What can I do with my elderly neighbor who lives alone and has dementia?
My neighbor who is 88, has been living by herself, and has 2 distant cousins she doesn't get along with and doesn't trust. She has been our neighbor for 30 years, and was becoming increasingly feeble. She has no husband, siblings, or close friends. She is really alone in this world. I've never seen someone so isolated. She knows my husband from when he was young, and when he inherited his old home, we moved in and she became our neighbor (and responsibility!)
I've become her power of attorney and pay her bills. She was within a day of having her lights cut off when I took over her bills. She was unable to handle money, paid bills 2 and 3 times over a month, and was awash in huge debts from credit cards. She had creditors calling all hours of the day and night.
Her finances were a shambles and she didn't have the presence of mind to be concerned. She backed her car through her garage wall and I was the only person around willing to be with her when she went to get checked out at the hospital. And that's where it all began!
She looks to us for everything. When I was able, I took her out 4-5 times a week, made sure she had food, medicine, doctor visits, and took care of her needs. I have become recently disabled and can no longer care for her as I was able to. We found a beautiful supported-living home, where she would have her own kitchenette apartment with bath, all meals prepared in a beautiful dining room, and all the amenities: activities, laundry room, trips, you name it. My parents are gone, but I wouldn't have hesitated for them to live there. It was high-quality care and ideal for her, as she will get her medication and be cared for in a stimulating environment with new friends.
Well, she changed her mind and decided she wasn't going to go, even though she was enthusiastic when she took a tour. After all the paperwork and arrangements were done, she was approved, and she was well within her pension and SS, she just decided at the last minute the answer was "no". I was heartbroken and so defeated. Her dementia was in control. Sadly, her psychological assessment earlier this year was that she was competent to make all her decisions. (At the time, when her doctor screened her, OF COURSE she was having a lucid moment!) I just couldn't force her to leave her home, although she is unsafe by herself and her doctor has said she needs
I've been working on getting her household help, but it would be only 3 days a week, 4 hours a day, which is not nearly enough. So until that goes through, she sits day after day, alone with a little TV I got for her last year.
I'm torn between doing what the doctor has said she needs and leaving her there in her home. She can't afford 24-hour in-home care. But I don't want her hating me for the rest of her life! I could never drag her out of the home kicking and screaming, and that is what that would take. I am not her guardian, or for that matter, even related to her! If it wasn't for me and my husband, there isn't anybody else who even cares about her.
I have been on the receiving end of some incredible abuse from her. She flies off the handle and as is common with dementia, has incredible mood swings and hostile, suspicious behavior often. There have been times when she's screamed at me and I just wanted to turn on my heel and leave her. I just wonder sometimes what is going to happen to her. We can't be there for her all the time. She could set herself on fire, walk away and leave the burners on, or any number of misfortunes. I just don't know what to do for her.
Should I have put her in supportive living? I do have power of attorney for her finances and she has a living will. What to do? What to do? She's unsafe there by herself, but what should I do? I'm really in a quandary. My husband supports my decision, but he doesn't have to be around her, nor is the focus of all her emotions. I feel all alone with this responsibility, and it's killing me.
Thanks for reading this. It's long but I just had to get it all out.