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19 November 2008

I need whuffles. (aka dementia update)[More:]I haven't been keeping you up on what's happening with me lately (quite a bit, some that I have a hard time writing about), so I'll just have to plunge into this.

My dad finally got a diagnosis of mild cognitive disorder around September, and is scheduled for a broader battery of tests in Madison next month (Boxing Day). It's probably Alzheimer's. (The diagnosis is the only good thing that came out of him wrecking the van last June.)

We had been trying to get him to cooperate in handing over more of the bookkeeping to my mom and I, but he was stonewalling and procrastinating on everything we asked for. I finally dove into the books, most of which is in Quicken, and because of corrupted database issues (!) he has been unable to rename accounts or create new ones for about two or three years, but I could never get him to solve that by starting a new uncorrupted datafile (!).

It turns out that there were some important accounts with seemingly unimportant names. Like a $5000 credit card balance marked "2002 Trip to Italy". There are lots of other issues like misusing expense categories for income and vice versa. Ultimately none of the "how'm I doin'" features of Quicken are really usable because of this chaos, but he still knows where everything is so it doesn't bother him in the least.

Then there's the way he kites checks -- he has all his life -- and when you charge something on a credit card it gets paid by one account and then he has to move money from two other physical banks to cover it, so even the simplest transactions are potential major drama if any link in the chain breaks.

And now because of his dementia (?) or diabetes or thyroid or heart or depression or whatever, he spends 20 hours a day lying on the sofa, and can't keep up with the daily requirements of bookkeeping (and that's ALL he does, apart from taking dementia-wandering-type walks around town bothering people we know and perfect strangers in turn).

So my Mom got power of attorney last month and we began the process of figuring what all there was. There are the house, three rental properties, three mortgages between them (but only 60% of the rental property is even livable and producing income, and some of the rest is on "sweetheart" leases that he kindly has kept up for people he knows, so it's way under-performing as an investment). That was as I expected, and they're decent mortgages at least -- even the ARM is a standard conversion with no balloon payments or anything to worry about.

But there turned out to be over 20 consumer debt accounts, with over $100,000 in debt. And the average interest rate had been jacked up to nearly 25%. The total minimum payments added with the mortgages is close to the monthly income from salaries and rents, with almost nothing left over for living expenses.

Basically, my mom, who is working past retirement, is working from morning to lunch to pay interest on consumer debt she didn't even know she had. He played so many games with credit cards -- she never knew which one to use on any given day -- that there are even closed credit card accounts charging +20% interest that are only getting minimum payments.

The worst was that I found out he had been covering for the increased costs (as well as higher gas/food costs) by just sucking money out of his personal IRA -- $30,000 this year. Almost all of it to maintain consumer debt balances in place. And that's a taxable distribution!

So my Mom had cried one night and begged him to get things organized so we could start working on the debt, because she was worried about bankruptcy. His response, the next day, was to go into the lawyer and "start bankruptcy", like that, with no discussion.

Normally I would agree with this course of action, but I want to save the property, on which there's substantial equity, to create a trust for my brother's learning-disabled kids. (He's sort of filed and forgotten my numerous requests for him to set something up over the years.)

So we've met with a credit union and another lender and been referred to consumer credit counseling. But of course they're full up until December. If we can get a payment plan that's in budget, I believe it can all be paid down by 2011, especially if we increase the rental income, letting her retire in 2010.


Meantime, one of the mortgages has come through Friday, and there was no money in the account. It was returned, and there will be a bank fee and a returned check fee of course, neither of which we can afford. We yelled at him about that, and he goes into a juvenile mode, sticking his fingers in his ears and growling at us for being "rude". We at least seem to get another promise of cooperation.

Then an hour or so ago (mind you it's past 10 CST), he's on the phone with the mortgage, because he went online to the bank and found that the mortgage went through again. The thing is, he can be perfectly charming and "in control" when he's on the phone with these people, and he always engages them in his "small world" tangents where he tries to find out if there's a connection (and even if they're in India, we have one, because my second cousin married an Indian-American girl -- you can see how important this is to someone in Bangalore who's trying to get a $1000 note paid). But he's blaming the lender for screwing up! He believes he put a repayment in for the 28th instead of the 18th and it's their fault. But of course he doesn't really know where the money will come from by the 28th either, because there are all sorts of utility bills and whatnot coming in on autopay all the time.

So my Mom and I have to go to an attorney tomorrow to seek guardianship. Yes, we already have POA, but POA doesn't always work. In fact one bank already told us that outright, that it wasn't enough, and that was just changing the account beneficiary status (an account for a disabled 19 year old! yeah, right, let the Alzheimer's patient retain control, idiots). We also can't use the family attorney, because during the last meeting we had he signaled pretty clearly that he considered my dad an old friend and his primary client.

