Kathy was shocked when she read her mother’s bank statement. How could it be there was only $100 left? Where did the other $50,724 go? The family was planning to use the money to pay for care to assist her mother, Nancy, age eighty-six, had trouble walking and now was so forgetful she could not be left alone.
Nancy’s husband of thirty years, Rick, age eighty-four, a retired mechanic, was doing the best he could providing daily care. He was not comfortable helping Nancy with bathing and was a terrible cook. Rick relied on his daughter, Kathy, to help with bathing Nancy, cleaning, finances and shopping. It was getting too much for the both of them. Kathy, age sixty, was still working as the senior state geologist, and lived twenty minutes away. Nancy’s son Bob, age sixty-two, visited his mother two times a year, on her birthday and Christmas even though he lived two blocks away. When asked to help, he always said he was too busy running his plumbing company.
Nancy just had her 86th birthday. Everyone, that means about thirty friends, neighbors and family, came to celebrate. At least five of the guests approached Kathy to say they were concerned that Nancy was not her usual self. She could not remember who anyone was. Nancy told the same story over and over. “Did you know, I baked peanut butter cookies today for the neighbor girl, Alice. She is six you know.” Bob brought his mother a gift. When most of the guests were gone Bob asked Kathy why his mother did not recognize him. Kathy explained that in the last month Nancy has become more difficult due to her dementia. She told Bob they were looking into hiring caregivers to come into the home to help. If that did not work, Nancy may end up in a nursing home. Bob asked how much a nursing home cost. Nancy was not sure but estimated it would be at least five thousand dollars a month.
The birthday party was last month. Looking at the bank statement Kathy could see the $50,724 was withdrawn two days after the party.
After opening the bank statement and talking with Rick, Kathy asked a neighbor to sit with Nancy while she and Rick went to the bank to find out who took the money out. The bank clerk told them Bob made the withdrawal. The clerk explained the account was in the names of Rick, Nancy and Bob with Nancy’s social security number as the tax identification number for the account. Bob’s name was also on that account even though his name did not appear on the statements. Rick remembered Nancy suggested adding Bob when they set up the account, just in case they were out of town and needed someone to pay bills.
While still at the bank, Kathy called Bob. She told him they were at the bank and asked him why he had taken the money? He responded his mother always told him that account was to be his inheritance when she died. Then he said “to be honest, I thought if you used that money for her care, I would inherit nothing and that does not seem fair. So I took the money.” Kathy was flabbergasted, but tried to speak with a normal voice. She asked Bob to return the money immediately. They needed it to pay for Nancy’s care. He said no.
Kathy relayed the call to Rick. He looked both defeated and worried. On the drive home, they decided to file a complaint with the police to see if they could get the money back. Rick asked Kathy to deal with the police. Kathy called the police when she returned to her office. They said nothing could be done because Bob was on the account.
The news devastated Rick. That bank account was the only money available to pay for his wife’s care. He knew he could not continue caring for Nancy on his own even with some help from Kathy. He had two choices, neither of which he wanted. Ask Kathy to quit her job and help him as full time care giver. Or sell their home of thirty years, with the flower and vegetable gardens they enjoyed. They would move into a retirement home that provided caregiving support and pay for it with the money from the house sale.
The next day when Kathy stopped after work to help out, Rick told her he had listed the house for sale. They sat at the kitchen table and cried. The future they wanted for both Rick and Nancy to live out their days in the home they loved had disappeared.
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