Life is a funny thing. Just when you think everything is going great, something happens and destroys that illusion. This is especially true for senior citizens, as The Pink Flamingo has learned, the hard way. On Saturday, the world appeared to be absolutely shocked at the way legendary novelist Harper Lee was bilked out of the rights to her magnificent To Kill a Mockingbird.
Unfortunately, what happened to Harper Lee happens every day, each and every day, to good, decent, and trusting men and women in this country. It is quite common, unfortunately. The Pink Flamingo began noticing the way the elderly are taking advantage of, when I saw a show in ID about POAs (Power of Attorney) and bilking the elderly. It then came to my attention that there was an individual in my community who was doing the same thing. The first time I paid attention to this was at least 7 or 8 years ago when a very dear women who went to our church was subjected to the same thing by her sister. The sister waited until her closest friends and attorney were out of town. She swooped in, used a different attorney, had herself declared POA and ruined the elderly woman’s life. Packing her up, she put her in a nursing home to die, which she soon did. Her sister was greatly enriched.
I never thought that any of this would ever hit home. But it has. This is the story of the past two years of my life.
The Pink Flamingo’s father is now well into Stage 4 of Alzheimer’s. It is trying time, especially for my mother, who basically has no help. Once upon a time she would have had someone to help him, but now, we can’t afford it. Fact is, we can’t afford much of anything. The Pink Flamingo is now at a point where I must balance getting a hair color of paying for food, not only for myself, but the cats. Thanks to the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease, I am learning what it like to live on absolutely nothing, while I watch my mother, who has never wanted for anything, do without all but the basics of life.
It didn’t start out this way. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. They have a fortune in real estate that, thanks to the far right and austerity, their mishandling of the economy, cannot be sold. My sister and I can barely pay the taxes. My parents, who have paid millions of dollars in taxes are now limited to $1200 social security a month, nothing more. Their medication costs about $300 a month, and that is using generics. If we lived where they could shop at Costco, they could cut that in half. We don’t. Their medicare supplement is $360 a month. I think you get the picture.
My father did everything right. He worked hard, paid his taxes, supported not only his parents, but helped my sister and I when we needed it. (Before you comment about that, I depleted my savings and checking account last year, helping them. My sister is now doing the same thing). He bought land, sold land, and made millions. He had the required three-fold portfolio, with cash, land, and investments. Three years ago we were fine. Then I started doing the books, and getting into a storage building he spent about $125K to build. That’s when we noticed something was wrong. Normally, my father would never do something like that.
What a mess!
By the time his accountant went back several years, at my request, on his own, without billing us, we discovered that it is going to take a forensic accountant to figure out how my father’s broker and his assistant managed to reassign, to to speak, nearly a million bucks, over a period of a few years. When my poor father realized something was wrong and a $249K transfer for a land payment was not showing up – anywhere, it was too late. Thank goodness he put the receipt for the wire transfer in is brief case, or I would have nothing to go on. What did he do? He took all of his financial records to the very person who had taken his money, asking for his help. When I asked if I could keep the records, he told me that they would be safer with his broker. I was given no recourse. When my mother and I went back to find them, of course they were gone.
That’s the charm of Alzheimer’s Disease. Until it has completely wrecked your life, you don’t know it’s there. Other people, the predators of life, pick up on it, and take advantage of it. According to an email from John Hopkins Med Alerts (I’m on their Alzheimer’s list):
“…Today, one in ten people 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease (AD) – about 5 million of us – yet only half of these people have actually been diagnosed with the disease. The rest don’t even know they have it! And it’s estimated that by 2050 as many as 16 million of us will have Alzheimer’s….”
Before we were able to stop him, my father ran up a $9000 bill with his Target Visa. When we started having financial problems, I had a difficult time paying the light bill, let alone the Visa. A year ago, I was able to move some money around and come up with enough to keep the parents going for several years. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of listening to Dave Ramsey. I paid off their credit cards, paid all the debt, and thought we were in good shape. I paid over $7000 on the Target card.
Back in December, the auto payment I was making via my bank was a day late. They added a late charge. I didn’t catch it, because I figured everything was fine, and $55 was going to cover it. The phone calls started, every morning at 8AM. They continued, day after day, four times a day. My sister made the required payment. Then, just trying to keep them alive, after another glitch, we have not paid the bill in about ten weeks. Yes, it’s only about $150, but right now that $150 will pay their power bill. It’s that trying here.
About six weeks, I told the 8AM caller that I would get the payments caught up, when I could. As she could see by my record, I had done just that. “Well, if you don’t, it will damage Albert’s credit and he can’t get another credit card.”
“He’s 89 years old and has Alzheimer’s Disease”
“He might need a new credit card for something. Can I talk to him?”
“He doesn’t even know what day it is.”
“Well, if if you can’t pay, the calls will continue.”
The calls continued, day in and day out, every morning. I work late into the night. Every day, after only about three or four hours sleep, the phone would ring – 10 times. It would ring again at noon, at four in the evening, and at eight at night. Day in and day out. There was no let-up and no mercy. Thanks to following Dave Ramsey’s stupid advice, I had put my parents in a terrible bind.
(Let me digress. Dave Ramsey is a fool. His pay everything off works only if you have an income. If you are dealing with seniors on a very fixed income which is well below the poverty level, it will destroy you. Listening to him destroyed my parents. Too bad I can’t sue the shit out of him.)
