I’ve spoken of my neighbor K before. K is probably in her early 70’s and used to belong to our building book club. She had a wonderful career and after her retirement she started clicking things off her bucket list, and up until two years ago she led a vibrant active life. Two years. What a difference two years makes.

At first you almost didn’t notice the slips, the odd things that she would say or do. It was east to write it off as senioritis, one of those silly slips that unfortunately accompany age. But the odd behavior escalated, the things that she said and did became worse over time. Her dementia growing each passing day.

Her children got her an aide. And they have since upped it to full time care, a series of aides. This is not always helpful as she likes certain aides more than others. Sometimes, she doesn’t let the aides in the apartment, so they sit in the lobby of our building, waiting and hoping they will be able to do their job. Sometimes she forcibly ejects them from her apartment. And sometimes she calls the police on them. Yes, there have been multiple occasions where you enter our apartment lobby to see a few police officers standing in the lobby. In some cases it’s a very good thing that she called the police: last month after she kicked out her aide and called the police, the police realized that she had left the gas on in her oven….

Her behavior and things she says to others has become increasingly bizarre. I will say hello to her and ask how she is when I see her. A few months ago she would go in and out of lucid behavior so there was a 50/50 chance that she would recognize me and greet me. Last week I said “Hi” to her as I entered the elevator. As I pushed my floor button she looked at me and said “Three. Only evil people live on three. You must be evil. Why are you evil?” Her aide just looked at me and made the face of someone who has no idea what to do. I just smiled and said something non committal and luckily got off quickly. I’m an adult and I get that she’s not all there any more. But what if a kid had been in the elevator?

So we have a situation where she doesn’t let her helpers in, leaves the gas on, and 95% of the time she has absolutely no idea what is going on. As neighbors in an apartment building, what do we do?

Management has tried reaching out to her children, of which she has three. Messages have been left, but no calls have been returned. We clearly have a situation that could become dangerous, but are adult children supposed to be responsible for their parents? They’ve hired help, but what happens when that help is not enough?

I have considered calling social services, yet I feel slightly bad about that. I don’t know why exactly, but I guess it’s sort of “one day that could be me” scenario. Is this a case to reach out to authorities? Would authorities even care? Where would crazy senior women fall on their over burdened list of priorities?

What is one to do when faced with a neighbor clearly falling victim to dementia?

 

73 thoughts on “The Worrisome Neighbor

  1. What a difficult situation for everyone. My mom felt herself slipping into dementia and said it was terrifying. Sigh. I don’t have much advice except perhaps the condo board could support building management by also reaching out to the kids. They might have better luck since they are neighbors.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. When a person has slipped so far that they leave the gas on that is most certainly a health and safety issue. For herself and others in the block.
    I don’t know the best way to handle it and just hope that the aids employed by the three children have advised them that they are at times unable to perform their duties because of the erratic behaviour. I would think that’s a law suit waiting to happen if something goes dreadfully wrong.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Oh, I am so sorry to read this. So very sad. But I would call social services or adult protective services right away, as your poor neighbor clearly fits the definition of a potential harm to herself or others. Leaving the gas on is solid evidence of that. Next time there could be an explosion. Her children will definitely return a call from social services, despite the fact that they’ve failed to return other calls. She may need to be in a memory care unit, where she can’t have access to gas stoves and where her medication could be adjusted so that she is comfortable, not agitated and not calling people evil. If her children have the means to hire full-time aides, they most likely have sufficient resources to place her in a facility where she will be cared for and not able to injure herself or anyone else. I am all too familiar with this sad saga; we buried my father-in-law in July. He had a long and agonizing descent into dementia.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I’m afraid if the kids won’t respond you will have to contact social services for everyone’s safety. That is what they are there for. You aren’t trying to cause trouble. She could set the building on fire or wander off. My father-in-law had dementia and it was the saddest thing ever. My poor husband was devastated. I was devastated when my own dad died suddenly of cancer at a young age, but it was less painful for everyone than a slow death be dementia. 😦 They get really upset and confused. They must be taken care of.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I understand the kids wanting to pretend it doesn’t exist, but really, it’s a big accident waiting to happen. I feel bad about the need to call, but I also wonder what the response will be

