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Give me all your bank cards

Money, money, money … managing it gets ever more difficult when you have destructive, unhelpful Ms Alzheimer’s as your new partner.

Like most people we don’t use much cash these days. But last week, by chance, we had to collect the cat from the cattery, pay the window cleaner and the garden odd job man, who dug out a couple of small, ugly mini conifers – all within twenty four hours. And they all expect cash.

On the day in question I was rushed off my feet trying to meet deadlines with two features, get the ironing done, take in a supermarket delivery and loads of other things before setting off do a late afternoon magazine interview in north London.  So when My Loved One said “I could walk round to the cash machine and get what we need” I agreed to it.

Of course that was a very stupid decision and I’m now jolly cross with myself. I really ought to know better by now but he sounded sort of grown up when he offered. I had misgivings because I’m well aware how frail he looks and although it was broad daylight, south London is not exactly free of lawlessness. I was therefore pleased to see him home safely a few minutes later.

Then he gave me the receipt and the money. He was £80 short.

I don’t know what happened. There was some confusion about having to take it out in two lots. Perhaps he left it there. Returning to the machine – as you’d expect – was fruitless and the crosser I got the less coherent he became. Then, while I felt ever more remorseful at having lost my temper with him, he spent most of the remainder of the afternoon sitting on the sofa gazing miserably into the distance. “I don’t feel very well” he said, when I pressed him.

Well, infuriating as this is, the loss of £80 is not going to sink the ship but I’ve learned an important lesson: MLO can no longer be “trusted” with money and I need to treat him as if he’s a child of, say, seven. That’s what Ms A does to people – insidiously saps away their adult status.

We have a personal account each and two joint accounts. I have been operating his personal account through Power of Attorney for several months and have now “confiscated” (still a teacher at heart) all his other cards.

“I’ll need that purple one, though won’t I?” he said in confusion. “Yes”, I replied. “You can keep your bus pass. It’s MONEY I’m concerned about.” Cue for vacant, blank look.

Later I went to a bank and withdrew the rest of cash we needed to pay our dues. When I got home I gave him £15 so that if we go into a coffee shop together and he wants to feel gallant, he can pay. Pocket money – literally. I’ll replenish it when it’s gone.

It’s so difficult to safeguard the last vestiges of self-worth in all this. MLO is an adult, until recently perfectly able to manage money, and being treated like a child must be awful although the worst complaint I ever get is: “Oh you’re so bossy”.

And what on earth do I do about Christmas, now on the horizon? Since we first stopped being “just friends” and became a “proper item” in 1967 we have bought each other nice – usually surprise –  Christmas presents every year. There’s nothing either of us needs of course but it’s an enjoyable tradition. Of course I have a present planned for him. But he won’t be able to reciprocate and he’ll fret – especially on Christmas day and Boxing Day when others are exchanging presents.

I expect I shall end up choosing and buying a present for myself using his personal account. I shall then hand it to him to give back to me (maybe wrapped after a fashion if Ms A lets up for an hour or two at some point) on Christmas morning. Seems absolutely daft. But it will allow him to feel like a proper participant – and that matters very much.



Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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