Judy has long stated her wishes of remaining in her home as long as possible, wishes that are now being violated.
Here is Judy, on the day her Genesis United Methodist Church celebrated her lifetime of contributions to the Church. It was difficult to choose a picture; narrowed down to this one, or the same smile pedaling her three-wheeler. Judy gave to her Church in many ways, youth group leader, Sunday school teacher, sitting on the West Michigan Conference Board of Directors, one term overseeing all real estate transactions, one term as Chairwoman of the Board. On this day, they honored her for all that, and for being a founding member of the Church where this photograph was taken. The plaque given that day hangs on the wall to the left in the photograph, by the other three; "Bill and Judy Erickson, founding members". Judy has Alzheimer's now, and while memory is affected, her love of life remains, as shown here.
(Please bear with me, for a short Dr. Phil story, tacky, but needed background.) Many years ago, Bill and Judy set up a trust, and put the older kids in 1st and 2nd place, as is customarily done. A few years ago, Judy wanted the Trust changed, telling her son she didn't believe he would look out for her best interests, an insight which has proven to be true. Recently, on a weekend with her daughter, her leg got broke. While in rehab, her son pushed to have her put her in a home. This is against her stated wishes, wishes she has expressed to her siblings many times, and re-expressed by her siblings below. I'm the son who has taken care of her for the last 7 years, with little help from her other children, and am willing to continue, but Judy needs your help.
Alzheimer's is not an inability to think, instead, it is difficulty with processing, especially shorter term memory. Judy has accepted the disease, carrying on, with acceptance and grace into that dark night; she is an insipiration to all that know her. I compare Alzheimer's to child development, only backwards. At the root for good parenting and Alzheimer's care is respect for autonomy; developing it for the child, and retaining for those with the disease. For too many people with Alzheimer's, others take control, often innocently, sometimes less so, with raising kids as the schemata. The very young child needs one on one care and attention, as do those with the disease. Care facilities and sitting services, whether for profit or not, simply do not offer the one on one care needed. Recall that first day of school? Recall the conflict between letting go, yet being greatful for, finally, some time to oneself?
This fundraiser is to help Judy get back to her home, where she longs to be. To paraphrase Warren Zevon "Send Lawyers, Love, and Money, to get her out of this." Judy needs money to fight back, and I've enlisted a top notch firm, but am not in a position to fund the cause. In this case, funds for a Lawyer are much the same as funds for a Doctor, they both bring betterment for the recipient. So many times, Judy has gazed out the window, saying, "We are so fortunate to live here." She loves her home, it brings her bliss, glee, and joy. Please help bring her home.
Below are two sections. The first is an update recently sent describing details of the very ugly situation that developed. After that are letters of recommendation for me, Paul, the orginazer of this fundraiser, from Judy's siblings and my boss.
UPDATE AND REPORT ON HISTORY OF JUDY’S CARE
BY PAUL MEEK
March 4, 2015
Mark and Martha have placed Judy in Sunrise of Cascade, an assisted living facility southeast of Grand Rapids MI. The move was against her stated wishes and against any real need. Prior to the move, they wasted $30,000 of Judy’s money by keeping her unnecessarily at the rehab place for an extra month and a half, when she could have been at home with her caregivers there. The placement in Sunrise nearly emptied a checking account, with more costs to follow. This insanity has got to stop.
I am offering to you an explanation/understanding letter. I need to explain Mark’s and Martha’s behavior, which will sound like a lot of dirty family laundry, but you need the history to understand why Mark and Martha act the way they do.
After Bill passed away, Judy became forgetful and asked me to live with her and help her manage her affairs. Also, she and two of her sisters visited her lawyer to try to get legal authority for me to manage her interests, rather than Mark, who had assumed the authority by default after Jimbo declined to serve under a past agreement. Mark opposed the effort to give me authority and has been my adversary for years since then. But I have served according to Judy’s wish until very recently.
As you know, Judy fell and fractured her leg while visiting Martha. After a repair Martha took her to the rehab place, with Medicare support there for a time. Then Judy was kept there at the cost I mentioned above, in order to prevent her return home for continued care, as before, by her caregivers and me.
At the rehab place I made a video of Judy in a lucid moment, telling how Martha bumped her hard, causing the broken leg. Yes, that sounds sick; and, if true, it is. One time before the leg-breaking incident Martha was with Judy and brought her home with an injured knee. Martha casually said, “Her knee is bothering her, so I gave some ibuprofen,” and Martha left. Well, Judy’s knee hurt for several weeks—It was more than just “bothering her.” I got her an elastic knee support, and that helped. I figured Martha had just not helped Judy get in or out of the car, which is a bit up in the air. Now, I’m not so sure. So here is the video, where Judy explains how Martha broke her leg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivCIir7ndfU
Now, this is not the first time Judy said something about Martha breaking her leg. Let me digress a bit and come back. When Judy was admitted to the rehab place, I had the home health aides that were coming to the house show up there, on their previous schedule. The rehab place pretty much leaves folks in their room, or places them by the nurse station so they will see people moving about. The nurses don’t have a lot of time to interact with the patients while sitting at the station, but the better ones will make efforts. I did not want Judy to be left alone, so that is why I had the home health aides come in. I came in in the morning around 9:00 am and stayed until 1:00 when they arrived. I came back at 6:00 when their shift ended. I also asked the Genesis church folks if some would volunteer to come in at 7:30-8:00 and have breakfast with Judy. For several weeks, they did step up for weekdays. On the weekends, I arrived at breakfast time and stayed until 9:00 pm, 13 hours a day. Back now to the point. When one of the aides wheeled Judy to the dinner table and someone asked what happened, Judy blurted out, “Martha tripped me.” The aide, by law, had to report it.
