Saturday, September 13, 2008

Memory... or lack thereof.

© Mudhooks

This week, Mom got called my the clinic she goes to (like many of us, she can't find a doctor and has to see someone at a clinic, often waiting for hours and hours in order to simply have her heart meds renewed).

She came home a few hours later, quite miffed.

"Did you call Dr. So-and-so and tell her that the family is worried about my memory?"


Firstly, no, I didn't call her doctor. Though my sister and others have discussed the possibility of doing so we knew what the reaction would be if we did.

"No.... Why?"

"Dr. So-and-so told me that 'Your family is very worried about your memory'. Do you think there is anything wrong with my memory?"

Again... Eeeps...

"Well, frankly, yes."

Apparently, it came as a surprise to her that there would be any concern at all about her memory, by either myself or anyone else in the family.

We sat down and had a long talk about my concerns and the rest of the family's concerns about the considerable deterioration of her short-term memory. She seemed oblivious not just to the fact that asking the same questions 53 times might be a sign of some memory deterioration but, indeed, that she tended to ASK the same question 53 times. I mentioned the previous week's problem about whether or not she had spoken to my niece about arrangements to go to the War Museum and how frustrated and upset I had been when she couldn't seem to get it straight in her own mind whether she had or hadn't and then moments after telling me she hadn't spoken to my niece, telling me that she HAD.

We discussed her lapses in logic and that our concerns weren't indicators that we thought that she had "lost it" or that she was "stupid". We talked at length about how wonderful we thought she was and how proud of her we are but that, yes, we were concerned.

I mentioned that it wasn't just me who had expressed concerns but that I, who saw her every day; my sister who sees her once every few weeks, and my sister-in-law who hasn't seen her in over a year until two weeks ago had all seen the same problems arise. I said that even my 15 year-old niece has made comment about her concerns.

As usual, Mom brought up her Auntie Maggie who was 94 when she last saw her and was sharp as a tack and some 90 year-old who climbed Mount Everest. I was surprised that she didn't bring up Jackrabbit Johannsen who was 104 when he died and had still been cross-country skiing in the months before.

I said that every person is different. You can't compare yourself to anyone. Heredity, health, environment, and all sorts of other factors make up who you are and that you can only compare yourself to yourself. I told her about friends who have been awed by her being 84 and doing some of the things she still does and comparing her to their grandmother or uncle who is 70-something and just sits in a chair waiting to die... Even I can't compare myself to any other 52 year-old.

"But", I said, "As proud as we are of you, we want you to make sure that you have the best quality of life that you can have and to be the best you that you can be". If that meant admitting that her memory wasn't perfect, seeing the doctor and having it thoroughly checked out, tso be it. There might be some medication which would help prolong her memory.

She finally accepted that "IF" someone had called the doctor, it was out of genuine concern for her well-being.

In fact, since I am the only one who knows the clinic she goes to, let alone the name of her doctor, and I know I didn't call, it is very likely that no one called. I asked the obvious "culprits" and all of them said it wasn't them.

The next day, I asked if perhaps she had misunderstood the doctor and she had merely asked "Has your family expressed concern over your memory?" She admitted that this was possible.

Whether she takes all this to heart or not, I don't know. However, I think perhaps it is time for me to go and speak with her doctor and tell her of our genuine concerns.

The very next day proved to support my thoughts on this.

The week before last, Mom had an appointment with a specialist about a non-memory-related problem. The office had called and told me that she was to have two tests on the Thursday morning and gave me the details. When I went to write them on the calendar, I noticed that she already had an appointment marked down for the following Tuesday (this past Tuesday). Thursday, she went for her appointment but apparently, they only did one of the tests. On Friday, she called her clinic to ask about what this other test was about and was given the number of the specialist's office, and told to call there. She did but, as usual, kept misdialing. One of the misdials would get her a message "This is not a long-distance number", another would get her the message "This number is a long distance number"...

Finally she gave up.

Tuesday morning, I was awakened at 7 am by Mom calling the clinic, yet again, for the number. Then, the inevitable "Shit.... Shit.... Shit...." as she kept misdialing the number. Since my Mom seems to think that phones still require you to yell in order to be heard by the party at the other end, I can hear EVERY word. So, I went doen and looked the number up and called the specialist's office. They didn't open until 9, so I said "Call them back at 9 am" and went back up to bed.

A few minutes later, I was awakened by yet another call to the clinic and her repeating the entire story about the confusing appointments and then her being given again the number for the specialist.... Then the repeated "Shit.... Shit.... Shit...." as she again misdialled the number.

I went down 4 times to remind her that the specialist's office didn't open until 9 am and that she already HAD the number and NOT to call until 9 am.... Each time, I would be awakened, AGAIN, by her calling the clinic to get the number!

The last time, I came downstairs and she was talking to the specialist's office and it turned out that they had mixed up her appointments and forgotten to tell her that her TWO tests were on TWO Thursdays, a week apart.

Why they didn't just DO the two tests on the same day, I don't know but I am going to call them on Monday and suggest that when they have patients who are seniors, they MIGHT want to try and avoid making convoluted plans and avoid making errors in their plans.

In the meantime, Mom appears to have completely forgotten that she called the clinic repeatedly.

Cosmos Magazine "Old Age Memory Loss Explained"

Oh.... and she AGAIN "loaned" my niece some money....

I have warned my niece that if she ever asks for money again, I will take a restraining order out on her.

I WILL do this if I need to.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


It has been some time since I posted here.

There have been so many upheavals in our life and most of them have been due to dealing with things to do with Mom.

