Walk with me as I turn back the clock in this blog to the time "before" JH, the woman we believe is an elder predator and abuser, came into our family's life
Part 1: A Portrait of Our Multigenerational Family Life Before JH
My husband and I asked Mom to come and live with us and our first child, a son, just three months old, after she fell and broke her wrist. We were married three years at the time.
Mom was 57 and had worked as a Beautician standing on her feet all day long since I was about 8, first to provide a way out for her and me from my father, an alcoholic, then as a means of sustaining our everyday life as I grew into adulthood, and, finally as a means of providing daily life for herself.
Divorced when I was 13, Mom and I moved around for a few years prior to the divorce being granted. Mom managed to set up a small Beauty Salon with the financial help of one of her sisters . It was my mom who worked six days a week and a friend who worked a couple of days a week that were the only workers.
Mom lived in the same rental apartment after I married we'd lived in together since I started high school. She usually made just enough money for rent, utilities and supplies for the business and food, rent, utilities and transportation for herself after I married.
Mom had accumulated savings amounting to one month's survival, either herself or her business, but her friend wasn't able to work all the days necessary to keep the doors of the business open until Mom could return to work.
When my husband and I first talked with Mom about coming to live with us, we made sure Mom knew at any time she could move and live wherever she wanted.
My husband was a loving and caring man who welcomed Mom as another member of our family and respected her as my mother and equal to his own; but he did have a challenge calling her "Mom" in the beginning as did I with his mother. We both had great Moms and for each of us that was a special term of endearment.
For the almost four decades Mom lived with us, she could have chosen to move in with many people including sisters and inlaws, friends and other relatives.
My daughter and I believe this was AN IMPORTANT KEY TO JH'S UNDUE INFLUENCE -- CONVINCING MOM SHE HAD "THE RIGHT" TO MOVE ANYWHERE SHE WANTED -- EVEN IN HER MID 90's.
LBD and other Dementia often interweave the past with current day and often cannot separate "reality" from "influence". It's relatively easy to sway the advanced elderly with progressing Dementia, even against people they've known and loved for years.
Our home was often filled with relatives, primarily my husband's side of the family, and guests. When my husband and I travelled on business trips as Mom grew older, I hired the same person each time for companionship for Mom because Mom enjoyed her visits and didn't see it as "caregiving".
IMPORTANT: MOM WAS NEVER ISOLATED OR CUT OFF FROM PEOPLE BY HER FAMILY; SHE WAS ISOLATED, AS WILL BE SHOWN, BY JH.
We told Mom to take her Social Security benefits, which she chose to start at age 62, and use the money to travel and for whatever she wanted. We had been blessed with a good life and had the ability to totally support her and our children through our business efforts.
My greatest hope growing up was someday I would be able to provide a better life for my mother including giving her "the world" she loved to read about.
Never having had the privilege of attending High School as a young girl from a rural community, when I was in my Freshman year of college (achieved through scholarships and working my way through), Mom went back to school and received her GED. I was so proud of Mom when she graduated! And she was overjoyed when I graduated first from High School and then from College.
IMPORTANT: Almost all JH's visits with Mom were spent sitting together and talking for an hour or more. (They still are and if I or my daughter happen to stop in to visit Mom at the same time we're told, "This is MY PRIVATE TIME TO VISIT.") JH always took Mom away from our home, to somewhere where they could visit "privately".
We moved Mom to live with us in Chicago and she moved with us to the East Coast and then to the Midwest. We always made sure she had her own room and we provided most furnishings and decorations for her.
In the home she was forced out of by her real abuser, she had the room she picked out when we built the house with windows "on the world" as she used to say, a walk in closet and the room was large enough to accommodate a full size bed, lift chair (which we bought for her shortly before she had significant leg challenges), two nightstands, dressing table and chair, TV, flower stand and double dresser. As our children went off to college, she had the benefit of a bathroom exclusively for her own use.
Mom’s first trip was to Hawaii; it was the second year she received Social Security because it took her entire first year’s Social Security payments, every month's check and some additional money my husband and I provided.
From the age of 63 until 87, Mom travelled the world and often took four trips a year; two by herself and two with our family. We paid the expenses of family trips and made sure Mom had money when we were fortunate in our work and income to provide her extra money so she had two trips she could take by herself; usually one was in the United States by motorcoach and the other was to far away places most people dream about but seldom get to see.
