Descent Into a Sad Situation
We missed seeing our neighbor's husband by a month over a decade ago. Two months after our offer was accepted and a month before closing, he passed away. She was a nice older lady though kept mostly to herself. Some might call her aloof but to me, she was just guarded due to her economic status. They had owned a three state franchise of a popular restaurant chain but to us, she was just a neighbor. We did neighborly things over the years, chatting across the border of our yard, dropping off some bounty from our garden and consuming her chocolate chip cookies. I've searched for an escaped cat of hers and she has called and asked for advice from time to time.
But as time went by, contact became less and her only daughter moved in with her. At first for only short periods of time but eventually permanently. The daughter was a different sort of person. She wasn't as guarded and so we learned through her that her mom was beginning to suffer from dementia. The daughter had her own set of issues in life and physically with heart problems. But we still did a few neighborly activities and time continued to pass us by.
Last night, while eating dinner we heard a far off siren approaching but the siren cut off and we didn't think twice about it. Only when I was washing the dishes did I notice the flashing light out in front of our neighbor's house. Closer inspection revealed it was that of a fire truck but there were also a police car and an ambulance. We debated for twenty minutes on the right thing to do but finally my wife walked over and introduced herself to the police officer on the scene.
Our neighbor's daughter had died sometime last night. Near as we can figure out, an acquaintance of hers had called from her home a state away but could only get our neighbor suffering from dementia who kept saying that her daughter wasn't moving. 911 was called and the present scene developed. So there was my wife, now in the middle, with our neighbor being repeatedly told that her daughter was deceased but not understanding it despite her daughter's body right there for her and everyone else to see.
Fortunately, a concerned person had contacted us several weeks earlier. He had worked for our neighbor's business years ago and remained in contact with our neighbor over the years as sort of a handyman caretaker. I won't go into details but he had been concerned about our neighbor's welfare for some time and had called us to seek advise. He wasn't a spring chicken himself and so we had done the neighborly thing. We gave him the best advice we could and told him to call us if he ever needed help in the situation.
The police and medical personnel on scene last night were in a pickle when my wife walked up. They weren't sure what to do with someone with severe dementia late at night. But thanks to that phone call a few weeks earlier, and my wife's training, she was actually able to help. She sat down with our neighbor to help try, most likely unsuccessfully, to let her know what was happening and told the medical personnel to call the handyman caretaker whose name and phone number they found written somewhere handy. He came right over as the medical examiner finished up and the funeral home staff were starting to do their thing. He said he would spend the night with our neighbor until something was sorted out in the morning.
Morning isn't yet here as I write this. I woke up thinking about this sad situation and can't turn my mind off again. Our neighbor was an only child, her now deceased daughter was an only child and there aren't any immediate relatives. Our neighbor isn't capable of remaining at home anymore but I don't know what the mechanisms are for a situation like hers. I'm not sure the medical and police staff last night knew either and if the handyman/caretaker hadn't been stayed the night, I'm not sure what would have happened. I'm not sure what will happen here with dawn. It is a sad situation.
Fortunately due to their economic status, they had good lawyers and the handyman knows who they are so I'm guessing it will start with them. Hopefully they had papers drawn up detailing what will happen next though I'm guessing they might not fully account for the situation at hand. But one thing is for certain, we will be neighborless starting tomorrow.
Update: In the weeks that have followed since initially writing this post, two trained workers for this sort of situation have been hired and split there time at our neighbor's house looking after her. Their vehicles now pass by like clockwork and spend their time in front of our neighbor's house. The handyman has excused himself out of this situation since it is really out of his control at this point. Our neighbor's daughter is buried in the family plot next to her father after a simple service attended by a few of us neighbors and a number of former employees. All seems to be going alright though I still miss the thought of our neighborly over the property line chats and the occasional plate of warm chocolate chip cookies. I thought about deleting this post as it really serves no purpose but have decided to keep it as a reminder that we all need to be diligent about end of life planning as one never knows how, or in what order, that end will come.
This is an excellent, interesting post. I'm glad you didn't delete it.ReplyDelete
I'm glad there is some benefit to others.Delete
I would say that Providence certainly had a hand it the situation. Good for you all for being good neighbors. It might not seem like much, but it is so important to be even a fringe part of others' social network.ReplyDelete
I'm a little surprised that the emergency crew didn't know what to do. It would seem pretty obvious that social services should be contacted, but maybe it's different in their jurisdiction.
