• An ounce of prevention

    by Jesse Loren

    She was stashing mail and trash everywhere, her clean place started to resemble an episode of Hoarders, and my sensitive lungs were inflamed when I visited. For a drop-dead-gorgeous business lady who, just a few years ago, climbed the ladder to her roof to take off her own damn shingles (all six layers of roofing tiles), it was hard to believe she was no longer invincible.

    My mom is Nordstrom boots and swift decisions; determination and hell to pay if anyone crosses her.

    But these days, she forgets to open mail and doesn’t keep a grasp on reality. We can’t tell when she is making things up, and neither can she. We keep swooping in to fix the messes, but the messes are getting larger.

    She is scared.

    Me too.

    Imagine your mom as a person more determined than Margaret Thatcher with the mouth of Kathy Griffin. That’s my mom. She is sweet, loves her pooches, and would help anyone it need, but she can’t remember whether she took her meds, or if she ate, or if she said something. Would you wait for it to get worse? When waiting might lead to a car or other accident caused by a limited attention span? Would you rush in to take over and risk her ire? Would you confront her or go around her?

    My closest brother and I decided to let love guide us. We started by taking her to an attorney and getting advice. We encouraged her to get her health care directives and legal documents in order. She helped us, then fought us. We cleaned her place, organized her papers, cleaned her fridge, freezer, and house. She helped us. She loves living at the beach, and we want to help her stay there as long as possible.

    We now know that at any time we will have to swoop in and make all her decisions.

    For about a year I have been struggling with the decision to seek an attorney, but finally took the steps to start scaffolding mom’s future. It was the smartest thing I could have done.

    Hopefully all her wishes will be spelled out and notarized, then followed when that sad time comes. Hopefully my family will circumvent the chaos that happened with my parents’ generation and the death of my grandma. Their unscientific method was to draw straws for things and hold anger toward each other for years because of the outcome. I don’t ever want to do that.

    I want my mom to be safe and warm, loved and protected. I want her to get the medical care she needs. I want to be able to go to work without worrying every minute of the day. Mainly, I want to face the paperwork and legalese now to avoid the pain of not being prepared later. It has been exhausting, but it is one of the most loving acts of kindness.

    • Oh, Jesse, this is so very beautiful & touching & filled with such truth.
      Thank you so much for writing this. it moved my heart & soul.
      All my love,

      • Jesse

      • December 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks Amy, in reading it, I have to say I didn’t say enough about how much my brother and husband have helped. Also, my oldest daughter and I took mom for a massage and to the hot tubs. Mom loved it. Mom is sharp as ever in the love part of the brain, but the paperwork part has definitely fallen into paperwork menopause. Paperwork menopause happens when a person has dealt with all the paperwork they had in them.
      My family has been great.

      • Judy N

      • December 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm
      • Reply

      Such a poignant piece, your love and care everywhere evident. You are lucky that the love part of her is still working. Too often the angry part takes over as was the case with my mother and mother-in-law. Hope yours continues to be a different story.

    • So sad to read and can’t recommend enough getting all the legal out of the way. This was what we did with my Mom and it has been a rapid decline in faculties as well as physical limitations. She is still in her own home with two caregivers during the day and one at night. She is totally disabled and my sister and I have full control. We try to make her as happy as possible (mostly impossible). You are doing the right thing. I hope she continues to follow a path where she accepts that she is aging with clearly memory issues. It breaks my heart everyday to see my Mom as this is not what she would want if she only knew and remembered what kind of condition she is in. That is the good part. She thinks she can still do everything and is totally in la la land. I hope it stays that way until the end and it comes sooner than later.

    • Such a beautiful column… and you capture your mom and her transition – and yours – so well. 🙂

    • Jesse,
      I’m with Debra, you did capture your mom but you captured yourself too. You have given away the fact that you are a passionate, loving daughter. I don’t doubt that you have always loved her more than you love yourself (or as much) and now you are placing her needs ahead of your own. I am priviledged to know you my dear, you are among the best of us.

    • Jesse – this is so heartfelt. I understand and even though the last year of my mother’s life took on a different trajectory, I’ve been comforted ever since she left by the knowledge that we did the best and most loving things we knew how to do.

    • My heart is wrapped up in the same knots as yours. Each day there is decline. Each day there are endless apologies for bad behavior, and endless bad behavior. She doesn’t want to go, or stay, or be, or be bothered with. We cannot win. And I can barely breath when I know she is losing; losing her home, her car, her independence, her stability, her peace of mind, her reconciliation of how her life should look.
      I was told by the social worker that I had to let go…that she is where she is because of so many of those bad choices and that at this point she will never be the “mother I deserved”. That being said she is the only one I ever had and the only one I will miss in the years to come. I am finding the letting go comes in moments, because I know that is how she is facing each hour, each day as well…moments. There are moments of clarity and resolve…followed by moments of terror and regret. It breaks my heart that my forgiveness has little to no affect.

        • Jesse

        • December 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm
        • Reply


        Take her to the doctor or make an appointment to go to the doctor on her behalf and share your concerns. If you have a doctor that specializes in geriatrics, that doctor can administer a simple test for memory. If she is declining, you might have to make some big decisions. First, what does she want? Does she want to live independently, if so, she needs to have food, water, space, shelter, medical needs met, and she has to be safe. How can you make that happen for her? If she has insurance, you might find out what is covered. If you live in a big town you might have a lot of senior services. The doctor is the first step. Then you need to look around. IF she is making bad money choices, will you be left paying for it? If so, you need to step in and perhaps get a revokable trust. You’ll need power of attorney too. If you have a employee assistance program you need to call them. God bless the social worker, but her advice might not be the best advice for you or your mom.
        Was her house foreclosed on? You need a damn attorney.

      • Sivan

      • December 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you for sharing Jesse. A lovely piece, on a subject many of us know all too well. You are doing the right thing by fighting for her, even if it means fighting with her.

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