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!

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6 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    I have to try and not let you see or hear or read my sailor mouth because right now I would send your blog into the XXXXXX arena big time.

    It has always amazed me upon a death how the greed rears it's ugly head. I have yet to find anyone or any family that didn't go through it in some form or other. Even when my GM passed in March, my Mom and aunt got into it a little bit about which thing was going to go where. It was by no means as big as what you have to go through, but it does occurd in some fashion with everyone I believe.

    I hope that son rots in hell myself. One thing that I know you realize is sometimes if we are out of state from our family we can't get there every year. I do try but sometimes it just doesn't work. Maybe the daughter had circumstances that made her not be able to go all the time. But reading this, I highly doubt it. All of these kids need a reality check and I hope that Betty lives long enough to spend every once of her money. Show those bastards right.

    You, The AED and your daughter should be very proud and are to be very commended on how you brought yourselves into their lives and how you cared for them through the years. I bet they considered you family more than those shit ass kids. Oh stop Thom...the language watch out.

    It takes a special person to do what you have done and are doing. I love you more after reading this and seeing the kindness, goodness, thoughtfulness and love you have in your heart. It's just wonderful.

    On my last point, I don't believe that just because the son reared his pointed ass head of his on Monday that this has anything to do with Betty's condition on Thrusday. I don't believe in that at all. I don't believe life is pre-decided. When stuff happens it just happens. It might be coincidental and make you think that one caused the other but I firmly don't believe that :)

    Stay strong through all of this. I know you will. What a friend you are. I'm lucky to have met you.

    Aloha my friend

  2. Gabriel Says:

    I agree with Thom, hard to read this story without saying many, many bad words directed at that freaking vulture of a step-son (and a few words of choice to Bob's daughters as well).

    What a sad situation for Betty, to spend her final years like this. She's truly blessed to have a good friend in you.

  3. Carleen Says:

    @ Thom: I know what you mean about greed rearing its ugly head whenever someone dies. Been there and one that one, don't ever want to repeat it. I'm sure that Bob and Betty figured that something like that would happen and wanted an impartial party to handle things on their behalf.

    About visiting when you live in a different state, I understand what you are saying. Bob's daughter lives two states away from us to the north and could, if she really wanted to, drive straight down the coast to get here. I swear to you that nothing would prevent me from attending my father's funeral -- I'd beg, steal, or borrow to get there! Betty's adopted son lives in the midwest and has never had much in the way of money because he's always had difficulty holding down a job. He came to see them several months before Betty went to the assisted living facility thinking that he would pack up and move in to take care of them. Less than two weeks with Betty, whose dementia was pretty bad by that time, and he hightailed it back to the prairie states in no time flat. He hasn't been back since. AED and I have never gotten a thank you from any of them for all that we have done, nor have we taken a dime for it even though the estate attorney said to give myself a salary. I didn't want their money when I agreed to look after them, and I certainly don't want it now.

    @ Gabriel: It is sad that Betty has to spend the last of her life with no family around her. I thank God every day that she has us at least.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    You see what a great person you are. You are making my point even more with your comment. You are one of a kind :) And I'm so grateful in having met you :)

  5. wow! You can't pick your family and you can't really pick your neighbors, but thank goodness Bob and Betty won one of those lotteries. I hate to think how they would have fared had they (or you) lived on a different street.

    I hope the son contests everything and gets his dollar. It is less than he deserves.

    Kudos to you for all that you do.

    I don't believe in the evil eye thing. I think it was probably just a sucky coincidence.


  6. Unknown Says:

    WOW!! I like the idea of anyone contesting the will will only get $1.
    I hope Betty lives long enough to go through all of her money too!

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