Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Up With That?

When I arrived at my grandmother's last week, her driveway was full... 2 cars taking both spaces. I couldn't imagine who was visiting her at her "beauty shop time." One of the cars had Oklahoma license tags. As I pulled up behind the cars, a lady came running from across the street, waving her arms. "We're moving in next door," she said. "Your grandmother said we could park here." I looked up and saw the moving van next door and men unloading furniture into the little house. I pulled in behind the cars so that my grandmother could navigate the driveway with her walker and get into the car.

The lady seemed very nice, and she explained that it was actually her sister who was moving in - she was just there to help. She told me how sweet my grandmother was and how they already loved her. I thanked her and went inside. Mam-ma was almost ready, and she gathered her purse and we walked out to the car. On the way to the beauty shop, she talked non-stop about these two women and how nice they were, and she added that she fed them lunch. "You fed them today?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "I figured it was the least I could do for them. I had leftovers, and I made a pan of cornbread. They said it was real good." I laughed and told her they would be back to eat with her again. She said they were amazed at what she had prepared... and "I told them some of it I cooked a few days ago, but you are welcome to eat it." She added... "And guess what, they are both Baptists!" as if they were both royalty. (My grandmother's Baptist roots run deeply!)

Mam-ma could not tell me where the woman came from - she didn't even remember her name. I told her what it was, and she said, "I believe that's right." She said the sister had mentioned how she hoped her sister, a widow for the past year, would become involved in church, and my grandmother told her, "You don't worry... I'll work on that!" Mam-ma had no idea why this woman had moved here, whether she worked, or any of the particulars. All she knew was she "seemed real nice." My husband was concerned, as was I, that she had just invited complete strangers into her home for a meal. Maybe I'm overly skeptical, but I know how vulnerable our seniors are to scams and schemes. Who moves into a neighborhood and has lunch at the neighbor's on moving day? But then, I reminded myself of my grandmother's "I won't take no for an answer perseverance" and decided she probably gave them no option for refusal. So I prayed that this would be okay, and subsequently, my grandmother has told my mother that this woman has a son living here who is a well-known local businessman. I am hoping that is correct and will find out for myself.

But this does beg the question - how do we keep our seniors safe without taking away all of their independence and/or offending them? It is a very slippery slope... and I'm not sure I have the answer, other than to keep close tabs on my grandmother behind the scenes. (If she thinks I'm checking up on her, she will have a fit and it will be ugly between us.)

Meanwhile, my niece did take her new baby to meet his great-great-grandmother, and she was thrilled with him. My sister went along for the visit. She said my grandmother was confused while they were there. My sister has been going to college for the last 2 years and working part-time at Wal-Mart. In March, Wal-Mart let her go, and she has yet to find a job since completing her degree. A couple of weeks ago, my grandmother phoned her one day and said, "I guess you are getting ready to go to school." My sister said no, school was over. So my grandmother says, "Well, aren't you going to work at Wal-Mart this afternoon?" "No," my sister said... "remember, Wal-Mart let me go back in March." Mam-ma said she did not know that. Two or three days later, my grandmother was talking to me, and she said, "Is your sister working today?" I told her no, my sister did not work right now. "Well, I thought she worked at Wal-Mart," she said. I reminded her that my sister lost that job in March. Mam-ma said, "Oh she did? I didn't know that! Well, maybe I did." I'm thinking "yes, you were told 2 days ago!"

So when my sister and niece visited with the new baby, they noticed a new coffee table in my grandmother's living room. It is much smaller than the one she had before, and it's been there a few weeks. When I had asked her about it, she said the other one was too big and cumbersome to walk around, and she had this one "in her closet." Now, I had never seen it before, so I don't know what closet it was in, but I didn't argue. But when my sister Suzanne visited, she asked, "Where did you get that coffee table." Mam-ma replied, "Mike and Suzanne gave it to me." My sister said, "No, I'm Suzanne, and I've never seen that table in my life!" She said that Mam-ma continued to refer to "Mike and Suzanne" as if Suzanne was not in the room. It was rather bizarre and really upset my sister, but she ultimately just changed the subject.

I don't know what this means. Most days my grandmother is very well. She will NOT stay out of her yard or her garden - moving limbs that fall in thunderstorms, pruning bushes with her friend Ruby (who is a spry 90!!!), and weeding/fertilizing/tending her garden and flowers. She had me hang a chain between 2 trees so she could hang her hummingbird feeder. I am pretty sure she and her peers sat at the Baptist Church last Saturday and played dominoes while monitoring the restrooms during a nearby 3-on-3 basketball tournament, as they have done for about a decade. She did not go to church Sunday, but it was pouring rain.

It could be that my grandmother is having more TIAs (mini-strokes). It could be dementia, or it could be just an off day. But we do see that she is slipping. Yet at times, she seems to be fairly clear. About 2 weeks ago, she phoned me one night... "Did you read today's paper?" I had skimmed it. "You need to read this article about my stimulus check... I think I'm gonna have to give it back." My grandmother recently got a $250 stimulus check that was directly deposited into her checking account. I read the article, which explained that this money was supposed to go directly to seniors and be tax-free. However, there are two groups who may have issues with this: those 65 or older who still work and pay taxes and will have to report this money as income when they file their 2009 taxes; and those in nursing homes, where any money received (less the miniscule monthly allotment for personal items) goes directly to the nursing home for their care. The question here is how to get the money to the senior without the nursing home getting it? In essence, unless something is done in Congress, those who pay taxes will have to pay back a portion of their stimulus money in the form of taxes next year. And those on Medicare/Medicaid in nursing homes will not get the money. Neither of these affects my grandmother.

I called and explained this to Mam-ma, and she said, "Well, we'll see." I told her not to worry - that she did not make enough, even counting her stimulus check, to be required to file an income tax return. They would not be asking for her money back. She said, "Well, at least not for now." I also told her that the nursing home issue did not affect her because she is not in a nursing home. She said, "Well, not today!" I told her, "If you go to the nursing home TOMORROW, it still will not affect you. And besides, that money will be gone, because I am going to withdraw it!" "Okay," she said, "well see what happens." I don't think I ever did convince her that a government agent is not going to knock on her door some day and say, "Mrs. Chandler, I need your $250 stimulus money." She reads much more of the daily paper than I do, and sometimes I'm not sure that's good!

What to do? I think the only thing we can do is monitor her and make sure she is safe. I have a lot of trusted "agents on the ground" who are in and out on a weekly, if not daily basis at her house. I know they will tell me if anything seems amiss. And I am checking, my sister and mom are calling, and we are all doing a lot of praying! It so takes a village, but at the same time, this is a cake walk compared to when she is in the nursing home or hospital, so I am not complaining. If I could have one wish, it would be that she is able to live out her days in her own home and someday wake up on the other side of the River Jordan. I know I don't get to make that choice, but I drop hints every chance I get! May God have mercy on us all!

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