I Am Stealing My Mother’s Money

And I let my deceased second cousin get a deed to her house.

Yes, I’m a bad one — in my poor dementia-ravaged mother’s eyes — and I need to be stopped by the police and the elder abuse people. She grabs the phone and reports me sometimes, usually telling it to the dial tone. Not only has she seemed to be plunged into instant dementia since her fall, but she has lost her hearing to a great extent. It may only be her comprehension is gone, but she automatically yells, “what?” anytime something is said to her. And when we are talking to each other, too.

My 91-year-old mother had a bad fall on November 2, as I wrote about here: https://carolburt-15733.medium.com/my-mother-isnt-here-8b38e787727b?sk=75409112d310ece7921c375a94b769d3

Mother, who lived alone, was so hale and healthy we expected her to keep being here with us for many more years. I always joked that she’d outlast me, and she still may, but not with her right mind. Little did we know…

She had her caregiver call me because she can no longer figure out how the phone works. When she got on the phone, she said, “I want you to get this woman out of my house,” meaning her caregiver. Later that day, she called me to come to her house and “bring the police.” One night she wouldn’t go to bed because she thought her caregiver was a stranger.

It’s the most heartbreaking thing, even more so because every so often, not every day, but sometimes, she briefly returns almost back to herself for a minute and talks to me as if she’s my old mother. She makes sense. But it only happens for a short time and it’s becoming rarer.

Apparently, the damage is done, and the hard bump on her left temple has somehow triggered her dementia — which might have been in our future anyway since she had microvascular disease quite extensively in her frontal brain. But she had been giving it a mighty fight. Making lists, keeping her affairs organized, and only occasionally displaying an instance of forgetfulness or mild confusion. She was determined not to give up on sanity, just as she’s been determined to accomplish things and make something of herself all her life.

When she was a senior in high school, she made all her own clothes and was the president of her graduating class. From those accomplishments, she just went on until she became a well-respected professional.

My sister and I don’t know what we’ll do. We really don’t. Neither of us can stay with her all the time. We have families at home, too. My sister has a husband sick with heart disease and I’m raising my 17-year-old-grandson and determined he be supervised and have me available until he goes to college.

She has savings. But we will spend it in a pretty short time having to hire caretakers. She owns her home. Will we have to sell it to pay for a nursing home? Or can we pay for something better like assisted living? She has always said that no matter what, she didn’t want to live with either one of us. I’m having trouble just getting her to agree to come to my house for Christmas dinner. Mom has never been one to spend much time at “the kids’” house.

And she’s never been very crazy about us being around her house all the time. We make her mad when we are there helping with her care or staying with her. She wants to be alone in her home, and bless her heart, I can really understand that. I like to be alone, too. But it isn’t safe to leave her alone. I wish she could have her solitude like she so wants. But she would probably leave the house or worse. She frequently looks for her car keys, determined to get away if we won’t go away.

She often thinks my dad, gone 15 years now, is out in the backyard or on the carport or has gone on an errand. She also thought last night for a moment that I was her long-deceased cousin. The saddest part is almost immediately she realized her mistake, and said, “Oh Carol, I thought you were Betty for a minute.”

So, she’s not completely gone. Some of her behaviors aren’t that different from before she fell. She is contrary if anyone tries to tell her what to do, and she was before. She wants to take care of herself — and did, before her fall.

Now we beg and bribe to try to get her to take a bath. She doesn’t like to take baths and especially doesn’t like having to have a caretaker help her. She got her bank statement out the other day and told us we’d spent all her money and her account was overdrawn. No amount of showing her figures and explaining her statement could convince her otherwise. My sister and I have spent all her money, in her poor confused mind. But to her, it’s so real. As real as anything is to anyone.

She told me, not knowing I was me, that she never dreamed her daughters would turn on her the way they have. She explained “they’ took her money and left her without money to care for herself.

But, hey. In her world, in her mind, it is true. How awful would it be to believe that when one is 91? Or at any age? The last few days, she’s told me she learned that someone else, her long-dead cousin, has a deed on her house. She is so worried about what she will do about it and says she’s been paying the taxes for 60 years (which she has), but somehow her cousin got a deed to her house.

Sometimes she worries it isn’t her house anymore and she needs to leave. Sometimes she gets worried that she isn’t paying her bills (we’ve taken them over) and frets about owing someone something. She’s had exceptional credit all her life.

The saddest thing would seem to be that we’ve lost our mother as we knew her, but it’s even sadder for us to know her world is turned upside down in her head and she can’t do anything to fix it. She’s always been such an independent and strong woman. And she thinks in some part of her mixed-up mind that she should be able to handle this, too.

She’s been busy today. Going to get her an attorney and get her cousin off the deed to the house, then she’ll deal with my sister and me. It’s her world. Her reality. Daddy is alive most of the time in her mind, but every once in a while she realizes he’s gone, and she suffers that loss again.

She’s thought she was a child again and couldn’t go to sleep in her house because her mother told her to never go to sleep with strangers in the house.

This is the first time we have had to deal with this in our family. It is hard for us, but even harder for her. She seems tortured in her mind trying to fix things she can’t fix and believing she has problems that she doesn’t. We keep reminding ourselves that to her, these things are real. And they carry the urgency that creates her agitation and anxiety.

I would have wished for a more merciful end to her life. I do wish for a more merciful end, still now and fervently. I hope she will eventually come back to herself, at least enough to end some of the nightmares she’s living through. But the prospects of that dim as days go by and the only changes seem to be for the worse. I know we are by far not the first family having to endure this crisis, but it’s a first for us. And it hurts. A lot.

Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.

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