I don't think that I have ever talked about the fact that I am the conservator in charge of the care of an elderly neighbor and friend. And if it weren't for the fact that I am currently totally stressed over a member of her family and her current health, I wouldn't say anything; however, I really need to vent in a big way.
The Amazing Egyptian Dude and I bought our home from my dad, so except for a few years when the AED and I lived in a neighboring city after we got married, this place has been my home for close to 30 years.
My whole family befriended a delightful retired couple who lived across the street. For the sake of their privacy, I'll call them Bob and Betty. The AED always started his day by having a morning cup of coffee and visit with Bob. Our daughter headed straight across the street as soon as she got home from school for an afterschool snack and lots of fun before starting her homework. Two or three times a week, she watched The Wheel of Fortune with them, competing against Bob to see who could solve the puzzles first. Betty took a daily walk down the street and stopped at my house for a cup of coffee before returning home; she loved to share the neighborhood gossip with me. At sunset, Betty and I chatted from across the street as we watered our lawns. Not a day went by that they weren't an integral part of our lives the way that grandparents who live close by would be.
When Betty developed diabetes and a few years later, dementia, Bob resolved to care for her himself, with a little help from friends. The AED did their grocery shopping, played Mr. Fix-It when needed, and drove them to doctor's appointments; I bathed Betty, cleaned up after her when she had difficulty controlling her bowels, and assisted Bob with her care; our daughter helped to clean up when Betty had accidents, washed and brushed her hair, and continued to make the weekly visits to Bob for Wheel of Fortune. Through all of this, we saw very little of their children.
Bob and Betty had both been married previously and had children from those marriages. Bob had two daughters, and Betty adopted her first husband's son. One of Bob's daughters lives in another state and visited once every 2 or 3 years for a week or so; the other one lives locally but because she didn't grow up with him, they didn't really have much of a relationship. Betty's son wasn't around much, unless, as she said, he was in trouble or needed something. He has lived in another state for as long as I can remember.
As Bob and Betty grew older, sicker, and more frail, they came to rely on us for assistance. We did for them the things their children should have been doing. Bob asked me to be the conservator of a living will and trust because he was concerned that if something happened to him, Betty would not be cared for properly. I agreed. I knew that it was a big responsibility, but I also knew that they couldn't depend on anyone else to take care of them.
Betty's dementia worsened to the point that she repeated the same two conversations over and over again. One was the story of how she and Bob met and eloped to Vegas, the other was what a great life they had. Blissfully, her mind had frozen in her happiest memories. When she became combative about taking a bath and keeping herself clean, Bob knew that he could no longer care for her adequately, even with our help. Although her pension would cover the cost of a nursing home with no out-of-pocket expense involved, Bob refused to place Betty in one. After speaking with their social worker about other options, I found a fantastic assisted living facility close enough to our homes that we could drive him to see her every day. Bob was absolutely dedicated to making sure that Betty got the best of care and was willing to pay for it; the assisted living facility is not covered by her pension or insurance and costs approximately $3000 per month. She has received excellent care there for the past 7.5 years.
Six years ago last month, Bob took a fall that required an ER visit. He hadn't broken any bones but was bruised and in pain. Two days later, when the AED made the morning trek across the street for coffee and a visit, he found Bob on the floor in the den. He called me to come help him because, as he said, Bob wouldn't wake up. I knew what I would find before I ever left my house. Bob had died in the night. And with his death, my responsibilities and nightmare began.
Almost immediately, the vultures began circling overhead. I notified the daughters that their father had died and that as soon as funeral arrangements had been made in accordance with his wishes, I would let them know. The one who lives out of state said she couldn't afford to come, so after checking with the estate lawyer, I arranged for the trust to buy her a plane ticket so that she could attend her father's funeral. The one who lives here expressed upset at the cost associated with giving Bob the Catholic funeral he wanted. "Nobody will be there except us," she said, "so why spend so much money?" I made sure that our friends and neighbors knew about the funeral and attended. Betty's son didn't have the money to afford a plane ticket to attend, but he was sure quick to ask about property and finances and who was in charge of them. He was quite vocal about his objections to me being the executor of the will and conservator of the trust.
I haven't heard anything from the daughters since their father's funeral. Betty's son, on the other hand, has been a thorn in my side more than once. He had a fit because I decided to rent Betty's house instead of selling it right away. I figured that by renting it, the property would generate the additional income needed to pay for her care because her pension and social security don't cover it completely. He wanted to know exactly how much money Betty had and how much her care cost. For the past six years, he has been waiting for his mother to die and hoping that her money isn't all gone by the time that she does. After not hearing from him for more than a year, he called on Monday. His financial circumstances are dire, he's had hip replacement surgery, and he demanded that I send him copies of his mother's bank statements. The AED, who spoke to him, told him that those requests had to go through the attorney. He became enraged and said that he would overturn everything that Bob had set up. We wished him luck. What we know that he doesn't is that anyone who contests the will or the trust inherits only one dollar. Good luck to him.
Still recovering from the son's latest tirade on Monday, I got a call yesterday from Betty's caregivers to tell me that she was at the ER. Her blood pressure was high and was she mostly unresponsive. I zipped over to the hospital, which is just a couple of blocks from my home, and talked to the treating physician. Betty has pneumonia in one lung, so they will be keeping her for treatment. But when he asked me to verify that she has a DNR (do not resuscitate) order, also known as an advance directive order, I lost it. Why would he ask me that if she weren't in really bad shape?
As I drove home, all I could think of was something that the AED calls "the evil eye." Basically, it's a belief that people can wish bad things on others that actually come true. The Bible mentions it a few times, and it's talked about in the Qur'an, too. I don't like to dwell on superstitions, but it seems so ironic that the son, who needs money and is anxiously awaiting his mother's death so that he can cash in on his inheritance, called me on Monday with a demand for her bank statements and Betty falls ill enough on Thursday that she needs hospitalization. And worst of all, the doctor asked me to verify that she has a do not resuscitate order.
Am I being paranoid? I don't know. I'm worried about Betty, angry at her son, and praying that she lives long enough to spend all the money she has even though I will inherit 1/3 of it. I don't want her money, unlike the ingrates who can't be bothered to take care of her!