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      1. Really you’d think the caregivers would have to report it by law . Is there some way they can not let her lock them out ? Someone should be there 24/7. Maybe it’s the caregivers not doing their job ?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. No one is allowed to enter her apartment if she doesn’t allow it. That includes building staff as well as her caretakers. She’s called the police and said they were trespassers. As they’re not in the lease, they can be denied entry

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  5. Maybe you could talk to one of the aides to find what company they work for and then call the head of that company and voice your concerns. Maybe they would pass them onto the children. How sad to throw money at a situation and do nothing with your heart. I would call SS. Something needs to be done. Maybe it’s the only way to get the children involved. You have to look out for yourself and the other people in your building. Good.luck. this issue is a tough one.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. This is so sad. Dementia is so hard on the person and on those who love them. I would say that it is time for some intervention, for leaving gas on is dangerous! And like you said, what if a kid would have been in the elevator? I think her children need to be told that either they have to make sure an aide is with her all the time or they might have to look at different living arrangements for her. For she is not only putting herself in danger but all of you who live in the building. I hope the children can understand how serious the matter is and work out something for their Mom.

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    1. I don’t understand their total reluctance to get more involved in this. But it comes down to is it a child’s responsibility to take care of an aging parent

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      1. I wonder if their reluctance has more to do with trying to live in denial about her dementia.
        I do think it is their responsibility. It goes full circle. Our parents take care of us and then they get to the point where they need taken care of. Some more than others and it’s sad and it can be hard work but they are our parents! Look at the Chinese culture and how they take care of their old. They have such respect for the elderly.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. You have touched upon a very important issue. It is nice of you to be concerned about your senior neighbour. Aging proceeds differently for each of us, and, as you say, it is unpredictable sometimes.
    Often we think that a seniors’ children should be looking out for them, but that is not always the case. I will pray for this dear neighbour, and her family. And I hope that if I reach a stage where I am in need in assistance, neighbours will be concerned for me.
    Thanks for sharing this post. 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know, I didn’t even consider the window thing. We receive a notice every January that asks if we have children under ten, because then you must by law have window guards. But maybe we should consider that seniors may need them too

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Absolutely. My poor dad was insistent about getting a license for a new motorcycle he wanted to buy..while in assisted living, with early dementia. If he thought he could drive, your neighbor may think she can fly. Their brains just aren’t thinking right at that point.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. A heartbreaking situation.
    I suspect the responsible thing to do is call social services. Perhaps a safe solution can be reached with the help of outside resources.
    As long as you anything you do is out of kindness, I don’t believe it’s the wrong thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Social responsibility has come to your door. We all have our comfort levels I think when it comes to leaving others alone to their own private worlds, but the line has been crossed at this point with the gas issue. I don’t see this as a choice anymore, but as a necessity for her and for your entire building and surrounding neighbors. This really isn’t a sit back and hope the family comes through situation. The right thing is for someone responsible and mature to step up and initiate the process.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. It is a very difficult situation for sure. My mom has been in failing health (not dementia but she has had other medical conditions) for the last two years and we (my 2 sisters and I) realize that she can no longer live safely alone. I have no room in my house as I still have two kids here and one of my other sisters is not in the best health herself so going there is not an option either but our other sister just moved into a house with room to have our mom live with her. I definitely believe that it goes full circle and that we need to be mindful of our parents. I mean, if the kids are aware of your neighbor’s condition enough to hire caretakers, could they not be held liable if something happens? Such a hard situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Unless you know the entire family personally, there is no knowing what kind of relationship her kids have with her. The assumption that it is their responsibility to take care of her may be entirely misplaced. That said, responsibility or not, if they aren’t doing anything and you genuinely feel this person is potentially a danger to herself or others, then a call to social services is warranted. It really isn’t any different than calling the police when you see a crime being committed.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. It is a very sad situation and I wish more people cared as you do. You can talk to social services for advice, sometimes they will have a social worker assigned to her, but the big problem with dementia as I have witnessed is that the more different people that are involved the more confused they get and more paranoid. I am sure her kids are doing what they think is best but if they haven’t seen her they may not realize how far she has digressed. We all have a responsibility to our fellow human beings but she needs an advocate.

