kids and family 

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2019.08.17Mom is Slipping

Image of an elderly woman and her caretaker. Image credit: GIS


I'm losing my mother. Little bit by little bit, call by call. I guess I've suspected this for a little while, but today's call was different.

Just different enough, perhaps, to make it more than perceptible -- different enough to suggest alarm.

A couple of weeks ago she called me to tell me how proud she was that she was able to frustrate a scam artist. She was so happy that she managed to challenge him enough into finally hanging up.

Today I saw the bill -- she may not have fallen for his fake Publisher's Clearinghouse pitch, but she managed to rack up a $140 bill for the call: She doesn't understand that on mobile phones both parties pay to talk; who called whom is meaningless.

When I called her today, I told her about the bill, but I'm not certain she understood what I was saying. I wasn't going to be crass and tell her that she'd blown our budget; she may be 80, but she deserves to be treated with respect. I made my point in a way that approached the boundary but not so subtly that anyone might miss it. She didn't appear to pick it up. She didn't react in a way that suggested she understood me. Arguably, she might have just been hoping the issue would fall to the riverbed of an otherwise flowing conversation, so she might reflect on it later; but I'm uncertain.

I don't want to treat her like a child. Yes, she's 80, and she never worked to understand the technologies that became so common over the past twenty or thirty years: computers and cell phones and Wi-Fi and all remain unexplored. (I found myself explaining yet again the difference between the mobile phone and its service, and what between them is paid for and what is paid as a monthly bill.) Twenty years ago her eyes would just glaze over as I'd try for the umpteenth time to explain what a virus scan was and how to do it.

So my current countermeasure is to enable some protection from my service provider. The good news there is I won't have to install anything on her phone -- it's done through the network. That's a relief.

I guess I'll continue to monitor our conversations in the coming weeks, but today made me feel like I have to explain more and work harder to get points across. I'm hoping she was just mystified by the technology.

During the call she noted that it's hard for her to get around to places outside of her retirement home -- noting that loading her walker into a car is inconvenient. Additionally, she mentioned on the call that she knows she's living in a place where people come to die.

I admit I wasn't prepared to respond.




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