I’ve trained my mom to be a case manager for seniors. Well, not really, but linking our daily conversations along with her 85 years of life experience, my mom can give some pretty good advice when asked.
Mom has known her close friend Bernadette since high school. They both married their hometown sweethearts, and the two couples moved and bought houses less than a block from one another.
They raised their children together, and when the kids began school, my mother and Bernadette found jobs at the same school district. They worked there for many years until their retirement.
The similarities did not stop there. Bernadette’s husband received a Parkinson’s diagnosis in his early 70s. My dad was diagnosed just a few years later. It was a blow to all of us that two men who became such close friends would be diagnosed with the same serious disease within such a short time span.
Bernadette’s husband passed away just a few years after his diagnosis. She’s been a widow for the past 10 years. Her highfunctioning special needs son, David, has lived with her his whole life.
Bernadette also has a daughter. She and her family live in Texas, 2,000 miles away.
David was recently having vision problems, and Bernadette asked my mother to drive them both to the eye doctor. When my mother arrived at the house to pick them up, Bernadette asked my mom why she was there: She forgot she’d asked my mother.
She kept saying, “Really? I don’t remember asking you to drive us.” That cognitive slip scared both of them.
Over the past couple of years Bernadette has had several falls. She’s unsteady on her feet due to blood pressure changes and has ended up in the hospital a few times with broken bones and knocked-out teeth.
She says she’s depressed because she is less able to get out with friends and her son’s two jobs take him out of the house most days and every weekend. She misses his company.
My mom suggested she talk to her primary care doctor to see about her blood pressure and her depression.
She also suggested that Bernadette call her daughter, Janet, to see if she might be able to make a trip to see her in the near future.
Bernadette called her daughter, who agreed to come up. Afterward, Janet called my mom, who was able to share with Janet her observations, concerns and suggestions. One of those suggestions was for Janet to call me. We did talk, but Janet feels most comfortable talking to my mom. It’s really quite special.
I think part of it is the fact that my mother is right there to see things and that she’s been friends with Bernadette for so many years that Bernadette openly shares her concerns and fears with my mother. It gives Janet some valuable insight into her mother that she would not otherwise get.
My mother is worried about how much longer Bernadette can remain at home without help. She’s concerned because Bernadette keeps saying she cannot afford assisted living, in-home care or supplemental meals. Both she and David have diabetes.
My mother and Bernadette have a school retirement annuity, and Bernadette has shared with my mother that she has yet to tap into it. Bernadette is reluctant to have financial conversations with her daughter. My mom plans to call her own estate attorney to get a referral for a trusted certified financial planner, possibly a woman, who Bernadette can trust to act as a financial moderator between her and her daughter.
I was wowed by my mom’s suggestion and thought it was right on.
While I know a bit about elderlife issues now, I am sure when I reach my mid-80s there will be many more issues and solutions out there. I hope I have a trusted friend, like Bernadette has in my mom, to help me navigate the journey.
Who can you count on in your elder years? Is there a trusted friend who could act as an intermediary with your adult children? It’s worth thinking about.