Mom's memory is becoming increasingly spotty and this has led to problems. Apart from that, the fact that certain people, grown adults, have "borrowed" money from Mom over the last years that she was left with nothing more than her pensions and a lot of debt. Every month was robbing Peter to pay Paul.... and then have Tom, Dick and Harry calling for what they were owed, as well. I had no idea how bad it was until I finally took the initiative and dragged Mom and her records off to a financial advisor.

I had said to Mom that I thought she must owe "tens of thousands of dollars". She was sure she owed less that 10 thousand.... "probably less than $8,000".

When the everything was tallied, just the credit cards and bills were over $60,000. That didn't include last year's taxes and the installments for next year.

I was horrified... Mom was incredulous.

All her RSPs were gone. All her investments... gone. All her savings.... gone. She has a good pension -- her own, my late father's, her Old Age Pension and her Canada Pension -- enough to live fairly comfortably -- but within days of every month was into her overdraft and by mid month even that was all gone. And still she wasn't even paying off all the minimums, let alone the principals of the debts... And, of course, the two relatives had their hands out for money.

Mom couldn't say no.

Mom has never been able to say no.

I can remember years ago, while she was in the midst of a burn-out at work... when she could barely sleep at night and was falling asleep during the day, unable to keep up with the demands of her work as a high-school teacher and having a three of us at home (plus my Dad who lived for his work)... She would get calls from the church to ask her to join committees or volunteer for this or that. "I wish they would stop asking me! I can't go on like this!"

I told her that she had to say n"No!" when they called.

"I can't say No! What would people think!?"

"Who cares what they think, Mom! You can't go on like this. You just said you wished they would stop calling. As long as you don't say no, they will continue to call!"

She got so angry at me.... "But What will people think?"

A carry over from her mother for whom, as the wife of a prominent Presbyterian minister in the town where they lived, "what people think" carried a lot of weight.

"Letting people down" is one of the worst things we could do, as far as Mom was concerned. Saying no to relatives who know which buttons to push - "We'll get kicked out of our house", "The kids don't have shoes", "My cheque was stolen" (a practically monthly occurrence for one of the two), or "Just until the tax cheque comes in" -- was simply not possible for her.

What she feared was either them not talking to her again or "losing their kids" to Childrens Aid, a constant hook used by one but the other used it a couple of times. Again, there was also the dread of others thinking she would let her children down in a time of need.

Now, it was she who needed financial help and they stopped calling. As I had tried to say to her repeatedly, "It is all very well and good helping them pay rent but when when we can't pay the rent, who can help us? If you die, from the stress of all this, they are going to have to fend for themselves. They will have to do it sometime."

Thank GOD my company just signed on with an employee assistance program which offers all sorts of professional help and/or assistance in finding professional help for employees and their family. Certain services, those offered directly by the EAP, are free. Others are partially free (the first visit or several visits.... the first three hours, etc.) or they put you in touch with professionals that you pay for. They also have in-house and web-based confidential counselling, both psychological and work-related and if more serious problems exist, they referr you to professionals in the community.

This was a godsend.

I was at my wit's end when I called the confidential EAP phone number and was immediately speaking with a counsellor. She could tell I was distraught and asked me questions first about my state of mind. They have a policy that when they are concerned about the risk of a caller harming themselves or others, they are required by law to call the police or EMT. Once they establish there isn't a risk, they assist you in finding a professional to help you in whatever area you need.

They call the professional who then contacts you, either by phone or email.

Within an hour, I was talking with a debt counsellor and had an appointment for myself and my Mom for the nexr day.

Within a few days, we had several avenues suggested to resolve the problem. After looking over everything and talking several times with my mother about the options open to her, we settled on bankruptcy.

For Mom, theis was a terrible blow. Again "What will people think?" was her question.

Both my sister and I, who we discussed to options with, said "What will people think if you end up in court when the debts go to collection and you can't pay?"

Besides, she simply couldn't go on the way things were. I know I couldn't continue. I was so stressed I was becoming suicidal. I knew Mom must be worried, too, despite her not realizing the extent of her debt.

We assisted Mom in filing. Both our incomes and debts were taken into consideration and a budget was worked out which seemed frightningly small but workable for us and we turned a new page.

The first month was filled with concern about how things would work, juggling the money for the rent in and out of Mom's account and mine until we were sure that if the bank shut down her account and the cheque hadn't gone through, we would have cash to pay the rent. Mid-month, the overdraft was gone, as as her credit card account, and Mom was in the black foo the first time in several years.

The rent cheque went through with no problem. Mom called all the organizations which my mother had donated money to which came out in direct payment and told them her situation. Every one of them, with the exception of one she could never reach, cancelled the payments, immediately. One, the Provincial NDP, gave her a copmplete refund to the beginning of the year and offered her any help they could. Their kindness was very moving.

August went even smoother and Mom has finally understood that the money she pays the Bankruptcy Trustee covers ALL her debts. It is a large sum to pay evey month but only slighly more than she was paying every month to pay only just the interest (and not even fully covering that) and instead of the principle rising, the debt will be paid off in 18 months.

However, the biggest benefit of all this is that Mom finally understands how she got into this. She finally understands that she has to say "No." when asked for money. She finally understands that helping them continually was doing her no good and, really, it wasn't helping them stand on their own two feet.

She says "No!" to charities calling for money (except those she has long supported, like Child Haven. She has a small amouth set out in the budget for chartiable donations, so she can still feel she is contributing).

She also sees that, when the debt is paid off, she will finally be able to do some of the things she would have been able to do had she not given it all away.

The one thing I now have to imress upon her is that being on a budget does not mean she can't afford to get a haircut or the buy clothes when she needs them.

It is all a work in progress....

Now, if only I can get her to stop losing her keys or leaving her purse in Tim Horton's (she had her wallet stolen from it on Friday... luckily, no money in it -- and, of course, no credit cards!).