Our Aging Parents
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I'm the oldest of three, 10 and 11 years older than my brother and sister. Mother will be 90 in July. One of her brothers died with dementia (he was a POW), and her mother died with Parkinson's.
I can't remember how long ago my brother asked her to move from her lifetime home in a city of 500,000 to the town where he lives about an hour away (population 10,000) to help with his children when he was going through a divorce. I was living out of state at the time. My sister has always lived in the city of 500,000.
I moved to the small town from Florida 8 years ago because my husband had died, and I knew if something happened to Mother and I wasn't around, it would be awful. Since that time, Mother has had a knee replacement during which I took care of her most of the time. My brother and his second wife helped as much as they could with their work schedules. I don't much like it here, but that's irrelevant.
I'm not able to not work at all. My brother works an hour away from his home and has two children in college. My sister and her husband are an hour away. My daughter, who lived with my mother for years, is now living in Maine.
Mother was living alone in a house here that she loved when a man tried to break in. She was home and scared him away. After that she was afraid to be alone in the house, and my brother found her a nice condo inside the city limits. It's a relatively large three-bedroom unit for one person, with all the mod cons you could want.
Mother's last remaining sibling died about three months ago. Mother did not feel as though she could physically stand the trip to California for the funeral. My aunt had asked us to wait until the spring to come and see her, probably knowing that she wouldn't live that long.
I began to be concerned that Mother was slipping a couple of years ago. My brother, who sees her more regularly than either my sister or daughter, didn't think much of my concern. Between that time and now, Mother has exhibited more short-term memory problems and irrational (to us) beliefs.
She has been convinced someone is coming in the house while she's not there. My brother changed the locks on all her doors. She thought one door had been missed. She keeps a stool and a chair in front of that door, a carpet sweeper in front of the door to the garage and a stool in front of the front door. Technology in general, and alarm systems in particular, are not her friend.
She thought whoever was coming in had taken a tray that she likes to eat her meals on. We looked all over without success. She eventually found it out on the screened porch where "she never goes." She told my brother that someone had taken some pennies she had saved for a church project. When he asked her to show him where they were taken from, they were still there--she had covered them with something. My daughter discovered at Christmas that she's been sleeping with her BB gun beside the bed.
A couple of times she has called my brother with issues: someone must be stealing her mail because she can't find this or that; the intruder thing; hysterical because she couldn't find her Social Security card. We don't know why she wanted it in the first place.
About a month ago, she called me in hysterics because she couldn't find her Social Security card, and hung up on me. My sister-in-law went over there until I could get there (I was doing preregistration for surgery). By the time I got there she was calmer but obviously confused. I got our GP to see her immediately. By the time we got to the office she was calm and, to me, seemed very happy to have someone else in charge. The doctor prescribed a low dosage of Lexapro and connected us with a neuropsychiatrist.
While I had her at the doctor's office, my brother was looking for her Social Security card and found journals she's been keeping, in the same sort of notebooks she uses to record her tax information that she gives him. He said they were bad.
She told me she has a conflict this Friday and can't go to the neuropsychiatrist appointment, and she doesn't need to go to a doctor anyway.
Today all of us except my daughter went to lunch. While there, my brother counted the Lexapro. She stopped taking it after two weeks. In the kitchen, she had propped up a piece of junk mail on which she had written that she has no reason to exist and wishes she was dead. My sister took photos of about 8 pages out of the journals my brother found and shared them with us.
The journals talk about how she wishes she would die. How she wishes she could kill herself, but she won't. How she should never have left her lifetime home and moved to this horrible place, and especially to the horrible condo. My brother has become exactly like his father (who was a less than impressive specimen in many ways and very unlike my brother) and she can't trust him anymore. The only people who care about her are my daughter and my sister and her husband, and my daughter's half-brother.
She taught me very well to hide my feelings and not let anyone know about anything, and that's what she's doing now. She will not be honest with us, and obviously won't be honest with any doctor.
We had talked about updating her living will and healthcare power of attorney, and at the same time executing a general POA that would give both me and my brother the ability to pay for things if necessary. Since she "no longer trusts him," I don't think he should approach her with it. I am not mentioned in the journals at all, at least not in what my sister photographed.
Full pages of how no one cares about her and she wishes she would die and she wants to be with her "real" family. How she wants to go back to where her friends and her church are, not recognizing that she would never be able to drive there and it's not the same place it was at the time she left.
What do we do? Can we share the journal entries with somebody in an effort to force her to help herself?
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