Reverse Empty Nest Syndrome

http://www.flickr.com/photos/run_dorkas_run/When I walked into the front door of my mother’s home, a little over two weeks had past since my last visit. Because of the influenza epidemic that turned Arizona bright red on the “flu view” map of the U.S., the home issued an edict banning practically all visits until it subsided. They told me that if I was healthy, I could check in on her as long as I wore a mask and doused my hands in sanitizer……………………………. I think they felt sorry for me. I sounded completely lost when they called to say no visitors: “Oh. How long? Really? I, mean, I’m fine. Can’t I just check in on her once in a while? I just worry.”

Unfortunately, my own immune system was obliterated not 24 hours after the ban was put in place.

Great timing.

Before this, the longest I had gone without seeing my mom was, maybe, 48 hours……………. When she spent time at the geriatric psych ward last February, I was told I had to wait for her to be assessed.

Torture.

Letting go is not my thing.

This time, I was too sick to get out of bed. Too sick to get in my car. Too sick to feign good health just so I could see her. I really missed my mom. I felt empty. Alone, really. Even though my mother can’t talk to me, her presence, while it makes me sad on the one hand, also gives me comfort. Of course, in some ways, this is what it’ll be like when she’s actually gone, and if this is a sign of things to come, it won’t be the relief I’m so desperately seeking.

Life without stressing over her wellbeing, her care, getting kicked out, her flooded diapers, if she’s in pain, Medicaid, finances………………………….

I feel physically, emotionally and mentally sick. I am physically, emotionally and mentally sick. Who am I kidding? Sure, this might be the flu, but it’s also years of fighting the disease that has consumed both my mother and my father.

I don’t expect either parent to be alive when I turn 40. That’s four years from now.

A reverse empty nest.

Last Monday, despite the ban, I decided to visit my mom. They said I could. I walked in expecting to be turned away. The thing is, I was really worried about her finger nails. What if they cut her nails too short or what if they didn’t cut them at all and she snagged her nail on something? What if she has a painful hang-nail? I brought my clippers.

I am perpetually drowning in the minutiae.

***

“Hey Patty, I know there’s the ban, but can I please see my mom? I’m not sick anymore.” 

“Hi Kathy, Sure. How are you feeling?” 

“I’m OK. I just miss my mom is all.”

“I know. I would feel the same way. I’ll give you a mask; just be sure to use the hand sanitizer.”

“Should I leave my bag here?”

“I don’t think that’s necessary.”

My mom’s asleep. Her head is hanging to the right like a rag doll. I take a black sweatshirt, fold it up and tuck it beneath her neck. The room is warm and  her radio is playing NPR. Aside from her crooked neck, she looks comfortable. I place my bag on the console nearby and plop down on the arm of her beige pleather chair. She finally wakes up, turns her head and stares at me. I smile. Of course, she can’t see my smile… I’m wearing a blue surgical mask that sits awkwardly on my nose. I squeeze the metal band on the nose in hopes of it fitting a little better (don’t these things come in small?)……………. UGH, now my glasses are fogging up. I consider taking the mask off… just so she can see who I am. What if she forgot who I am? It’s been over two weeks? I decide against removing the mask. Instead, I take her hand and hold it. She can’t really hold my hand; her brain isn’t firing off a signal that would tell her fingers to wrap around my hand.

A few seconds pass and she starts yelling.

“It’s me! Your daughter! I love you.”  She’s either horrified by my presence or saying hello.

Hard to tell.

Mom’s roommate is in the room. I’ll call her Margie, though that’s not her real name.

“Hey Margie, how are you? Have you been taking care of my mom?”

“Oh, sure.”

I don’t want to stay too long, it’s already 9:00 a.m. and I’m late for work. I rub mom’s head until she falls asleep again……………………………. I look at Margie and ask her to take care of my mom.

She obliges, of course.

I walk outside, talk with some of the caregivers, get in my car and drive to the office.

Just your typical Monday morning.

>>Flickr pic by Run Dorkas Run

Interview: Charles J. Dyer, Esq.

One of the most important things to do after receiving a diagnosis is to get your family’s legal house in order. Below, Charles J. Dyer of Dyer & Ferris, LLC in Phoenix, AZ talks to My Demented Mom about what should be done so you and your parent are legally protected:

MDM thanks Mr. Dyer and Dyer & Ferris for this interview.

Charles J. Dyer, Esq., for the Law Firm of Dyer & Ferris, LLC in Phoenix, Arizona

After receiving a diagnosis of dementia or, more specifically, Alzheimer’s disease, what should the family do from a legal standpoint?

The first thing that should be done after a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s has been given is to see if powers of attorney were done prior to the diagnosis being given. An individual will want to make sure that both durable financial and medical powers of attorney have been done. If the powers of attorney are in fact in place, then the family members of the affected can function under the powers of attorney.

If no powers of attorney have been executed and the subject has no lucid times when he or she would be considered competent to sign a power of attorney then and in those events consideration must be given to filing guardianship/conservatorship proceedings with the court.

If the financial power of attorney is in place, but one needs authority to give medical consent, then they can go to their state statutes and look for the statute within their particular state or jurisdiction which refers to “Surrogate Decision Makers” and complete an affidavit giving notice that the affiant is assuming duties as a medical decision maker.

Why is it so important to consult an elder care lawyer upon receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia?

Lawyers who emphasize and are knowledgeable in elder care and the applicable statutes related thereto can give quicker responses to questions because they will not have to do special research to become knowledgeable with elder law matters.

Who should make legal decisions on behalf of the ailing parent? Can more than one person make those decisions?

“Who” is usually determined according to the order of priority set forth in the statutes of each state, and alternatively if there is any person interested who has the time and the knowledge of what must be done to give the incapacitated person a good standard of care and service then that person may receive priority.

What if you can’t afford a lawyer’s services, what can one do?

Check with the court in your jurisdiction that handles this type of case and inquire if they have any forms to assist the individual in representing themselves. If the specific court does not have any forms, then see if any forms are published by the county or state bar association. Finally, one can do research in the county law library to seek answers to their questions; they may request the service of a volunteer attorney program, the state agency on aging or a similar government agency.

If you had to make a list of things to do, again from a legal stand point, what would be your top 3 and why?

1. Verify the loved one’s diagnosis and possibly get a second opinion regarding the diagnosis.

2. Make arrangements to receive a medical report from the medical provider.

3. Make a search for powers of attorney with regard to the loved one affected (ask a spouse, adult children, close relatives and friends if they are aware of the existence of such a document.)

A person will want to do these things immediately because they are the least expensive, most expedient methods of providing care for the incapacitated. The last resort would be filing an action in a court of competent jurisdiction. This is the last resort because of the expense involved in such a proceeding.

** Please note that ALL persons over the age of 18 should have a general durable power of attorney for finances and for health care written by or obtained from some knowledgeable source so that all or as many problems as can be anticipated are anticipated before tragedy strikes. Once a person is 18 years of age, the person’s family members (parents) can no longer make decisions for them, hence if tragedy strikes and no powers of attorney exist, a family can be subjected to lengthy court proceedings in order to handle their loved one’s affairs.

Charles J. Dyer, Esq.
Dyer & Ferris, LLC
3411 N. 5th Ave., Ste. 300
Phoenix, Arizona 85054
Phone: (602) 254-6008
Fax: (602) 257-4276