But there's no. Fucking. Way.

Unless we get a judge to take it away from him, he's still going to have the "right" and will take it to interfere and arrange things blithely unaware of the havoc that he's caused. We can't just redirect the mail and change the web passwords, because he still retains all the rights and can just call the bank and change it back.

My mom can't pay for medications, has to worry about cash for food, and we're probably going to have to raid an insurance account just to get the mortgage paid until we can get the consumer debt service reduced.

Sorry. It's like I wake up from a nightmare and I'm still in the nightmare.

I really want to believe that I'm right, that I'm not being foolish like my dad, and that we can right this ship after a couple of frugal years. It won't solve everything but at least there will be something for my mom to retire on and something to provide for the kids after my parents, who have raised them since infancy, are gone. (My brother is out of the picture, and their mother is neither flush nor particularly savvy.) But he's fighting us every step of the way, and not because of pride so much as that he just doesn't get it anymore.
Oh, wow, that sounds so hard.

(((( stilicho))))
posted by treepour 19 November | 01:25
Jesus fucking fuck, stilicho.

There is nothing I (or anyone else) can say here that will make this better. I am so, so, so very sorry that you're having to deal with this. I wish I could say something that would help you. No, fuck that -- I wish I could say something that would change everything. SWOOP! A magic proclamation. There. All fixed.

Not fixed?

:( :( :( :( :(

Wish I could do more, buddy. Until then, know that you are loved, and know that you are HUGGED THE SHIT OUT OF.

Dangling prepositions and all.
posted by mudpuppie 19 November | 01:28
Wow. That is a nightmare. I really hope you can stop this train in time to save your mom.
posted by arse_hat 19 November | 01:31
Oh dear.

posted by hellojed 19 November | 01:41

You are doing the right thing. Your family is so lucky to have you, but I'm terribly sorry that you have to struggle through this and bear the weight of such an impossible situation. You aren't betraying your dad... please don't doubt that. I'm praying that your luck changes and things begin to look up, and of course, I'm hugging the shit out of you.
posted by taz 19 November | 01:48
Oh my god that is so messed up. I'm so sorry. I'm wishing you all the good luck in the world with this.

posted by casarkos 19 November | 01:56
posted by gomichild 19 November | 02:00
Oh man.

Everything mudpuppie said, with extra bonus hugs. Email's in profile if you need to talk.
posted by tangerine 19 November | 02:01
Holy shit. The best I can offer is any manly hugs you may feel would be useful.

Holy. Shit!
posted by dg 19 November | 03:16
I'm so sorry. I'm lining up to give you as many hugs as you need. You're doing the right thing; I know that's cold comfort right now, given how horrible and difficult it is, but you are absolutely doing the right thing.
posted by scody 19 November | 03:23
Ooof. Yes, you're doing the right thing. Hugs and hugs and hugs and hugs.
posted by Stewriffic 19 November | 06:33
(((stilicho))) - Your mother is lucky to have you. You're a good person for even beginning to Deal With All This. I can't imagine.
posted by rainbaby 19 November | 06:58
Oh stilicho, I'm sorry, that IS a nightmare. You ARE doing the right thing.
posted by chewatadistance 19 November | 07:27
I'm so sorry, that all sounds just awful. I send you and your family whuffles.
posted by Specklet 19 November | 07:30
I know exactly you're going through and it sucks. My sisters and I have been going through really similar stuff for the last five years with my Mom who has vascular dementia. We're finally near the end but that's only because mom's condition got so bad that she finally gave up and let my sister handle the horrible horrible mess that was her finances and let us move her into a managed care apartment. I don't want to get into all the details but it includes things like getting swindled out of at least $30K by her tenant.

Is it just you or do you have other siblings who can back you up?
posted by octothorpe 19 November | 07:49
*whuffles all* That sucks so hard. You're dealing with it to the best of your abilities, and that is all that you can do. Good luck.

*more whuffles*
posted by sperose 19 November | 07:52
I'm so sorry to hear this..
posted by By the Grace of God 19 November | 07:54
Thank you for sharing. You have a massive load to bear and are seemingly doing an overwhelming task with determination and grace.

