Saturday, August 16, 2008

Miss Jessie update

For those unfamiliar with her, Miss Jessie is my next door neighbor. In March she turned 96. She still lives alone - a widow these past 20 some odd years - no children. Her sole living relative is actually not a blood relative, it is the niece of her late husband.

This niece is a piece of work. She visits MAYBE twice a year for an hour or less. To make things easier when Miss Jessie passes away she has been added to both the checking account and the deed of the house and will inherit any assets Miss Jessie may have at the time of her death. This will not be a lot. Miss Jessie lives on about $600/month social security and the tiny bit she has scraped together as savings is intended for her death and burial costs so as not to be a burden on her niece. I have kept this niece in the loop when I think she needs to be (rats, bugs, missing checks, inch thick grease on every surface of the kitchen) and she is totally not interested. Oh I am sure she will take a day off and show up for the funeral and cry big crocodile tears and wail and moan but up until that day she has no interest.

Up until a few years ago Miss Jessie still mowed her own yard and did all the trimming and upkeep but she is no longer able to do this. She always talked about people she knew who had "gone into a home" and vowed she would never do that. In the past several months she has begun to ask me about how it works when you go into a home. I have not a clue. Her niece has told her that to do this you have to sign over all your social security benefits and it costs a lot and she should just come move in with her. But she also has spent the past 10 years doing nothing but telling Miss Jessie she can't come visit because she is working 2 jobs and caring for her own invalid mother and has a child in college and that is why she doesn't even have the time to come visit, even though she passes within 5 miles of Miss Jessie's house every day on her daily commute. She is just now burdened beyond belief and just doesn't have the time because she has her own things to take care of. So Miss Jessie refuses to be a burden on this niece by moving in and yet the niece will do nothing about looking into retirement homes.

Miss Jessie's legs have been bothering her but she will not see a doctor because she doesn't want to be a bother to anyone. I tell her she has paid for her medicare coverage long ago and seeing a doctor is not a burden on anyone. I have told her I will drive her. She refuses and the other day admitted her legs are "coming along" because she has been taking some kind of pill that was left over from her husband (who has been dead at least 20 years, possibly closer to 30). I will certainly take an aspiring up until about 6 months after the expiration date but I think after 20 - 30 years things break down and change and possibly become toxic.

Yesterday she called in a panic because she received notices from both the newspaper and the electric company that they had not received her payment last month. She is certain that the checks were stolen out of her mailbox. I have told her over and over to call me when she has outgoing mail and I will take it to the post office for her - that it is not safe to put these things in her mailbox - but she doesn't want to bother me. I am certain that the bills are stamped and ready for mailing and lost in the clutter of her house. She can not remember 30 seconds ago so there is no reason for me to think anything other than that she dutifuly wrote out the checks, put them in the envelope, stamped them, and then they got lost in the multiple piles of paper in her house because she refuses to throw away any junk mail. Because they all have her address on them. I bought her a shredder a few years ago so she would not have to cut out her address and name prior to throwing them away but she does not get that particular bit of technology and will not use it. I paid most of her electric bill last month because last year another friend and I purchased 2 window AC units (she has never had central air) and the increase on her bill is a burden to her. The other friends is making a payment on it this month. So I went next door to talk to her - she does not hear well over the phone (or in person for that matter). I mentioned to her that she needed to call her bank on Monday and tell them the check numbers of the two checks that went missing so they could stop payment and after she did this she needed to add the amount of those checks back into the balance in her checkbook. This made her extremely confused and I told her I would write it all down for her and I would even call the bank for her but I have no business asking her to turn over her private checkbook so I can do it for her. Do I? I walked back next door to my house and when I walked in the phone was ringing and it was Miss Jessie asking if I would write this all down for her because she just can't "rememberize" the way she used to. I promised her I would.

It is so clear to me that this is a situation I can not possibly handle on my own. I don't know what to do. Her house is truly a junk pile because she can no longer keep up with it. If you touch any surface in her kitchen it is sticky with grease and filthy and not fit for a human. The bugs live on it and she is infested with them. Her niece sends out a dubious exterminator for the bugs about once a year but it does no good. I am fairly certain that if the health department inspected they would condemn the house. Last year I found a dead, dried up rat in a corner of her kitchen.

I have contacted the niece before and told her the situation and what others have been trying to do for Miss Jessie to pick up the slack and her niece started talking about reimbursing me and all the others for the time and money we have put in to help this wonderful woman. I told her I was not interested a fucking bit in any money and could care less about it but that Miss Jessie now needed more help than any of us is able to give by trimming her hedges or bringing her groceries or installing a couple of window AC units so she doesn't die from heat stroke. She didn't get it and will not get it.

So now a dilemma. Do I call a government agency and ask them to intervene? This house should be demolished upon her death if not before - at the very least it will have to be gutted and entirely rebuilt if it is to be sold and I can't stand the thought of her living in it especially since she can't keep up with it. I have tried to get her church to band together for a thorough cleaning and purging but they seem to only be interested in her on Sundays when she brings a check to church with her.

She simply can no longer function on her own and this is so clear to me and to a handful of other people who regularly try to check in on her but it seems our hands are tied. I guess I should not be so upset about this but I am 46, single, no children and no plans to be anything other than this and if I am lucky I will get to be 96 one day and need to rely on others for some things. I want to take care of her as best I can but I can't do everything and I am honestly at a loss here.

I don't get many comments and that is fine because mainly I write this blog to work it out in my own head and I would rather key than write in a longhand journal but if anyone has input I would greatly appreciate it. I need guidance here folks.

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