“Okay,” Cheryl, the lawyer replied, satisfied with Miss Cathy’s answer to her query as to why she thought she was there, meeting with her. She went on to ask mom question after question about what she wanted done with her condo and her belongings. Everything she asked were all the things that Tony and I had gone over with her weeks before but I’m assuming she needed to ask Miss Cathy so that she could hear the words come out of her mouth just to be clear that mom’s wished were being carried out and she wasn’t being taken advantage of.
Then Cheryl asked, “Can you tell me what’s been going on with your health.”
“I’ve got diabetes,” answered Miss Cathy.
“Okay,” Cheryl said, taking copious notes, “ what else.”
“I’ve had a left knee replacement.”
“I have high blood pressure.”
“Okay, what else.”
I could see that Miss Cathy was perplexed, she looked like a little school girl who had successfully named all the letters of the alphabet but the teacher was asking for more so the poor student was wrecking her brain trying to think what comes after “z”.
Tony and I looked at each other knowing what Cheryl wanted to hear but didn’t want to appear as though we were “leading the witness”; finally I looked at Miss Cathy and said,
” Why do you see the neurologist, Dr Aleymahue?”
“Oh yes,” she said, eyes bright because she knew the answer and wanted to get a gold star,” I have dementia and Alzheimer’s.” (Talk about burying the lead!)
Satisfied with Miss Cathy’s answers about her health, Cheryl wasn’t quite finished though, she still had more some questions for Miss Cathy to answer, pen in hand ready to write down everything she said. “What does Ty do for you?”
Now you could see that Miss Cathy was warming up to the subject and she almost gave winked at Tony and me to let us know that she remembered what we’d talked about with her in the kitchen earlier that morning to ‘prep’ her.
“He’s a great help to me,” she started, “he cooks my breakfast.”
“He helps me when I take a shower, he makes sure that I don’t fall.” The back and forth went on as mom told Cheryl what I did to help her during the day. I could see that she was very proud when she said, “He comes in and turns off the TV and light for me at night when I go to sleep.”
Nice as it was to be acknowledged for that, I knew Cheryl was looking for something a little more substantive to help mom apply for a caretaker exception for her Medicaid application, but (to her credit) Cheryl was patient and kept on asking the same question, “what else” until Miss Cathy offered up more relevant help like the fact that I dispense her medication and help her with her daily blood sugar test (that included taking a blood sample and reading the meter.)
Finally Cheryl seemed satisfied that mom was acting of her own free will so moved on and opened up a new folder (one of many that she had fanned out in front of her at the conference table that represented the various programs and procedures that we were undertaking.) She passed the applications forms to me then and then she went over the documents needed to apply for Medicaid, to set up a Personal Caregiver Agreement and a possible assistance stipend from the Veterans Administration program set up for widows of war veterans.
I’d handed over copies of the dozen or so documents that Cheryl requested that I bring for the meeting. She noticed that a copy pop’s birth certificate was not in the pile and I explained that he was born in 1923 and the hospital he was born in burned down decades ago and the all the records were lost.
“Mom did write to the courthouse of the town where he was born to get something in writing stating that the hospital burned down but we can’t find that document,” I said by way of explanation.
She said that it was imperative that we find the letter that verified his birth because without it (even though we have his social security card and discharge papers from the VA) she was afraid any application we submited would be rejected or sent back until they had everything that they asked for.
Cheryl told us that she’d need a couple of weeks to draw up the papers for Miss Cathy to sign (after she had a copy of the missing proof of pop’s birth). Then she gave me a form (Yikes! another one) for Miss Cathy’s family physician to fill out for the Maryland Medical Advisory Board to ascertain her eligibility for assistance as a person in need of a caregiver not living in a nursing home.
As we were wrapping up the meeting Cheryl made a point of telling Miss Cathy that even thought Tony was paying the legal bill and he and I were acting on her behalf that she (Cheryl) was Miss Cathy’s lawyer and her allegiance was to her alone and not to us.
Cheryl and Tony left to take care of payment leaving Miss Cathy and I in the conference room alone for a few moments.
“You did very well,” I told her. I didn’t have a gold star but I did say, “I’m proud of you.”
And I was, too. I knew that her natural inclination when being asked about her health is to say, “I’m fine” and to tell whomever was asking how independent and self-sufficient she is. So, I know it was hard for her to list her ailments and to even suggest that she needed help (in any way).
But, she knew how important this was and even though she’s telling the truth it isn’t the truth she tells herself on a daily basis.
I’ve yet to hear her tell any of her friends or a stranger for that matter that she has dementia (not willingly anyway) and though she’s grateful for my help it’s nothing that she readily discusses and in her mind I’m living here with her mainly because of her ‘knee replacement’ and balance issues.
“Thank you,” she said. ” She seems very knowledgeable, you guys have done a great job putting this together. Man, this is a lot of work, isn’t it?!”
As we rose to leave the office I knew that we were still at the beginning of a long process, and there’s no way we’re going to have an incomplete file now, not after coming this far and all the hard work it took finding all the documents we did have (not to mention paying the lawyer a hefty retainer.)
I knew that we’d looked for the letter confirming pop’s birth in Virginia (the correspondence dated back to the 1970’sfrom what I remember seeing) in Miss Cathy’s extensive files that she kept (and to her credit she pretty much has every legal document necessary and almost always knows where it is stored) but for some reason this particular letter wasn’t where it was suppose to be…we need to find it so the paper chase continues for one more document.
Post script: Miss Cathy hunted for the document for two days like a woman possessed and she found it. The official document was photo copied and mailed off to the lawyer to be included in one of many filings that were to go out after we returned to sign the various documents….more on that as “Paper Chase” continues in Part V