So, the calls have continued, day after day, unending. Finally, on Thursday, I picked up the phone and went after the guy, “Well, Albert needs to get credit counseling so the interest payments can be lowered.”
“He is 89 years old and has Stage 4 Alzheimer’s. He doesn’t even know what day of the week it is.”
“But, he needs….”
“Do you know what Alzheimer’s Disease is?”
“Then, maybe you can comprehend that I am doing the best I can.”
“You need to fax a POA so we can work with you and avoid the calls.”
“I did that 18 months ago.”
He paused. “Oh. I see that you did. Evidently the notes for that were on the back of your file.”
I exploded. “Look, I am going to pay the bill, when I can. You can see that I have worked in good faith. That’s the problem with this country today. There is no mercy, no decency, and no humanity. No one gives a damn about anything but squeezing the last bit of money out of someone, who is dependent on his daughters for survival.”
My mother has been harassed by the same calls, every day. Target was told, 18 months ago, not to call their residence because of my father. The calls harass and upset him. The calls continued, day in and day out for months, the same as with me. On Friday morning, there were no calls.
I don’t know what angers me the most, the calls, the harassment, or the fact that I was stupid enough to believe Dave Ramsey.
What I have learned is that people are cruel. They are vicious and merciless, quickly taking advantage of anyone who is not in a position to fight back. I have basically given up on the concept of kindness, mercy, decency, goodness, and basic compassion. It no longer exists in this world. I’m tired of being lied too, cheated, and scammed. I am tired of living in a world where, if you are struggling, or having a financial problem, you are sub-human, worthy of contempt.
I don’t know where to turn. The way of the world won’t allow me to mortgage land we’re trying to sell. The parents’ have several million in real estate up for sale On paper, their real estate portfolio is worth millions. Right now, I don’t know how we’re going to pay the basic bills this month.
You want to talk about stress? I now burst into tears at a moment’s notice. My hair is falling out. I can’t sleep. I have tachycardia. I’ve not known a moment’s peace in 3 years. The other day, we were in a situation where my father spoke to the broker who reinvested his money. The man pretended not to notice the two little, whipped, senior citizens hoping they could get a break. I have learned how to forgive. I just don’t understand how people like that can sleep at night.
So, about 2 year ago, when I went to speak to this man’s replacement, I discovered that their accounts had been deleted. If they had been allowed to remain, like many market investment accounts, their portfolio would have grown with the market. There was nothing, no record, no nothing. I have one brokerage statement to even prove the account existed. I was told, by the replacement broker, that everyone knew my parents were incompetent. I was better off having put in a nursing home, selling what they owned, and walking off to let them die.
And – people want to know why I no longer have any respect or regard for big business or unbridled capitalism. It’s nothing but a euphemism for legalized theft. To keep our parents alive and safe, my sister is living on the edge, at times. I’ll start selling my jewelry next week. I don’t expect to get anything for it. There’s no need. I need money and the bottom-feeders who now populate this country see it as a way to gain some profit.
I keep thinking about my father. He never turned anyone down when they needed help. He was always there to help his family, who would almost drain him at times. When I’ve asked for help for him, doors have been slammed in my face.
That’s life with Alzheimer’s Disease in modern day America. If you are not the 1%, you end up in the gutter, no matter how honest, honorable and decent you have been in life. Our country didn’t start out this way, but that’s what we’ve become. We are a libertarian, profit loving nation of blood sucking emotional and financial vampires who live to gain profit, while destroying those around them. The bitter irony is that these are the very same people who call themselves ‘Christians’.
Do I sound bitter? I’m bitter about a culture in this country who now views people like my parents as ‘Takers’, rather than Makers, even though they have paid millions to the IRS in income taxes – much of it at the 50% bracket. My parents, the takers, have so far, have received about $360K in social security benefits. They have paid millions in taxes. Please, explain why they are now Takers, rather than Makers. They’d still be paying taxes if their money had not been re-routed to server a higher power.
That’s what I resent. I see people like my parents who worked hard, did what was right, and are now getting the shaft because greed is good and the name of the game is making life a living hell for anyone who isn’t playing the Ayn Rand game.
Have we become a nation of fake Christians who now worship a psychopath?
They sure aren’t worshiping Christ.
Since telling the guy from Target that I was going to seek legal recourse against Target for their illegal harassment, my phone has not rang one time, other than normal calls. This means I was getting 4 calls a day on my land line, 4 a day on my cell, my mother was getting 4 a day on her land line, and four a day on her cell from Target Visa. The ones on my cell would start at 8:03, right after the 8AM calls stopped. I think that constitutes harassment.
Early Wednesday morning, The Pink Flamingo finished the second novel of what I hoped will be a murder mystery series. This story involved the elderly, POAs, and how lives are destroyed by predators going after the weak in our culture. It is becoming an epidemic, as the goodness and decency is flushed out of our lives. People no longer care about helping others. It is all about getting rich, no matter who you destroy.
Now Washington wants to tamper with Medicare, evidently putting a cap on what can be paid out for catastrophic events. This is going to have a chilling effect on the elderly. We’re dealing with a libertarian Republican party who can only think about the money they are going to save billionaires who no longer want to pay their taxes.
If they continue this path, thousands of good, honorable senior citizens who have paid their taxes and done what was required of them are going to die.
No one gives a damn.