Friday, December 25, 2009

Names on bank accounts - approach with care

A few years ago my Mom added my name to her bank accounts. I didn't give it a second thought until tax time when I got statements for earned interest. She didn't make enough to pay taxes but I did. I had to report it as income on my tax returns!

That impact on me is relatively minor but it made me think - the risk to my Mom is much greater. She ADDED me as a secondary owner of her checking and savings accounts. This means if I were to file bankruptcy, I'd probably have to list half of the value as MY asset. I wonder if creditors could go after half of HER money to pay my debts? What if I were elderly and needed to apply for medicaide - would they make her use half of her funds for my medical expenses?

I've not asked her attorney about it because it was a relatively small amount and it will be consumed for her rent at the ALF soon enough. However, if my financial situation were less stable I'd be quite concerned. 

1st Christmas in assisted living is ho hum...

Mom's first Christmas Eve in assisted living was bitter sweet.  She was full of "bah humbug" attitude when we went to pick her up.  Even a couple of days before Christmas she was excited for the season. She had some goodies and wanted to share them with hot coffee and good company.   We did that on the 23rd. On the 24th the bright mood she had faded into the blues.  As I helped her get dressed she complained about everything - she's sick of the Christmas tree and decorations; the aides ate her little candy canes too fast and didn't leave any for her; the food at lunch was too tough to cut and she's sick and tired of their under cooked rolls.  She didn't want to go in the wheel chair, she's embarrassed to use it; she could walk if it weren't for "that thing". She wanted her fancy black shoes (forgetting that her feet are too swollen to fit any longer); her hair was mess....etc, etc, etc.   There was nothing to say that would lighten her attitude so we didn't try.  We bundled her up and got her in the car.

At my brothers house my husband and nephew sat her ON the walker and hoisted her up the 3 steps.  (She weighs about 90 lbs now so lifting her isn't bad.)  Once inside a hug and "hi gamma" from her great grand daughter (age 2 1/2) lifted her spirits.   We took turns sitting with her and talking.  We got her a plate of hot food, soda, pie and gave her lots of hugs and kisses.  We opened gifts and made fun of each other.  She was like a different person and enjoyed herself.   On the drive back to her ALF, she got a little weepy and returned to her theme - "If I were home, I'd be fine.  People would come over and I'd enjoy the holidays again."   Over the past two months she's said this more and more.  There is nothing we can say to make her agree that she can't be home.  It takes a fall or something else like that to make her say  - but only once or twice - that she feels safer the ALF.   We don't push it with her and perhaps that's the best gift we can give her - to NOT argue with her.

We never tell her she's forgetful; we never tell her she's weak. We DO tell her that her house and bathroom aren't safe for her any longer.  We ensure that she's as comfortable as possible, we take her out, we go for drives, we visit. We tell her she's loved and we make her part of things.  It's hard to do without getting upset ourselves.   We don't want to see Mom unhappy, feeling isolated or abandoned but at this point in her life, there is very little we can do to make her happy.  Even if she were home she'd complain about the same things - she DID complain about the same things and we all felt guilty because we couldn't do anymore. The fact that she's living in the ALF just makes us feel even more guilt.  Leaving her there room is still very difficult but we also feel some relief knowing that she has help 24-7.  I think we need to work on giving ourselves the gift of REASON and realize that we DO a lot for her.  We try as best we can and that's enough.  We saw our Mom do the same thing for her parents and in-laws. We know she felt guilty then and that the woman she was during that period WOULD NOT want us to feel guilty now.  It's a gift we must realize and accept from her but it's a hard gift to take to heart.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mom's missing Christmas chaos and it upsets her

We got to my home town and Mom's apartment this evening.  I stayed and visited for three hours over coffee and holiday cookies.   Mom mentioned three times that she ought to be home baking, decorating and getting ready for company.  Of course, I gently told her that she just can't be at home anymore, she needs too much help.  The second time she said it, I realized that she's sorry she CAN'T do it anymore.   It's not that she isn't HOME, she can't bake, she can't put up decorations; she wants a houseful of people to tend to again.   I know how much I enjoy entertaining and I learned it from her.  For her to NOT be involved makes her feel awful and so very old and incapable.   I don't know how she can stand it.  I fear how I'll handle it when it's my turn.

So tonight, rather than feeling the joy of the season, I'm feeling so bad for my sweet little mom.  I don't want her to feel that she has nothing to contribute.  I don't want her to feel ignored and abandoned.  Tomorrow we'll take her, her walker, her wheel chair and bundle her up for a ride to my sister-in-laws house.  We'll get her settled at the kitchen table, get her set up to peel potatoes or something else and help her feel like she's part of things still.  She'll be slow, we'll probably have to do half the job but it's worth it to make her feel good again even for an evening.