Life is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans


Here we are, eight months after my mother was struck by an inattentive driver while in her car. During this time, she has received very little cognitive treatment due to a variety of complicating factors. The two main issues are, 1.) she is was a self-employed psychologist in private practice, thus her health insurance was not very good; and 2.) her auto insurance company, Citizens, is fighting paying on the claim every step of the way.

The insurance side of things is infuriating; I thought the paid experts in the companies’ pockets was exaggerated for television and movies, but that’s not the case. It’s a nightmare for people trying to obtain benefits for traumatic brain injury.

Because she has no short-term memory buffer, life is difficult, at best. Her symptoms are varied, and include the inability to focus or read, extreme pain in her ankle and foot, lower back pain, and, perhaps most fascinatingly, the inability to actually see certain symbols and objects. It’s not that she sees them and doesn’t know what they are – she cannot see they are there. She’ll be seeing a behavioral ophthamologist for this soon.

She has melted two pans she forgot were on the stove. She has been driving for short distances, because she forgets she’s not supposed to, and became lost no Thanksgiving after dark.

Her best friend is in the terminal stages of breast cancer. Her other friend is somewhat aged herself and not easily available. She has younger twin sisters who live across the country, only with one of whom is she on speaking terms. She has pretty much alienated the rest of the world.

The law firm assisting Mom arranges for a cab company to take her to and from her many appointments with physical therapists and assorted other doctors. Sometimes the cab company forgets to pick her up, or they are late, or they leave her at the doctors’ offices for hours after dark. It breaks my heart to think of her standing in the cold, outside a closed office building.

Until I can extricate myself from work, which may take a month or two, Dad will be helping out with Mom’s transport. I’m extremely grateful for his help, especially since he is going through something similar with his father, who is in fairly advanced dementia and who has other major health issues.

The insurance company is trying to assert this is early-onset dementia not precipitated by the accident – this is complete bullshit. One day, Mom had memory, the ability to speak normally, write checks and carry on a normal conversation. After the accident, everything changed radically.

As her only child, responsibility now falls to me to take care of her. After lengthy and careful consideration, I have decided to take care of Mom full-time. All she can do is sit in her house, watch television and talk to her dog. Her brain is rotting – she needs more activity and stimulation.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I have not been happy with my career in information technology and have been looking for a change. It looks like I’ve found it, although certainly not what I was looking for.

Mom and I have not spoken much in the last two years, which suited each of us just fine. We have massive issues. One result of her current condition is the person I have those issues with is largely gone. She doesn’t recall a lot of what drove us apart.

She is simply a person in dire need of company and help, who is stuck in a somewhat childlike state. The prognosis is completely up in the air. With proper cognitive rehabilitation, she could recover some, most or all or none of her faculties. The low-rent “specialists” she has seen thus far have said they cannot help her – her inability to focus and remember is beyond their treatment capabilities. She needs to go to a cognitive rehab facility, which is not covered by her insurance (Physician’s Health Plan.)

In theory, Citizens Auto Insurance should now pick up the expenses for those facilities – but we have to bombard them with documentation that their “independent expert” is completely full of crap. Our attorneys are fairly confident they can make this happen, but cannot say anything with certainty.

We hope they will pay me for my time assisting Mom. It will be at a pretty low hourly wage, and of course there are no benefits. I will have few days off, ever.

It’s not a decision I arrived at lightly – in fact, I was hugely resistant to the idea at first. It’s going to take a great deal of patience on my part, a great deal of compassion. I hope we can forge a different relationship through the process, though.

Today, I’m trying to focus on positive aspects of this change – no longer working with computers, for instance. Having more downtime, even if that downtime is spent in the company of my mother. I’ll feel more comfortable knowing she’s being taken care of and is eating well.

Everything happens for a reason, or so they say, and I am inclined to think this (or a variation of it) is true. Be that reason imposed by the universe or a deity figure, or be it our human minds ascribing meaning after the fact, it will be a learning experience. There will be a path through this, and we will find it.

