Autonomy vs Diminished Skills

This week we welcome a guest post from our ISU Extension and Outreach Human Sciences Family Finance partners. If you have additional thoughts or questions we welcome the conversation.

Most days Dad cannot add or subtract or figure out if he has enough money in his pocket to pay for something. I try hard to never say, “NO”, because that leads to reasoning with Dad, and there just is no such thing as a logical discussions when Alzheimer’s is involved. My goal is to make Dad FEEL good. So, Dad now carries a wallet with $30 to $50 in it most days. With the exception of a walk down town to have coffee with the neighbor (who is also in his 80’s and lives with his daughter), dad goes nowhere without me. So, why does Dad need that much money in his wallet? Because, that is what he has ALWAYS carried in his wallet. It is NORMAL for him. It makes him FEEL good. More than once he has lost his wallet and I have always found it…in a pair of pants in the laundry basket or in a drawer in his room. I have no concern that he will REALLY lose it because he never goes anywhere without me. Dad’s wants are few and inexpensive. Having $30 – $50 in his pocket means he never has to figure out if he has enough to pay for something. If I know he wants something that will cost more than he has in his wallet, we swing by the bank and pick up some extra cash so he can manage the transaction without my help.

As Dad’s disease progresses, he gets younger in his mind and in his behaviors. While picking up stuff for our vacation, Dad began grabbing snack items for our trip. He grabbed an armload and ran to the check out to quickly pay for them. Why the hurry? Why not continue shopping with me and we all check out at the same time? As a kid, that behavior would have made Dad ask ME if my money was burning a hole in my pocket. It occurred to me that, HE wanted to pay for these things to share with everyone on the trip. Had he waited and checked out with me, I may have insisted on paying for it all together.  He wanted the joy of being the provider. So, in the future when we shop, I will send him to pick out the fruit and let him pay for it while I take care of the rest of the purchases.

My financial goal with Dad is to keep him safe, secure and happy. I don’t always get it right the first time (At first I didn’t let him carry cash for fear he would lose it), and we all paid the price. The good news is, he has no short term memory so he doesn’t remember my unsuccessful attempt at making him happy. Alzheimer’s always lets me have more than one try at getting it right.  ~Brenda Schmitt

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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