside when it's 15 degrees waiting for the guy to come and to charge up the car? Any single thing  is easy and doable. It's all of them together, and unpredictably, that is impossible to manage when she's not even driving the car, and hasn't driven it in years. She cries again that she's losing her independence. I know that it's no picnic getting older and losing abilities that one had. I think of this a lot.

BESIDES I LEARN THAT you only get five TRIPLE A roadside assistances per calendar year.

Is this for me or is this for her that I'm doing this?

In reality, it's better for her and for me. But some moms don't give up so easily. Then it's a fight. We feel guilty saying it's for ME.... But really it's for both of us. If I'm the one taking care of her, how can I feel guilty that this car is making me sick? If I'm sick, I'm also no good taking care of her. And my doctor is warning me. I HAVE BEEN WARNED. I have been warned twice.

Tomorrow I'll have to call Triple A again to have them come charge the battery. On the one hand I dread tomorrow. On the other hand I look forward to it. But either way,, tomorrow will happen and I will have to face what I have to do. I will have to face it - and do it.

And I'm trying to make it as easy on her as possible.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Day After Tomorrow I'm Selling Mom's Car. Tomorrow I'll be the bad guy.


I dread it. At the same time I welcome it.

The car has been sitting in a spot at the center for months now. It doesn't go at all. When my mom got emergency funds from the sale of the home (pending the divorce being finalized), I put a wad of the funds toward the payoffs on the loan. they will start up again this week. So as of this week my mom will owe not only monthly insurance, but also the monthly loan payments. With that money she could pay aids, she could get her hair done and get all sorts of compliments, she can order dinner be brought up to her room on days when she's feeling weak. From this point of view, it's a "no brainer".

I tried to get the loan refinanced so the monthly fee was reasonable but since she doesn't have the home any longer as collateral, the bank rejected the application.

Could I have thought about that last year, I would have saved her (and me) thousands of dollars.

Could I have thought about that last year? No. I didn't have the time, between her failing health, being the shaliach for the divorce, moving her twice, and I didn't even understand at that time that she could refinance as long as she owned the home but that as soon as she didn't, no lending company or bank would approve it. NOW I DO.

Tomorrow I'll fly down - get the car running (triple A, car mechanic) then another day will sell it back to the dealer. My brother doesn't do anything to help... He doesn't even offer, though he lives right there. She'll be angry at me. She already has been, but this will be for real. It will be a sign to her that her memory is failing - despite her efforts to gain her memory back. It will also be a sign to me that her memory is failing and won't come back. It will be a sign to me that I can, no matter what I do, always end up being "the bad guy".

It's a horrible job.



Today's NYT "Neediest Cases" write about a woman who put her "Life on Pause To Care for Her (Elderly) Parents".

Then she got sick and needed help from many organizations to help her purchase food, pay rent, pay her bills, etc.

I've been stressed out for years dealing with my elderly parents - not just their aging but their going through divorce, when they're 87 and 89 respectively, bitter divorce, moving my mom three times as a result, finding my brother who lives 20 minutes away from my mother not helping at all while I, who lives 300 miles away, have to manage her and her entire life by the telephone every day of the week, her memory that's been failing and failing, and failing... and my own health has been failing as a result (high blood pressure, pre-diabetic, all from stress and lack of exercise, memory lapses due to stress...) and that puts pressure on my husband.... and I wonder why G-d rewards those of us who are caretakers - isn't this a mitzvah? - with failing help ourselves.

We pray for refuah shalema for our aging and ill parents - and in so taking care of them our own physical and mental health begins to fail - and we ourselves become needy of prayers for health and recovery.