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3-5; 5-40 – I will never give up. Why would Mom?

nevergiveupFor those of you that play tennis, as the person who was serving at 5-40 when the game score is 3-5, you know I’ve dug myself a pretty good pit. Sadly, this type of situation is a bit of my tennis game calling card. With my partner, we went on to win the set 7-6.

I love competition and in this situation, all I can say is “never give up, never surrender” which is just a silly line from the movie Galaxy Quest. I will focus on just playing that point and plod my way on. I won’t recognize a lost match until the final score actually has me losing. I am a little worried that is not always a good thing.

I recognize, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My mom is a fighter and has rebounded through issue after issue. In my last conversation with the hospice care team, I again requested that we consider something for mom’s depression. She seems infinitely sad on most visits. It’s easy to find ways to brighten her day, but I know that she’s dealing with the loss of freedom, understanding, and independence as her cognitive abilities decline.

The doctor has approved a new medication that should help her depression as well as will increase her appetite. All things considered, who doesn’t want to die fat and happy? Questioned.

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Dementia and the Caregiver Guilt Trip

sunrisebyColeI’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the ongoing journey with mom. Two weeks ago, I sat and observed her in the community center before going up to say hello and she looked so sad. I left wondering if we are doing right by mom and was in a funk for days over it. My mom told me for 30 years she never wanted to be a burden to her children which is why they moved into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). A quick tour through my blog will tell you a very different story. I am honored to be able to advocate for her, but when she goes through periods asking me to take her with me, my stomach drops. I feel guilty that we should have moved her in with us, not into this memory care community.

In an instant my funk is lifted thanks to a comment by a woman I met at a business function. She told me her mom has dementia and her dad has been telling her over and over “If I go first, your mom is going to beg you to let her move in with you. Don’t do it, she would never have asked for that. It’s the disease, not your mother talking.” In an instant, this woman helped me realize what I knew, but emotionally got mired in guilt, and could not recognize.

My mom NEVER wanted to live with us. I know this because I remember a visit my mom and I made with a good family friend who told us that when they got old, they were moving in with their children. When we left, my mom spent the entire ride home berating the idea of a parent moving in with a child. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It could have made things easier for us in many ways.

I’m lucky that I was around my parents and we had so many conversations that have helped me know what they wanted. It doesn’t always mean that I know it’s the perfect choice, however, I need to recognize that it is the right choice for all of us right now. Sometimes, it takes a new day and a new viewpoint to help us see the light. Freed. 

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Missing the Mom That’s Sitting Beside Me

momsdayteaThe holiday’s always bring melancholy for me and this Mother’s Day was no different. My church does a Mother’s Day tea and asked us to wear a hat … the bigger and bolder the better. That is a picture of me with my daughter and mom. We spent the early afternoon decorating our hats and arrived to enjoy a normal moment. We had finger sandwiches, tea, cookies and tarts and listened as one of the members played some of my mom’s favorite tunes on the piano.

My mom was a very good piano player. At one point in my life, our basement held two piano’s and my parent’s would spend the evening playing duets. When I was in middle school, my mom was the church organist. She stopped playing the keyboard in her apartment a year ago and doesn’t remember being a piano player anymore.

My mom’s talents have slipped from her grasp. She was an antique dealer, china restorer, bridge life master and taught hundreds of adults how to play bridge. She raised four kids and was very active in the communities we lived while she supported my dad through his military career and beyond.

While she can’t manage these tasks anymore, just getting out and enjoying a simple social event was an accomplishment for us all. I recognize it as the new normal for us, but also am reminded of all we both have lost as dementia steals away my mom. Reflected. 

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Wells Fargo Continues to Refuse to Accept my Durable Power of Attorney

wellsfargopt2Last Friday I posted Will Wells Fargo Accept Your Power of Attorney? Most people are shocked to hear that many banks will freely, but politely, decline to accept a durable power of attorney (DPOA). This is not the first financial services firm to say no. Three years ago Fidelity told me they would not accept a DPOA more than 2 years old; and a second one declined because it was more than 5 years old. The fact that they are doing this is frustrating and not supposed to happen. It’s complicated. I will continue to recommend you work with an estate lawyer who can help navigate this issue.

My parents did their initial DPOA in 2002. When I started to get the refusals, we worked to update their DPOA. Now that my mom is into a later stage of dementia, I need it to work so I can help continue to get mom the care she needs.

After my post @Ask_WellsFargo responded on April 30 and asked me to private message them my name and phone number. I did that. It’s been a week and no one has reached out to me.

Two days ago, the estate lawyer followed up with a letter asking that they honor my mother’s DPOA and allow me to access her funds so that they can be used for her care.

Dear Wells Fargo, The caregivers journey is already hard. Please don’t make it harder by refusing to accept the tools my mom put in place so that I could help her should she ever need it. Pleaded. 

