Shay Jacobson, RN, MA, NMG, LNCC, CNLCP
Martha Kern

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Margaret was an independent woman. She lived a long and productive life, enjoyed a successful career and traveled the world.

Things changed somewhat when she allowed an abusive alcoholic to take up residence in her tidy home.

It can be hard to imagine the circumstances that would lead to such a change. Margaret was once the only child of two parents in a stable home. She was taught to be a critical-thinking, discriminating adult who could fend for herself in the world. She went to school and forged a successful career. She owned her own home.   She enjoyed the theater, her friends, and spots around the globe that she visited in her travels.

The circumstances that had so contributed to Margaret’s independence may also have led to the pivotal changes that lay ahead for her. She had no siblings and her parents eventually died. She never married and had no children of her own. Her friends, though lovely and devoted, aged along with her and developed their own issues and problems.

Margaret, once so very independent, eventually found herself isolated and alone.

When Peter showed up at the door, she was ready to let him in.

50 Shades of Vulnerability
Over time, Margaret had developed dementia that, to most people, may scarcely have been detectable. In the early stages, many of those contending with dementia can manage the casual social exchange and keep the homestead stable. The home, with its comfort and familiarity, is the space where they feel most oriented. Increasingly, this was where Margaret preferred to stay.

How convenient, then, that she had neighbors nearby. The neighbors had just enough contact with her to recognize that Margaret was struggling. It was becoming difficult to write checks and perform the basic math associated with checkbook management. Little things began to escape her notice, like an over-stuffed mailbox she had neglected to empty, unkempt grass, and stains dotting the front of her dress like islands on a map.

The neighbors, in Margaret’s case, were opportunistic. They saw in her an endless stream of possibility. They offered help, they visited and investigated her situation, and then slowly, carefully, began to exploit her.

Catherine and Peter
Catherine owned the home next door to Margaret’s and Peter was her brother. At first, Catherine and Peter may have offered his services to make minor household repairs, to cut the grass, to help with that pesky checkbook. Margaret, alone all day and growing steadily aware that she was having trouble with tasks she once handled easily, was glad for the company and glad for the help. More and more, Peter was there. The day came when he just never left.

Where Has All the Money Gone?
Peter now had a place to live and someone else’s food to eat. But that wasn’t quite enough. He began availing himself of Margaret’s money, unaware, perhaps, that her accounts were under the watchful eye of a trust officer at the community bank. Where Margaret’s outflow had been minimal, suddenly there was a major uptick in her spending.

The trust officer became suspicious and concerned. She contacted Lifecare Innovations and asked us to visit Margaret and see if we could determine exactly what or who was causing this sudden change in her spending habits.

Our initial visit was quite educational. Peter, highly intoxicated, came to the door and loudly denied us entry. Margaret would follow Peter’s lead, of course, as her ability to track along with unfolding events was just outside her reach. Peter seemed to know what he was talking about and she was relieved not to have to fathom it all.

We consulted the trust officer and then called the police. Peter did not belong there and it was time for him to go.

Protection First
Once Peter was removed from the home, Lifecare Innovations sought orders of protection against both he and his complicit sister, Catherine. She, of course, had been instrumental in installing her brother in Margaret’s home and we believed she, too, was benefiting financially.

The locks on the house were changed. A caregiver, carefully chosen for her no-nonsense demeanor and willingness to say “no”, was moved immediately into Margaret’s home on a live-in basis.

Margaret’s status improved promptly. It took her some time to adapt to the new person with whom she lived, one who would prepare her meals, keep the house clean, drive her to appointments and otherwise make her home run as reliably as a train, but adapt she did.

Margaret was found by a physician to lack decisional capacity and had no Agents under the Powers of Attorney, so a petition for guardianship was filed. Lifecare Guardianship, our non-profit guardianship program, was named Guardian of her Person so we could keep her safe and ensure her needs were met. Her long-time bank was named Conservator/Guardian of Estate.

Over time, though, Margaret’s behavior deteriorated. She was hospitalized for psychiatric reasons and it became evident that the home environment might no longer be suitable for long-term management of her issues.

Lifecare Innovations researched several facilities, visited each one, and chose an environment that would not only support Margaret’s care needs, but provide her with the social opportunities that had so long been missing from her life.

The beautiful facility, new friends and wonderful food made it a relatively simple transition for Margaret. Though she had left her long-time home, she found that the supportive environment made for an all-new home where she could feel safe and well tended.

Loose Ends Tied
Margaret’s house in the community, once her safe haven and later the place where Peter would exploit her, was carefully prepared for sale. Lifecare Home Solutions worked with personal property buyers and charities to ensure any personal property Margaret could no longer use was sold or donated, as appropriate. The house was then deep-cleaned and made ready for the real estate market. Given its wonderful location and great potential, it wasn’t long before the house was sold to a young family and the proceeds of the sale were made available for Margaret’s care.

Margaret’s liberation from the care and maintenance of her home, from the tyranny of an alcoholic exploiter, from the increasingly confused state of her own mind and its tendency to de-rail her attempts to pay bills and meet obligations, really did restore her sense of freedom. Today, she can enjoy a movie, a craft class, an excellent meal, musical theater, the company of friends and the overall feeling of peace that comes of a well-run life where problems are managed by others and the current moment is all that matters.

©Lifecare Innovations, Inc.