My Personal Story Part Two

Pt. 2 Grateful for Assisted Living Administration

When my dad moved to assisted living, he was pleasantly surprised at how much he liked it. I’m not saying he loved it, or that he enjoyed the food (I’ve yet to meet someone who does), but my dad was a people person and he enjoyed being with pleasant people. Over and again I was told by his neighbors and staff how my dad was such a kind man, and how they enjoyed his presence there. When his divorce was final, I breathed a sigh of relief and felt I was through the worst of his situation. Well, that was premature!

About two weeks later, my dad tells me he’s met someone at the facility. He had a twinkle in his eye and that shy grin on his face. I was surprised, and a bit concerned. A short time later he said they wanted to get married.

At this point, I’d yet to meet the woman he wanted to marry, but I took my concerns to Chris, the director of the facility. And let me be clear – I had no objections to my dad having a relationship – I wanted him to be happy and content. I had great objections with my dad making a legal arrangement when he had a diagnosis of dementia. The director understood, and set up a meeting between him, my dad, his new love (I’ll call her M.) her two children, and myself.

Chris arranged the meeting to take place during lunch, and provided lunch for us. My first impression of M. was that she was ebullient being with my dad. And it turned out that I was acquainted with M.’s son from years back. Her daughter lived in Marietta, GA and came up specifically for this meeting. After M. told us all how they were in love and wanted to marry (with my dad nodding and grinning), I told the group how dad had just gone through a difficult divorce and that I didn’t think it was wise to get back into a marriage. M. said that she didn’t want any financial support from my dad, she just wanted to be married to him. I brought up the elephant in the room, stating that since Dad had dementia, he had no business making a legal decision. M.’s children agreed with that.

At this point, Chris talked about the relationships he had seen during his time working at assisted living facilities. He said that some couples got married, some had ceremonies of commitment, and others simply lived together. We discussed ceremonies of commitment, and we all agreed that this would satisfy what each of us needed – a commitment of love between Dad and M., being joined before God, and having no legal entanglements. Crisis averted!

M. was quite excited about planning the ceremony. I even volunteered to officiate (I had two previous ceremonies under my belt) knowing that I could be sure that there were no legalities involved. A date was set for about three weeks later and I got to work writing the ceremony.
And it all went off without a hitch. Family members from both sides attended the church ceremony, and there was a reception at a local motel afterwards. (One of M.’s family member asked if I’d do her ceremony of she ever decided to marry again!) M.’s daughter sprang for a couple of nights for the newlyweds at the motel, and I again sighed in relief.
I was so grateful for the assisted living director coming to the rescue with both his suggestion and how he was able to get us all on board, and I was glad for the structure that allowed for this to unfold. If my dad had been at a different facility, who knows how this would have developed? Each has their own policies and rules, and I was so grateful that a legal entanglement was averted.

Then sixteen days later, another shoe dropped. But that’s my next post.


My Personal Story Part One

Pt. 1 Grateful for Adult Protective Services

My dad remarried in 2009, just ten months after my mother passed away. I take that action as a testament to the success of Mom and Dad’s marriage – it was so good he wanted to have another experience like that. The problem was – none of us kids liked her. (I’ll call her J.) J. had none of the characteristics we associated with our Mom, and she was argumentative the few times we met her. Plus, none of us thought that Dad had grieved enough to be able to make a serious decision like this. I suspect that a lot of the decision was made in a “knight to the rescue” kind of attempt, as J. was living on public assistance after recovering from a serious car accident, and this assistance was running out. My sister was the only one who attended the wedding (kudos to her!) and on the first occasion I saw my dad afterwards he admitted that marrying J. was a mistake.

I believe that even knowing they were not well suited, my dad still wanted to make it work, and when J. was diagnosed with breast cancer, my dad was there for her.

A few years passed. Although my dad said he wanted to spend the year-end holiday with us, he cancelled a couple of weeks earlier in 2014. The following January he was admitted into the hospital, and at this point we learned of his dementia diagnosis. 2015 was the year that his verbal aphasia grew worse, so it was difficult to communicate in any detail with him. J. was frequently unable to cope. We started hearing from Dad’s neighbors about how they were concerned for him, and how erratically J. was acting. Adult Protective Services were called in for neglect. My Dad was in and out of the hospital frequently for falls, and one stay required a rehab facility since they did not want him to go home. During this period J. was involuntarily committed a number of times.

My siblings and I were tearing our hair out. We were hearing that one time J. was running up and down their street, yelling at people. I have no idea what kind of hell my dad endured, but the look of his gaunt face when he was in rehab spoke volumes. Of the three of us siblings, I was geographically closest here in Asheville, and still that was four hours away. My brother was in South Carolina at about five hours away, and my sister had moved to Idaho. We did all we could, legally, but since J. was his wife, we could not swoop in to rescue him.

The breaking point came in July of 2015 when my dad finally announced that he wanted a divorce and we all breathed a sigh of relief. My brother stayed with him in Georgia for a month while we made arrangements for him to move to an assisted living facility here in Asheville. During the fall of that year, we made several trips back to Georgia for his divorce proceedings, which was granted in December. It was during the trial (yes, J. wanted an actual trial) that J.’s schizophrenia was revealed. And now this roller coaster ride seemed to be over.

I truly don’t know what would have happened if someone had not noticed how my dad was being neglected and reported it. Before my dad decided on getting a divorce, his case with Adult Protective Services was closed out – since J. was (temporarily) out of the picture – but once she was released, she was back in my dad’s life. (I discovered that one of the characteristics of my dad’s dementia was how easily he was led – a characteristic that would show up again in 2016.) When I called Adult Protective Services, I was instructed to file another report to get him back in the system.

After he was divorced, one of his neighbors told us that she believed that J. had been doping him to keep him sedate while she went out. The neighbor based this on her observation of how alert my dad was when he’d returned from the hospital, and then a few weeks later he was just droopy and staring when she visited. I don’t know if doping was the reason for this or not, but I can say that he was not like that at all when he was in the assisted living facility.
Adult Protective Services provide an essential service. Each state, of course, has their own version, but there is a national website called NAPSA that will direct you to the Service in your state.