Today, I was supposed to go help my friend, F, reorganize her single large closet in her assisted living apartment.
We were going to sort through all the clothes she moved from her home, weeding out the ones she no longer wears or needs, and organizing her travel photo albums so that they would be on bookcases at floor level, instead of higher up on shelves in the closet where she can’t access their contents.
We were going to move the chest taking up space in her bedroom, blocking easy access to the closet, and we were going to find a way to store her granny cart and her vacuum so that they weren’t taking up valuable floor space outside her closet.
Instead, I’m going to be dealing with a panic attack over finances and trying to calm her down.
P, the controlling friend that has made all the decisions regarding F’s finances, is harping on the fact that F is spending “too much”, all while knowing she just sold her fully paid for home for $789k, and that the place F has chosen to live should run her about $70k to $80k per year.
Instead of treating F like an impaired but reasonable adult, P is refusing to answer F’s questions (regardless of how many times the questions are repeated), leaving F to play a tit-for-tat game of hiding her money (and pulling out a lot of cash so that she feels she has control of her money, since she’s no longer seeing monthly statements).
F’s determination to wrest control from the largely silent Canadian relatives who have all her money and power of attorney (now that she’s been declared in need of guardianship / conservatorship) is a drama that didn’t need to be.
But, I blame P as the instigator.
P is a control freak, in my humble opinion, and her unwillingness to answer F’s reasonable questions has lead directly to this crisis.
(Calling me last night about 8:30pm to cancel our get together today, and then calling me at 6:02am in a panic to discuss things, shows what stress F is being put under by receiving mixed messages and different answers from everyone in her life).
So, I’ll go see F later today as originally agreed. We’ll work out a strategy for her to stay calm and – possibly? – get some answers. And, I’ll give her some suggestions about how to stay calm and create a workable budget for weekly cash so that she has a negotiation strategy for dealing with the drama that I otherwise consider elder abuse.
Please, if you have an elderly friend whose elevator no longer goes consistently to the top floor… just be kind. Be patient. Answer all their questions even if they’ve asked them 1,000 times. Don’t bully them. Don’t boss them. Try to listen and be supportive without badmouthing anyone else trying to help them. Just care enough to show up.
We’re all going to be in a vulnerable point at some stage of our life due to age, infirmity or financial vulnerability. Just be patient. Try your best to be kind and not make the situation worse.