My plans are to get her more engaged with the world – take her to museums, parks, support groups – whatever we can think of. We can play brain games together. I can teach her how to knit, perhaps, or we could do other craft things together to help calm her mind, help her to focus on tasks at hand.

Her neuropsychologist has given me some tools to help get us through potential conflicts, and will be there in an ongoing role to assist as needed. We have really wonderful people on our side, including the paralegal at her law firm, who goes above and beyond the call of duty every day for Mom.

This morning, Mom, Dad and I met with a different attorney in the same office to begin setting me up as Mom’s guardian and conservator. This means I’ll be in charge of Mom’s finances and life decisions. It’s a responsibility I knew would fall to me “someday,” but I certainly hadn’t expected it so soon. Alas, and so it goes.

The ladies at the library have all been wonderful and compassionate. I’m sad to leave them, especially since we were all settling into familiarity and ease with each other after these few months. I’ll miss them and hope we find a replacement for me who is a good match.

I have many thoughts from the emotional/daughter perspective, but wanted to get a baseline post out here for my own record.

The simple truth of the matter is this: I know nothing would stop her from helping me were our situations reversed.

Wish me luck and patience, friends; I will surely need it.

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12 responses to Life is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans

  1. Hope

    Oh hon. I’m so sorry. I’m afraid I somehow managed to not hear about the accident when it happened, or it slipped my mind… but I’m so sorry.

    My mom used to work as a nurse case manager for HMOs dealing largely in TBIs. If you like, I can ask her if she might be able to offer any help in dealing with the insurance companies. Let me know.

    In the meantime, I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you begin this new journey together.

  2. Mel

    You will need it. You’ll also need to remember to take care of yourself and schedule time off so that you can recharge your batteries a bit. The brain is an incredibly strange and inscrutable organ, but it does have the capacity to heal, often beyond expectations. Hopefully that will be your mother’s experience, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a long, hard road.

  3. Andrew

    Very touchy blog Erin. I hope the best of luck to you and your mom. It’s a tough job, I’m sure you’ll gain something from it.

  4. Kirby Adams

    Whether you believe in prayer or not, I believe it helps and I’m doing it for you, your mom, Mike, and everyone else involved.

    Call if you need anything…and all those other things friends don’t really need to say…

  5. Tammy Coxen


    I have great empathy for you, having gone through experiences similar to this myself with my mom’s stroke. I had to get over my mother-daughter issues and do what was right and important. I still feel bad that I didn’t do more, so kudos to you for embracing the selflessness.

    May luck and patience be with you, my friend. And with your mother.


  6. Kirby Adams

    On a lighter note, when I popped in here again, the ad above the post was a Geico banner. Fitting, perhaps.

  7. I deeply admire you, and hope that your Mom can regain what the accident took, and what the insurance companies seem to think it isn’t all that important to get back.

  8. Erin D.

    Thanks very much, everyone, for your kind thoughts. It seems many of my friends have gone through something similar – I suppose many more will as time marches on.

    This is me, trying to focus on the positive stuff. 🙂

  9. My god… I’m sorry, too, Erin. I don’t know what to say… but I hope your efforts increase your Mom’s quality of life and that you can find a new, better relationship. I love the photos you posted in this; especially the last one of you. I never saw that one. It’s so compassionate of your Dad to be helping; I’m really impressed by that. =o) I wish I were back in Michigan so we could hang again!

  10. benny

    I love you. You are absolutely amazing.

  11. Erin D.

    Thanks Lis – I often wish you were closer, too!

    And thanks Benny, too – love you back, though I am so far from amazing.

  12. Robbie

    I don’t remember if I told you this previously (damn dain bramage) but I have a standing rx to play “all the Tetris and Bejeweled (I)you can stand”. Since my stroke I have very limited short term memory, too and the pattern recognition/acquisition things are supposed to help. I can certainly tell the difference between a ‘slow brain’ and a ‘fast brain’ day. Ping me if you ever want to chat.

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