She stopped sending and answering emails. When I talked with her on the phone, she sounded fine, promised to send an email, and then didn’t. In the last ten years, we’d communicated almost daily with funny quotes, forwarded emails and every once in a while, a brief get together.
After the electronic silence, I decided to call and visit my friend of forty years. When I arrived she seemed delighted to see me, but guarded. Her husband stayed with us during our visit, which he’d never done before. We talked briefly about old friends, family and when we’d worked together. Something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger to it.
Then, her husband said, “We have to tell her.” He told of a time a few months ago when she’d left to get her nails done and had ended up lost in another county. Fortunately, she called him and he came and took her home. He’d been content to let his brainy wife manage their household and financial affairs and knew nothing about where anything was. Fortunately – very fortunately – she still remembered the passwords to all the financial data she’d managed over the years and was able to download, print it and give it to him. Once that was done, he shut down the computer and she forgot she’d ever been on it.
It had happened in the blink of an eye. One day everything was normal, the next nothing was. While the tests showed Alzheimer’s, her actions shouted it. Shortly after the test, she got lost outside of the house she’d lived in for thirty years.
She hates her diagnosis, didn’t want to admit it and now doesn’t like living with far less freedom than she’d known before. She didn’t want to tell me and then forgot she had told me.
Three weeks from my visit she doesn’t remember my husband’s name or that I’m married. What was invisible for so long is now moving swiftly to erase who she is and what she cared about.
At Y Collaborative we often get asked, “When’s the best time to have the conversation with our families?” We always respond, “Now, when you have no health issues and you’re not in crisis.”
My friend’s family can attest to this. One day she was fully there and no one would have predicted that the next day she couldn’t find her nail salon.
Please have “the” conversation as soon as you can. You need to know where your records are, what your spouse’s passwords are, where the brokerage accounts are and how to access them. You need to know which bills are paid electronically and how much you owe and to whom. My friend is still very much alive and easily able to talk about what she wants for the end of her life, but her memories are rapidly disappearing and as the sole record keeper and financial manager, the holes in her memories put her family at risk.
Again, we encourage you to please have “the” conversation. It’s not painful, shouldn’t be combative and can provide irreplaceable peace-of-mind. If you want us to help facilitate asking questions, we’re happy to do so. Call us at: 713-521-7699. If you need a place to keep all of your important information, we have a workbook that is designed to help you with all aspects of getting your life and information in order.