Friday, February 10, 2012

Blog 12: The Firestorm Begins

As I’ve mentioned before, when we discovered Mom had Alzheimer’s and she couldn’t live alone any longer, we soon realized we had a big struggle on our hands.  She didn’t believe she was sick, and she didn’t want us girls interfering in her daily life.  Things were really, really difficult in that first year because it was an adjustment for her and for all of us girls.  The thing is, Mom adjusted as time went on, but we sisters on the other hand, did not.

Mom had a large safe in her closet and none of us knew what was inside.  We speculated that it was insurance papers and possibly even some money.  I found a combination for it but I couldn’t open the safe.  She also had another smaller safe under her bed.  She would get that safe out almost every single day and night, and sit on the floor behind her bed and go through the contents.  She would do this for hours on end, and if I walked to her room to see where she was, she would look up at me and tell me not to come in there.  Many times I just let her be. 

One day when Mom had to go back to the hospital for some tests, I found the key to the safe under her bed and opened it.  I just had to know what she was looking at all this time.  Plus, with her telling the neighbors about all the money she has in the house, I felt that we needed to know what was in that box, and we needed to protect it.  It wasn’t too much of a surprise to see money in there.  But what was a surprise was how much money.  Thousands of dollars was placed in five different envelopes.  Each envelope was numbered and labeled with the amount inside.  She was saving money for us girls.  She always said she was keeping money aside for us, and she was definitely doing that.

I called my sister, Lynda, and I remember I was shaking so bad.  I said, “What do we do?”  We called Renee and decided that Renee would take the money and keep it safe.  It was weeks before Mom even noticed the money was gone.  She even opened the safe and didn’t notice.  All of a sudden, she did notice and all hell broke loose.  This was the start of a very bad situation that only escalated out of control and went beyond our wildest dreams. 

All of my sisters had agreed that the money was not safe in Mom’s house, all of us except Annie.  Originally it was just me, Lynda and Renee that made the decision to remove the money from the house.  When Mom realized the money was gone, we filled Kathy and Annie in about what we did and why.  Kathy was ok with it, but Annie was not.  I realized we should have told her from the very beginning.  That was wrong to not discuss it with all of my sisters.  We tried to tell Mom that her money was safe in the bank and it is still all hers and no one is going to spend it.  But Annie took Mom’s side and became furious that Renee had the money.  It fueled Mom’s fire.  Mom was ready to arrest Renee for taking the money and Annie was encouraging Mom to press charges.  The rest of us tried to explain to Annie that you can’t do and say those things to her because she doesn’t understand, she is ill.  It didn’t matter to Annie, and the only choice I had was to tell Renee to bring the money back.  I was living with Mom and I couldn’t take her constant threats and complaints and going on and on about the money.  It was stressing her out so much and it was driving me crazy.  So Renee returned the money and it went back into Mom’s safe under her bed.  

Mom also had a safety deposit box at the bank, where she had money kept, as well.  I went with Mom to the bank and she filled out some papers for me to be on her account since I was POA.  I needed to be on the account so I could pay all the bills and handle the financial affairs for Mom.  Mom always wanted to go to the bank and check on her money there, too.  One day she insisted on taking it all out of the safety deposit box at the bank.  I tried to convince her not to do that, but it was no use.  She insisted that she could keep better track of it at home because she didn’t trust the bank.  I talked her into bringing the money back, but then she wanted it out again and there was no reasoning with her.  None of us girls really knew how to handle these situations.  We were learning as we went.

Mom would put wads of money in her purse.  She always kept it right by her side, and like her safe under her bed, she would frequently go through the contents of her purse.  Before long Mom started hiding her purse.  She'd forget where she put it and then she would call Annie to come over and help her find it.  She wanted Annie at those times.  Annie would take her to the department store or to the drugstore and Mom would have all this money in her purse.  Mom also liked to bargain shop at the Goodwill store.  I told Annie she needs to keep an eye on every purchase Mom makes and make sure she doesn’t give the store clerk more money than she needs to.  I noticed she did that once when I was at Goodwill with her.  I don’t think the man was going to give her the money back until he saw me standing on the side, eyeing the situation. 

This whole money thing caused so many problems.  Annie felt that Mom should be able to have her money and do as she wishes with it.  The rest of us were worried that it would get into the wrong hands.  Mom could not be held responsible for her money because she couldn’t keep track of it.  She was forgetful.  We needed to be the responsible ones and keep her hard earned money in a safe place.

Mom would frequently pull the money out of the safe and hide it under the sofa or in her chest of drawers, or somewhere else in her bedroom.  She didn’t even know where she put it half the time and when she couldn’t find it, I would catch heck for it.  One time I was looking for her purse, that she was suddenly constantly hiding, and not remembering where she put it.  Who was she hiding it from?  She kept hiding her money, and now her purse.  One time she was complaining that someone took her purse.  While I was searching for it, I found several envelopes of money in the sofa cushions in her bedroom.  I didn’t say anything to her.  Then one day she accused me of stealing her money because she couldn’t find it.  I opened the sofa and said, “See Mom, I didn’t take it, it’s right here!”  That didn’t help, because she accused me of putting it there.  She was constantly moving her money around until one day we discovered $8,000 of it was missing.  Because there were other family members in the house at different times, and because Mom kept hiding it, it was hard to keep track of all of that money all of the time. I searched every possible place in the house and could not find it.  To this day we don’t know what happened to it.  But because that happened, it caused a firestorm of accusations throughout the family. Everybody started taking sides.


  1. That is so sad. I know, from reading your previous posts, that your mom worked so hard for her money. I can imagine her sitting by her bed and counting the individual envelopes of money that was surely meant to go to all of her daughters because she loved you so dearly. It sounds like the money was a comfort for her, something that made her feel good and somewhat in control. I couldn't help but feel so sad for your mom after reading that she discovered her money was gone. It needed to be done, but she didn't understand that. Hopefully that money is in a safe place now. Someone should buy her something special with it.

  2. Hi Liz,
    Touching and loving blog. Such a horrible disease and can be so difficult on the family, especially the caregivers. Love for you to stay in touch with me. Sending you mucho hugs.