A stranger in my home

The everyday occurrences of this person wandering around my house who I do not recognize is starting to worry me.

I have asked for help from many people, but the answer is always the same, “hang in there, they will be gone soon.” Daily this person does scary things that are unsafe, especially when I’m not home. I can’t call the police or hire someone to investigate, because this person I do not know is my mother.

Dementia has taken her away piece by piece. There are a few pieces left that I can enjoy still, but this is not her. Her caring, kind heart is mostly replaced by her every minute constant questions, “Where we going? Who is going to be there? Why are we going? Why can’t I order all these things?”

Support groups and services are available, and I have tried some, but what do I do day to day with the dangers I face as she tries to cook, send money to all these random places or call and order things on the phone? Do I take everything from her?

Senior Services has a lot of ideas and tries to be helpful. Their hands are tied until my mother doesn’t remember who I am or who she is. My siblings are far away and they try to help over the phone with encouragement. But I am stuck in the middle of how to cope before I need help or until she gets worse. For now, I am hoping no dangerous event happens with cooking or mailing too much money to people, or she falls and hurts herself physically so that she cannot move around the house mysteriously.

A woman I know is homeless because her husband with Alzheimer’s kicked her out. He thought she was trying to get rid of him. She was just looking at her options for the near future, and he threatened her. She is living in her car. I guess things could be worse, it could be my husband and not my mother.

I know many people have put their own lives on hold to take care of their aging parents. Of course we do this, because they cared for us, but you get to a point where it is no longer safe. Do I invite another stranger in to watch her a few hours a day? This can add up to a lot of money. If I had more income or if she did, there are many places where she could go. However, that is not possible.

Her monthly income is about $900. Most assisted-living places start at $3,000. Medicaid has its rules for how bad she has to be before they will supplement her income and put her in a facility. She is not there yet, but has been in a dangerous situation for a year with me. She forgets where she is sometimes and goes from room to room looking for who knows what. Jokingly the Senior Service caseworker said, I do that all the time.”

The problem is that in our meeting of 10 or 15 minutes she cannot see what the dangers are, because my mother cannot remember what has happened at my house and says she is fine. I am stuck in the middle.

This stranger in my house who I watch mentally deteriorate is the woman who brought me into this world and took care of me. I owe her this, I keep telling myself. I do have her on many senior apartment lists for help, but the lists are long.

One thing that happened today is they cut her food stamps in half because I was honest and said I didn’t charge her rent. Good grief, our system is helping the wrong people! There are many who lie to get these services or assisted-living rooms or senior apartments. This is unnerving, and I am not sure where to go, but I will keep an eye on her when I am here and hope she does not burn the house down.

The stranger in my house will have to stay, and I will keep looking for more services to help her.

Lois Jorgensen lives in Ashland.


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