I always knew there were some things about my parent’s lives that were none of my business, like how much money Dad made or how their money was spent. Nine years ago, I had to learn that sometimes you have to put the past behind and get a grip on what is currently happening.
With the death of Dad, I knew Mom would need love and support, but also help with the paperwork that is required when someone dies. I just didn’t know exactly how much help. In the beginning stages of dementia, there are days when everything seems exactly normal, and you start to think that you are worried for nothing. Then, something is said or repeated, and you wonder what is going on. Am I supposed to tell her that she just said that??
Keep in mind, I still didn’t know that there was really anything specifically wrong with Mom and I certainly didn’t know anything about the condition of dementia, let alone Alzheimer’s. At this point, I’m still thinking that Mom is grieving so intensely that she is not handling what they call the Daily Tasks of Living very well.
I would drive up for a visit to see how things were going and I found myself checking her refrigerator. I would see that it didn’t have much in it and the freezer was full of Lean Cuisine dinners and ice cream. The mail began to pile up and I would find that some bills were “second notice.” Knowing what I know now, I can’t believe I was so slow about realizing that she needed more help.
Thank goodness both my parents were organized and kept files and notebooks with their important papers. I went through the den file boxes, the list of monthly bills and mom’s check register. I did this while she was out in the kitchen or family room because it felt really wrong. I felt like a snoop.
During one of my visits, I took her to the grocery store to stock up on some food that I thought would be easy for her to prepare. I noticed that she was confused and indecisive about what to buy. If I suggested something, she would agree very easily, but something wasn’t feeling right. I also didn’t feel good about all the Lean Cuisine frozen food, but I felt like it was Mom’s business, not mine, what she kept in her refrigerator. It was her refrigerator. Was I supposed to tell her she wasn’t eating right?
I asked her if she would like some help with the paperwork and paying the bills, and was relieved when she said yes. It felt really strange and uncomfortable to go rummaging around looking for things that I thought were none of my business, but at this point, I had to do it. Funny thing was, she really didn’t mind. I think she knew she needed help.
SUGGESTION: Don’t wait as long as I did to get a true picture of what is happening. My brothers and I agree that we now feel terrible about the length of time it took us to understand a lot of things. While your loved one still has memory, reasoning and brain function, ask questions about household finances. Find out where papers are kept. It’s ok and it’s important. More on this later.