Massive, massive hugs to you and your Mom. You will get through this.
posted by mightshould 19 November | 07:55
Yikes and more yikes. I can't believe all you're having to deal with. It sounds like you're doing all the right things, as best as you can. Sending hugs and hopes that it will begin to work out, piece by piece. (((((((((stilicho)))))))))
posted by Kangaroo 19 November | 08:33
You sound like you're doing really well with this. (((stilicho)))
posted by gaspode 19 November | 08:35
posted by initapplette 19 November | 09:43
Ah hon. I'm with you; my aunt with vascular dementia is now living with me and I'm right in the middle of completely insane family drama about who is going to manage her money, which one of my brothers seems to want to spend, spend, spend and my GOD it's a difficult, horrible place to be: helping someone who not only doesn't want to be helped but won't even admit they need help. I feel for you, I feel for me, I feel for all of us who are going through this particular nightmare. If we were bad people we'd split but we're not and so here we are, cursed by kindness and competence and I think, I hope, gods I hope, that it will be enough. Hugs. You're doing a great job.
posted by mygothlaundry 19 November | 09:54
So sorry!

How about this:
Start a new, private Quicken account that only your mom and you know about. Create a copy of all the major open/active accounts there, moving forward and keep it updated so you can clearly see what's going on. Find out which accounts you and/or your mom have joint access to. If there's anything that your dad has forgotten about completely, start managing and consolidating. You'll have to sort and rebuild this financial mess piece by piece, regardless of what happens. Starting now will feel productive and help you in the long run. Hopefully next month, and over the coming years you can gain more access and control. In the meantime, be there for him as much as you can. I'm sure his confusion is very scary and saddening for everyone. Best of luck and hugs to you. Stay strong.
posted by iamkimiam 19 November | 09:55
Oh what a stressful mess. I'm so sorry to hear it. Glad you discovered it now and can begin to sort it out - it sounds as though, left unchecked, it would have been an even worse problem. Good job for caring enough about your family to dig in and get it all under control. ((stilicho))
posted by Miko 19 November | 10:00
Man, I feel stressed just THINKING about this. You really are a good man for getting in there and working to save your mom.
posted by BoringPostcards 19 November | 10:03

*more hugs*
posted by occhiblu 19 November | 10:41
You're a good son, stilicho.
posted by jrossi4r 19 November | 10:44
Wow, really rough. I wouldn't begin to know what to do in this type of situation, but it sounds like you have mapped out some good routes to take and are doing a great job. Stay strong! You're doing really well.
posted by rmless2 19 November | 10:49
You're a good son, stilicho.

yes, exactly this. Please keep telling yourself that, too, because it's true despite all the argument and doubt you are going to get to the contrary. You are a good person and you will get through this.

posted by lonefrontranger 19 November | 11:05
You are a very good son, stilicho. If I were your mother, I would be so grateful and proud to have a child like you. Like lfr, said, you are a good person, and you will get through this.
posted by msali 19 November | 11:35
My goodness, I'm so sorry. The part that gets me feeling especially bad is feeling that you've lost the security of feeling like your dad is there to handle things. Being a parent to your parent has got to be the most difficult job out there.
posted by jamaro 19 November | 13:27
What a difficult situation. We're going through something similar, without all of the money issues, with my grandfather who has Alzheimer's, and there's nothing easy about it. Remember that the person that your father was before his illness would be proud of you for protecting his wife. (((((stilicho)))))
posted by joannemerriam 19 November | 13:47
What a horrible situation! But, as others have said, you are doing the right thing and you are being a good son.

Big hugs to you and your mum.
posted by deborah 19 November | 14:51
Oh, Holy Cats.

Many hugs and some of those whuffle things.

You are a good son.
posted by oreonax 19 November | 15:43
Thank you everyone. I read some of these last night and cried a bit.

Temporarily we are going to try locking him out of things and if he defies that we are going to move money to accounts that only my Mom and I control. We are going to find an Elder Law attorney and see what other options we might have short of a complicated conservatorship.

Today he went to the bank and apparently begged them not to NSF the mortgage payment until he can collect rent! In who knows how many days. Like they do it that way. He's lost touch with how things really work.
posted by stilicho 19 November | 16:11
I am so sorry. I don't know what to say, apart from that, and sending you all good wishes.
posted by essexjan 19 November | 16:16

Anything else I say is stupid right now, so just ((((((hugs))))))))))))

Um... mind a lopsided hug?
posted by TrishaLynn 19 November | 16:45
Wow, that's so hard. You have my utmost respect, and a sack full of big, soft, comforting whuffles. and a hug. and a big wet kiss from my dog.
posted by theora55 19 November | 17:00
and your family is sooo lucky to have you.
posted by theora55 19 November | 17:00
Late night snack! || Okee, what's in your bag? No lying.