The last couple of weeks have been busy, filled with our youngest turning seven and the flu descending upon the household. We took her to the Legoland Discovery center in Boston which was a blast, but unbeknownst to us, we brought home contagion. The kids are almost better, still occasionally hacking up a lung, but my husband and I are still feeling like crap. Obviously I'm still going to work, because someone has to make the cheese, but I'm dragging.
We've been slow at work, as the local neighborhood flows with vacation time and celebrating the holiday. Today I worked with a woman we'll call Miriam, and it brings me back to a theme I've discussed previously - working with the elderly in your life, to discuss their finances and how they need help. Miriam shuffled into the store clutching two three ring binders to her chest. She needed help right away, as her pension hadn't been deposited to her account in another bank and it was our responsibility to fix it. I sat down with her and tried to gather enough information to understand what was going on. Within just a few minutes, it was clear that she was very confused. As I asked questions, she couldn't remember why we had helped her a month ago. She kept mixing up her numbers, couldn't find things in her purse ... only to ask me again what she was looking for. She started to cry, to beg me to help her.
Miriam is in her mid-eighties, which certainly doesn't mean she's incapable of handling her money, but it is a factor in a stressful situation. Her husband had died in the last couple of years, and it is clearly still a fresh wound - as she mentioned him throughout our time together. As many of you know, I have difficulty in separating my emotions concerning my mother whenever I'm working with an older woman, and it made it harder to bear, as Miriam grew more despondent. She told me she had been a bookkeeper, but it was getting to hard to keep track of the paperwork. She told me maybe it would be better if she would just die. She said this again and again.
I asked if I could call one of her children to come sit with us; she couldn't remember any of their numbers, didn't have her phone with her. I practically begged her to trust me that everything would be ok, that her money was safe, that the daughter who had come with her a month ago should call me right away. Miriam left ... and came back ... and left ... and came back and finally returned with her son. As is often the case, he was initially concerned that we had perhaps not done everything to help her. After I cleared that up, he was all set to go. I asked Miriam if I could speak to her son privately for a moment, and she agreed. Behind closed doors, I gave him a quick synopsis of the afternoon. He told me that he and his siblings were working on consolidating her finances. I told him that was great, and asking for his forgiveness if I was overstepping my bounds, I told him that needed to pick up the pace. I told him about the tears, the frustration, that she pulled at her hair with both hands, that she said she should just die. I told him that I was really worried, that this is a difficult situation for everyone, but Miriam really needed help. He thanked me, and we returned to his mother. We said our goodbyes, and then I went into the bathroom and cried.