That's It, I Think I'm Done.
Q: Well, my Great Aunt called late yesterday and angrily said that her bank had just called and told her that my husband had been taking money out of her bank account. She wouldn't give any details and just kept shouting that I should call and ask them. Obviously no such thing happened, and he's going down to the bank today to find out if anyone called and what the problem is if they did. I suspect that a check she wrote him a couple weeks ago for $35 bounced, but we'll know more later. The problem now is she won't speak to either one of us. Everything else she forgets within the hour. This, she remembers. On the first call, I tried to explain that her illness may have caused a misunderstanding on her part. She shouted back, "I may have Alzheimer's but that doesn't mean I can't remember!" It would be funny if it wasn't so disturbing. Then she hung up on me. I waited a bit and called back. She again screamed that I should call the bank. I suggested we talk to her doctor about it when we go. She said she's not going to that doctor any more, and that she had a new doctor. Then she told me to leave her alone and hung up. So I called her doctor this morning to ask for advice. The office told me that if she didn't want to come they couldn't make her. They said I should call for a psych evaluation and gave me a number. I called that number and they told me the same thing. They'd be happy to schedule a consult, but had no suggestions as to how to get her there. Again I will state that she refuses to even speak to us, so tricking her is out of the question. I asked what had to happen for them to step in, and it was that she had to demonstrate that she was a danger to herself or others. Great, so no help until she burns her home down or goes wandering off and gets lost or something. I don't think I can deal with this. I'm wondering if everyone would be better off if I just let the state step in and do whatever it does. The advice I've gotten here has been wonderful, but it presumes a patient that is at least somewhat willing. My husband thinks she'll forget by next week, but I'm not so sure. She's been suspicious of everything her whole life, and once she gets something like that stuck in her head, nothing gets it out. She still remembers every old grudge she ever had, every real or imagined slight. But she doesn't remember my husband missing work to get her air conditioner fixed, or the authentic Genoan meal I made her to remind her of her youth in Italy. (All she talks about.) I may try giving the Dept of Elder Affairs a call, and make sure her landlords have my number, but I can't just break down the door and drag her out, kicking and screaming. She needs to cooperate at least a little. And she won't. And I just can't deal with the false accusations and being treated like a thief. I'm not strong enough. I don't know where some of you wonderful folks find your patience, but I can't do it. I'd love suggestions, but I honestly don't see what I can do now that she's cut off contact. Sorry to write so much. Your suggestions and good wishes helped me feel less alone in this. Thank you for being here. Could you give me some ideas on it?
A: I've read with interest your situation and having recently survived our first real crisis with my father I know how difficult it is for you. At first I didn't think I could handle his anger and accusations. It felt so personal. Believe me, it's not personal. Not at all. The lashing out is partly a release for their frustration. Knowing they are slowly losing control must be a nightmare for them. You're right about the people in this group being strong and patient. They've certainly helped me find that strength needed for this. You must accept that your loved one will say things that are hurtful and untrue. You have to keep the right perspective. You are the one who is now the adult and basically you're now in charge. Do whatever it takes to make her feel you're doing everything you can to make her life better. Say whatever it takes to keep her thinking she's still got some sort of control. I hope it will get easier for you. So many people have no one to help them. Your Aunt is lucky to have you and your husband. Just remember, she's lost the capacity to appreciate what you two are doing for her. I'm sure there was a time when she would have been very grateful to you both. Her safety is obviously important to you and getting help from Elder Affairs is a good option. There may be some home helath care options available to you also. Just from my limited experience it helped me to use calming phrases with Dad when he was angry. i.e. "I'm sorry you feel that way", or "I'm sorry you feel you have to do that". I used that last one when my father told me he was never going to eat again and that he would just starve himself to death. Thirty minutes later he asked if I wanted to go out for dinner. :-) This is a wonderful group with the best advice and direction you'll find anywhere. They made me realize I had to get in gear fast and take care of some essentials. I won't address your reluctance to use an elder law attorney. I'm sure you're local AZ groups and other resources will give you some good options and advice. We were so lucky to find a very caring attorney - young and not a lot of experience but he was extremely thorough. Dad is very much able to participate in these kinds of decisions for now. I don't know how much longer he will be able to do that. Part of his crisis came as a result of a serious head injury that wasn't discovered until after he got lost driving around for 14 hours. He didn't hurt anyone or himself. We dodged a bullet on that one. He's healing nicely and back to his mild to moderate dementia. (sans car, of course)
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