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  13. Sigh…I don’t know how to react to that situation but the fire/gas thing is preoccupying.

    We had an elderly lady live next door to our house in her own house even after she was barely capable of walking. One day she came out to get the bins the garbage truck left on the sidewalk, in her housecoat, in winter (in Canada) and she fell and looked like she got beat up, so easily bruised. Garbage men called an ambulance, as no one could help her, she was so severely frail and injured. Funny thing is, we had arranged before hand that we would bring the bins in and spoke to her adult daughter about that, but the neighbour didn’t have little toddlers keeping her busy so she sat at the window and grew increasingly agitated that the bins were still on the sidewalk and I wasn’t getting them immediately. I didn’t even see her go out, much less fall, until I heard the ambulance and saw the lights flashing out of my peripheral vision…

    Ugh.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. My father passed away last May after a 3 year battle with Alzheimer’s, dementia is a truly awful disease robbing a person of both their personality and the person the once were.

    My mother is fiercely independent and cared for my father in his last years but there came a point when she could cope no more. At that point my sibling and I stepped in and began the process of looking into care homes etc, if truth be told a family friend gently reminded me that my mother wasn’t coping well which nudged me into being more proactive. In my humble opinion when someone is both a danger to themselves and others then it’s time for the children to step up………… 🙂 hope that helps.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. My great-aunt and -uncle lost everything they owned when someone in their retirement home left something on and burned the entire building to the ground. This women needs to be in a facility or living with full-time care that she can’t boot out for her safety and everyone else’s. If management won’t call SS, then I hope you can do so.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I think if you are wondering if you should call social services, you probably should. They can check on the situation and assess whether she should be living on her own. It’s not really your call…it’s theirs, and you may be saving lives in the process.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Oh dear, this is very sad. I’m not sure the best way to handle this- I think it’s understandable if you phone social services, since there’s a safety issue and you can’t get hold of the kids. Maybe in the long run there’s a way for the kids to communicate with the management not to lock the aides out if they’ve come to help her? I’m not sure. I just feel bad for everyone involved.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. For the safety of your neighbor and EVERYONE in your building, you should call health and human services. She sounds like she is ready to be in a more supervised home.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Speaking as an adult child who struggled with her Mum’s decline into dementia (she’s in England and I’m here in Australia), it was really tough! Mum’s denial and stubborness was the hardest thing to deal with, and she kept threatening to commit suicide if we put her in a Home… but after 4 years of struggle, getting more and more daily aides (up to 5 by the end), she was found wandering in the middle of the road by the police, and so Social Services HAD to intervene (instead of just ‘keeping an eye on her’). Call them ASAP. They will contact the children etc. My Mum is now in an aged-care/dementia Home by the seaside in Wales, is fed/warm/clothed etc, goes on outings, sings in their choir, enjoys the resident dog, and even has a kind of ‘boyfriend’ who’s also resident there… so be brave and intervene LA. Blessings, G

    Liked by 2 people

  20. That’s so sad, and so very difficult for the neighbors. I don’t understand why her children aren’t responding, because those aides aren’t cheap so clearly they know she’s in need of help. But if she is becoming a danger to herself and others, then I do think I’d call social services. They may or may not help, but at least they have experience in this sort of thing.

    Liked by 2 people

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