All's well that ends well, and yes, it's a very good cautionary tale.
I'm sure that is standard procedure during working hours but I'm not sure what is late at night. I'm sure they have someone on call to take the call but what our neighbor really needed was someone to stay the night with her and I think that was causing the dilemma. Nobody really could leave until is was sorted out and fortunately the handyman volunteered.Delete
This is always a tough one and with dementia, her daughter may die many deaths (in her mind) as she learns about her death again and again. It was good that your wife was able to be there to help. Hopefully, if no one showed up, some social service person would have come in before all the responders left.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure how far her mind is gone. The last time I talked to her, this past summer while she was getting the mail, she didn't know me from Adam and walked off thinking I was probably presumptive with my attempting a conversation. That was when I knew the dementia was farther along than I had previously thought.Delete
What a heartbreaking situation. You and your wife were good neighbors, and this is a good reminder to me to always try and be one as well. You never know what someone might be going through.ReplyDelete
I wasn't sure what the police response would be with my wife showing up but due to her occupation and their conundrum, they let her inside the house. I'm sure a ruffian like me would have quickly been turned away.Delete
This is what I see happening more and more. Not to be depressing but our lives and those of our elderly loved ones disintegrate either physically, mentally or both. This was an excellent and poignant post. I'm glad you didn't delete it!ReplyDelete
We just never know how those last years will be. In the case of our neighbor, she will never know even if she could know.Delete
A sad situation, indeed. Writing the post (and leaving it here) is a nice way to acknowledge and remember her.ReplyDelete
I could write a better eulogy for her but I don't want to invade her privacy as she really was a pretty private person back when her mind was in better shape. I've certainly had a lot worse for neighbors in the past.Delete
That was sad. But the mother will be taken care of in the best possible way - in her home rather than an institution. It is times like this when having a larger family is truly a blessing.ReplyDelete
I am always amazed at other cultures who deal with this sort of thing much differently than the American culture does. It is a lot more humane on the person being looked after in their final years but sometimes it really does a number on the family member providing the caring. A real catch 22.Delete
A very sad situation. Today families are far apart with limited contact so problems can arise. Good for your wife looking into a very stressful situation.Delete
Times are certainly different.Delete
Sounds like they had the funds for private duty care in the home. Folks without a lot of money end up in one of the poorest or poorly run nursing homes, paid for by the state. You can imagine how rotten the care is, and that was before covid escalated staffing shortages. Yep, as a single mom of an only son, and a former hospice nurse, my stuff: Will, Executor, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is all ready. My son's a veterinarian, so I hope the medical systems don't decline so much that he'll just have to put me in one of his kennel cages! Linda in KansasReplyDelete
We've completed that paperwork as well though with two kids, neither showing signs of becoming a veterinarian, perhaps we stand a decent chance of avoiding the kennels!Delete
Yes, a good -- and poignant -- reminder that we all need to be diligent about end of life planning, and also about looking out for our friends and neighbors.ReplyDelete
I shudder to think of the situation had the employee of the daughter had not called 911 from a state away.Delete
I am not sure that this post serves no purpose, for it can be a good reminder to have plans in place and also to cherish out loved ones. Fortunately, as small as my family is, it is larger than hers. Besides, we share things about out day-to-day lives, and this is part of yours, and I learn something of your empathy.ReplyDelete
I worried that it would be too depressing for others even if the message was good. But it seems to have been well received.Delete
I too am glad that you did not delete this. Life turns on a dime. I'm glad your wife was there. That poor woman!ReplyDelete
I'm glad I let it post too now. Life can and does turn on a dime, your recent experience as evidence. Fortunately yours has a better ending.Delete
So sad. Yes end of life planning is very important. We are revisiting our wills this winter and updating the ones from 1992 and doing POA:)ReplyDelete
Oh gosh… This is so sad. You and your wife are the best kind of neighbors and friends. How wonderful that the your wife was able to go over and help. My mom keeps saying how lucky she is that she has children who care for her and neighbors all around who keep watch also.ReplyDelete
Oh darn! I forgot to say it was me, Kay of Musings.ReplyDelete