But I Already Have My Lipstick On:  Our story of dealing with Alzheimers

Chapter Sixteen

Not long after Belle’s return from Wyoming and our brief vacation from responsibility, a chance meeting at our community mail box changed our lives.  Our next door neighbor was planning to sell his country lumber store and retire.  He and his wife would be moving back to St. Paul.  He inquired if Scott knew anyone that would like to buy his house as he was planning on putting it on the market in a month or two.

Although he did not mention it to our neighbor, Scott immediately came home and asked me what I thought about Belle selling her house and buying the one next door to us.  It was slightly bigger and newer than her current home, but would be priced less.  She could improve her financial position and we could be less burdened with her care because we would be right next door.  We discussed this option between us for several weeks.   The situation had its pros and cons.

Pros were Belle would be close by and this would presumably be less of a burden on us.  She would benefit financially from the sale of her current home.  Scott had voiced some concerns about the level of attention Susan provided to Belle while living with Belle, as her methods and treatment did not reflect his views.  Susan and her husband liked to go out frequently with friends, leaving Belle alone at night more than he felt was appropriate for her level of function.  If Belle was next door, he felt this issue might be resolved and Belle would be properly attended.  Although we had purchased our home with the thought Belle would be living with us at some point in the future to ensure she received proper attention, we were not quite ready for that step.  Deacon still lived at home (a teenager in high school) and if Belle lived with us, they would be sharing the upstairs bathroom.  We had assumed that if Belle came to live with us, it would be after Deacon was no longer living at home.  So, next door meant she was close but we still had our space and she would still have hers.

Scott asked Belle, in a general way, what she thought about living next door to us.  She immediately said “let’s go” and then stated it would be nice to be close.  Scott mentioned to Susan the possibility of the house next door becoming available for Belle to purchase and for Susan and her husband to continue to live with Belle, helping her.  Susan agreed she could move as well and possibly use some of her own things and furniture in the new home.  She suggested she could maybe even become part owner in the home.   Scott and his sister had always had a good relationship, and that would, everyone seemed to agree, assist with any problems that might arise due to living next door to us.

So, after much discussion and debate, the possibility of giving up some privacy by living next door to relatives seemed like the only con.  We could deal with any difficulties that arose.  A plan to move forward was set into motion.  Scott approached our neighbor and told him about what we were thinking and attempting to accomplish for Belle’s sake.  The neighbor thought this a fine idea.  We set a time for an inside tour of the home to determine if the house would fit the bill for what we thought would be needed for Belle, Susan and her husband to combine their lives into one household.  At the current home, everything was Belle’s and Susan and her husband lived in a guest room. All their belongings were in storage. At this house, the plan was that possessions and space would be divided more evenly in an attempt to make everyone comfortable for the long haul.  After a review of the home by all parties, it was decided that it would work for our purposes and Scott relayed this information to our neighbor.  A verbal deal was cut for the purchase of the home.

Scott discussed the proposal with the three other siblings, to interesting reactions.  Chuck and Mike stated whatever Scott thought was the best thing to do, was okay with them as Scott was dealing with the majority of the responsibility and to quote Chuck,  Scott ‘had the power’.   Larry felt, in my impression, that he should have been consulted before the verbal deal was in place for the purchase of the new home.  He stated it was time for Belle’s current home to be sold and for Belle to be moved into assisted living. He was also not happy with the increased involvement of Susan, as Larry and Susan had had some issues in the past.  Scott agreed Belle needed more assistance than could be provided while she lived alone, but that this solution offered a way to invest Belle’s money with the emphasis on maintaining what funds she had as long as possible and that she would no longer be living alone.  Scott, while not always agreeing with how Susan assisted Belle, felt that Susan was certainly capable of providing the attention Belle needed. The disagreement between the brothers, while not heated, caused a rift between Scott and Larry.  Scott felt that he was present and dealing with Belle each day, so his insight into what was best for her was applicable and paramount.  He listened to the opinions of his siblings, but at the end of the day, the decision, by way of the power of attorney, was his to make.   Scott also seemed to feel that Larry was attempting to pull the big brother card, an issue which had rested dormant below the surface of their relationship for many years and sparked to life any time Larry told Scott what he was ‘supposed’ to do.   Due to the 14 year age difference in their ages, Larry had been an adult while Scott was still a child and Scott’s becoming an adult did not remove the tension which continued to leak into the relationship when Larry treated Scott as if he were still a child.

Scott pursued completion of the deal stuck with the neighbor.  The neighbor was outstanding.  He did not list his home with a realtor.  The home could be purchased directly, and the savings of the realtor fee could be passed on in the format of a reduced price for the home.  So, new home was purchased, and the old home placed on the market. The summer of 1999 was spent once again getting ready for a major move.

Since all of the ‘adults’ working toward this move were employed during the day and there was many possessions to pack, Deacon spent much of his summer days that year with Granny attempting to begin the packing up process.  We still encountered the issue of Belle being the ‘adult’ and Deacon the ‘child’ when it came to how Belle viewed the relationship between Deacon and Granny.  Although she no longer could use reason with any consistency, and Deacon was a smart, able young man, he struggled with issues, such as telling her what needed to be completed.

Since we were in the habit of not telling Belle about events in the future due to the worry and fretting this type of information caused, we struggled with when to tell her she would be moving in a month or two. In the end, when the packing of her belongings seemed to upset her, we had to tell her she was moving at some date in the future.  I am not certain which avenue was the best.  If not told, she worried and fretted about the changes around her.  If told, she worried about the move itself and being ready for it.  However, when alone during the day, once the idea she was moving to a new home penetrated her thoughts, Belle would pack things.  Some of the packing was appropriate and some was not.   One day a few weeks before the move, she packed all the food in the kitchen and refrigerator into boxes, one day it was the curtains, including the rods, off the windows, and one day all the beds had been stripped and the bedding packed.  All of these items were packed while still in use. Once, when arriving with dinner on a designated packing night, we found all the salt and pepper shakers along with the sugar were packed in a box with all the items from the medicine chest in the bathroom and duct taped closed with, what it seemed to me was a half of roll of duct tape. As the summer progressed, we enlisted the assistance of anyone who would help, including my mother, who, due to our constant moving when I was a child, is a very good packer.  During August 1999, Belle, Susan and Susan’s husband moved into the house next door to us, with Belle in the master bedroom and Susan and her husband taking over the remaining two bedrooms.  Scott immediately installed a gate between the two back yards.  We jokingly called this arrangement the Compound and likened ourselves to the Kennedy’s living arrangements on Martha’s Vineyard.