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Will Wells Fargo Accept Your DPOA?

wellsfargoAs I began to use the Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) several years ago, I found out that many banks don’t like them. They would prefer you use the one they supply that doesn’t give you control over when it goes into effect or a way to dictate specific wishes. If and when you need to use one, you will find that getting them to accept it, can take hours in the bank and then possibly weeks to months to resolve issues.

Last month, I went in to clear up two checking accounts and remove my Dad’s name from the accounts. It took over two hours to have it processed and the two accounts cleaned up. I was already listed on my parents major account, so I think they weren’t so worried about giving my access and POA rights over the second smaller checking account.

However, I have hit a major roadblock on an account that was named to my parent’s trust. The DPOA  specifically names the trust and gives me the rights to access it, but the Wells Fargo legal team said “No, we won’t accept it” stating that the sentence giving me the rights doesn’t specifically begin with my mom’s name. The sentence giving me access to her checking account is written exactly the same way. Inconsistent, inconvenient and ridiculous.

If you have done estate planning or are considering it, and your estate lawyer tells you that this won’t happen to you. Please find another estate lawyer. This happens to even the best estate lawyers, most up-to-date DPOA documents, and well-drawn trusts. I live in a state with a statute that was written to ensure financial institutions accepted DPOAs and comes with financial penalties for refusing it. However, doing that is a lengthly law suit and another time vampire I’m not interested in pursuing. Please just accept the papers my parents drew up so that I could use their accounts to help pay for their health and welfare, OK?

When a bank says “no” you need to be able to return to your estate lawyer and they can write a letter to try and clear up the issue. I’m not sure if that will resolve this issue or if I will have to wait until my mom passes away to get access to her account.

The best end-around is to go online. The first time I got a “no” my dad was alive and we went online and created online access to those accounts that were problematic so I could more easily act on my parent’s behalf. That was what they intended. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about this account until a few months ago when a tax paper got forwarded to me from an old address.

Because of all the places I have found problems, I recommend you get a copy of MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This isn’t just an issue for adult children caring for parents, but for every couple that divides and conquers and every individual that wants to make sure a loved one can help you, should you ever need it. Advised.

To find out what happens to the money that is lost in the shuffle of a move, crisis, or death you can read about the $58 billion sitting with state and federal treasurers. This includes tips on how to learn if you might be entitled to some of it.

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The Long, Tough Slog of Caregiving

Footpath in FieldsMy visits with mom now feel more like a “spot-checks” than visits. The good news is that she is finding enjoyment in the community events (or at least more interested in them than a visit from me most days) and I won’t pull her from something when she is engaged. The medical team has mentioned this several times. If the doctor comes to visit and my mom is in an activity, she will refuse to leave and tells him to return when the activity is done.

That level of thought and conversation are rare for someone in her later stage of vascular dementia. She moves in and out of this stage and has some days where she just doesn’t want to get out of bed or can’t put a sentence together. But when she’s on, she is still quite witty. I’m seeing less and less of witty mom.

I’m having to address some other health care issues like an ear infection and some suspected basel-cell skin cancers that need to be removed. Now that she is in a wheel chair, it’s quite difficult to get her to the appointments and the waiting room stay can be difficult to navigate because mom doesn’t want to wait on anyone else, but it’s still manageable.

We were hopeful that mom would get out of the wheelchair but her fall a few weeks back has dampened that glimmer of hope.

The periods of little hope and all care management are emotionaly difficut for me. I want to pull back, but know I need to continue to advocate for mom. I’m still trying to navigate hospice services, her community care services, external medical appointments and keep it cohesive and within the parameters of her wishes. It’s so easy for the medications to escalate or an issue to linger.

You know you are on a tough journey, but want to have something positive to look toward. I had accepted this decline before, but when she fights back you still want to celebrate the victory. Then you realize she unknowingly is fighting to extend a quality of life she wasn’t interested in living. I work to find the bright moments to make this long, hard path tolerable. Maybe when I visit tomorrow I will find witty mom and we can share a laugh. Hoped. 

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Can the Law Keep Up With Our Modern LifeStyle?

After having to step in and use a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to assist my parents, I quickly found so many gaps in its functionality, I devised many work arounds with my Dad so I could help them.

Not only were we surprised to find that a number of financial institutions declined to accept the DPOA, but there are many facets of our digital lives that it doesn’t cover.

moderntechoptionsFor those of us who use online services, email accounts and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. If you haven’t stopped to read the “terms and conditions” you accepted, they typically state you can’t share the account and the provider basically dictates the rules. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you share your username and passcode.

The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to — but not control of — the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. Given that at the age of 65, 7 out of 10 American’s will need 3 or more years of long-term care, we must recognize that most people will need someone to have access to these accounts while we are alive.

If you don’t have a list that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information,click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best-seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This free download includes worksheets and details to help you and provide loved ones with the information they may need to help you. Offered.

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