I cherish Mom's passports and the memories from the many places she visited: every State in the US, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, South Pacific islands, many areas of Asia, India, South America, Africa, numerous trips to Europe. She travelled by land, by air and she traveled by sea.
Because Mom didn't like having a roommate and often didn't have the money for a "single occupancy", my husband and I gave her the money for that privilege and for additional side trips and spending money.
After Mom could no longer take the "long" trips, she still went with us on our twice a year family trips which were by car and by air. Mom used her money for her airfare and entertainment while travelling and usually bought a dinner out for the family. Enjoying "buying" for her grandchildren and great grandchildren, Mom's small Social Security check bought many gifts and surprises over the years including books for her Grand-daughter's college courses.
Mom made great memories to last a lifetime; it's sad how her "abuser" doesn't help her focus on all the good, all the happiness and all the joy Mom experienced in life. But if she did, Mom wouldn't have succumbed to the Undue Influence JH wielded.
As Mom aged, we accommodated her changing physical needs: my husband eliminated steps, covered a concrete walkway with a ramp for easier access to our home's entry door; in each toilet Mom used (including our guest bathroom) we installed a permanent set of attached handrails for her to ease herself down and push up.
We purchased various types of chairs for her to use in the bathroom and in the tub/shower so she could take frequent showers which she loved to do. We installed a set of railings on one side of her bed so she could get in and out more easily. We changed chairs in her room at her dressing table from a bench to a chair with arms so she could continue to sit and do her makeup.
In the earliest years, we removed the carpet runners from the stairs to ensure she had a solid footing. She wanted to do her "regular" housework so we ensured all products she used accomodated her growing inability to read and made sure other household cleaners were removed from areas where we stored "her cleaning supplies".
We removed all throw rugs and area rugs so there would be no possible chance she would trip and fall. We taped shut some of the holes on salt and pepper shakers so she could continue to cook as long as possible. Our plans included staying near and with her and "being busy" but watching as she tried to cook or wanted to clean.
As Mom's eyesight and her abilities decreased, we continually adjusted, looked for ways to accomodate and always tried to give her the feeling she was needed, wanted and above all, valued.
Mom had always felt providing meals and keeping the house clean was her way of being a part of the family; I'd tried hiring help but Mom always found them less than acceptable.Time after time the services would contact me and said she'd asked them not to come back and went behind them cleaning (and this was from the time she was in her mid sixties onward).
I just saw an old episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Aunt Bea, who lives with Andy and his son, leaves for a few days to visit a friend. Aunt Bea is returning and Andy and his son run around the house making messes; they'd kept the house clean and picked up. Andy knew Aunt Bea would be devastated and feel not valued if the house were well kept in her absence. Aunt Bea was a part of their family.
Mom was a part of our family. We each contributed to our family life in the ways that best provided for the group and each person according to their wants and needs; we still do.
We purchased numerous canes, rollerators and travelling wheelchairs so she could continue to go out with us and even travel with us. Yes, we took her on family trips including Disney, the Caribbean by ship and by land, the East Coast to visit family and many other places. It's not easy travelling with a wheelchair and assisting someone toileting or other personal needs; a family who has a special needs child or adult understands what it means to them and to the person.
We bought special seat cushions for chairs, for the car and for her personal use. We provided all her "special care needs" including disposable pants and pads, creams and ointments, paid additional costs of medicines her insurance did not cover.
Mom used all her Social Security money every year including when she finally stopped travelling to buy herself clothing and anything she wanted, gifts for her grandchildren and great grandchildren whenever she wanted.
Mom controlled her own money and used every penny she received each month from the time she first received Social Security, five years after she came to live with us.
We'd had a joint checking account but when we had to get Medicaid for her because her medical bills were becoming too much for us to handle and she had no assets or funds, I took the advice of the Medicaid worker and removed myself as a joint owner of the account. I was told there really was no question about Mom's financial support from her funds and what we provided. REMEMBER THIS FACT AS YOU READ THIS BLOG.
My daughter and I worked to ensure Mom's life was as unafffected as possible when my husband first became hospitalized in late August, 2009. Little did we know the journey would be so complicated and so challenging to our entire family and end with his unexpected death.
This begins the second part of our story, Portrait of an Abusive/Abused Family, Journey Into The Darkness, in the next blog entry.