I was probably most use to my mother in the years when she no longer knew who I was.by Andy Davis / April 23, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
It is a strange feeling to read your parent’s bank statements. Few things in our mother’s final years return to me as strongly as the sense that in doing this we had all crossed a line. No part of her independence would now be protected from the gaze of others, and where once these monthly ledgers had recorded her peculiar, patchwork blend of thrift and generosity, from that moment they became something entirely different: a stark, monochrome reckoning of the relentless arithmetic of old age.
As Easter 2010 approached it became clear that our mother, then aged 85, could no longer live safely in the house she shared with our step-father and that she would have to move into a care home. We—my sister and two older brothers—had known for some time that her dementia would eventually lead us to its door but it was only when this moment came that I began to understand the task that we were taking on. My sister held an enduring power of attorney, which had enabled her to help my mother manage her affairs while she was still living at home and meant that when the time came to move her, we could take control immediately and start to figure out where we would find the money to keep her safe and well cared for as the disease crept over her.
It was then that I first peered into the contents of her bank account. I already knew that she had a teacher’s pension coming in, along with her state pension, and it was clear that she could pay her share of the modest outgoings. What struck me, however, were the direct debits. I counted 27 monthly payments to charities of all sorts, including more than one to the Alzheimer’s Society, each relatively small though adding up to a sum that we could no longer spare. But how to make the break? These were causes she had chosen to support and with which she had felt a connection. I couldn’t just cancel them all without warning so I wrote to each of the charities, briefly explaining our mother’s circumstances and informing them that we had no choice but to end her monthly contributions immediately. Perhaps it was a waste of stamps but it felt like the right thing to do and, more importantly, the thing she would have done.