Someone from Adult Protective Services came in to investigate. (This worker will prove to be an important part of the situation; more in a bit.) When the worker came to the rehab place, I was there and left the room while she talked to Judy. She then talked to me. At the time I did say that I didn’t think Martha was capable of such an act, an attitude that has since changed. The worker told me this story would probably not go anywhere, because of the Alzheimer’s, and she left. I believe she then went to talk to Martha and I believe but do not know, Mark. Now, this worker has probably seen a lot of ugly behavior in her line of work. When she went to see Martha, she bought Martha’s story, hook, line, and sinker. Martha’s story? Well, I must digress again.
I asked all of Judy’s siblings if they would watch a conversation via email between Mark, Martha, and me. You see, Mark and Martha are bullies and have been gossiping and attacking me for the last six and one half years since I moved in with Judy to be a caregiver. Jimbo, our oldest brother, said about Mark’s domineering behavior, “He always has been a bully. Whoever talks fastest and longest is right. Sometimes he talks so fast he drools on himself.” I have seen Mark talk non-stop to his kids for 30 minutes or more. I timed him once doing this to Judy, 65 minutes. Uncle Art experienced this once, when Mark complained about me “living there for free.” Uncle Art called Mark’s phone call “being harangued.” Mark has attacked me for not paying rent. When I tell people this, their question is, “Doesn’t he understand how much money you are saving your mom?” He puts me down to make himself look better. Well. After the six and one half years of attacks, I wanted the conversation to be in the open, to require civil behavior. I wrote, in part, the following e-mail (remember, broadcast to all Aunts and Uncles);
"Mark and Martha, could you supply a schedule of when you can show up? I would rather not be around either of you. That is how that works, victims don't like being around the bully, and the bully likes nothing more than having a victim around. Knowing when will make a better atmosphere for mom. I feel I have to ask in front of all mom's siblings... because another tactic of the bully is isolation, and I am preempting that tactic. If you decide not to cooperate, that is your choice, but anonymity is no longer an option."
As you can imagine, being exposed really upset Mark and Martha. They put a lot of effort into making themselves look good. This upset Martha so much she cooked up the following scheme, which became the story she told the Adult Protective Services worker.
Martha came into the rehab place on Sunday, Nov 30th. She and I had a “discussion,” she got within inches of my face, telling me she “did not have to answer” to me, taunting me. I left the room, and she called the police, claiming I assaulted her, and I got arrested that night. (Still haven’t gone to court yet.) You should see the lies and exaggerations she told the cop, and later, maybe, the Adult Protective Services worker. These are quotes from the police report: “She has been physically and emotionally abused by him for the past 53 years,” and “She also worries that because he is currently unemployed the stress is piling up in his life, and she feels his mental and emotional state is spiraling out of control and he will not be able to control it should a next time happen,” and “Paul has …, ordered Martha and Mark to contact him prior to any visits with their mother...for quite some time…” You saw the e-mail---I didn’t “order” them, and the e-mail was two days prior, not “quite some time” and that my job at the college ended for loss of its funding six weeks earlier. Plus, I have sold thousands of dollars of bicycle parts on eBay—hardly unemployed, hardly enough time to “spiral out of control;” and she claims I began physically and emotionally abusing her when I was two years old and she was a babe in her mother’s arms. She is a very skilled liar. Well, it is now my assumption Martha did not want anyone to find out what really happened to Judy, so she cooked up this story to get me out of the way. Well, I believe the State worker bought it. When I asked the worker to look at the video of Judy explaining what happened, she refused to look at it, thinking, I believe, I was retaliating against Martha. In full disclosure, she did say she talked to Judy, got different responses, and therefore didn’t think it worth pursuing. However, she is not an expert on Alzheimer’s, not an expert in occasional lucid recall, nor an expert in medicine. And she has seen a lot of weird behavior in her line of work. I believe she drank Martha’s Kool Aid, believed her lies and attacks against me, and took the easy way out. In the court hearing to appoint a guardian she submitted to the court, through the guardian ad litem, that I was against medication for Judy while at the rehab place. This is outright falsehood. I was for medication and advocated getting Judy a corticosteroid shot for her back, something that lasts a year and was needed again (first dose 2013 had worn off). I didn’t want pain from her back to be confused with pain from her leg. I did ask the rehab place to reduce the narcotic as soon as possible, as Judy looked at me one day and said, “I don’t feel like myself.” Think about that, it is quite a statement of cognitive awareness for someone with Alzheimer’s.
The rehab place ignored my many requests, flat out letting Judy have pain that could have been ameliorated. Another thing, the investigator based her filing for the appointment of a guardian on financial mismanagement. This is very important for several reasons that I will digress to mention after a moment---This is what she said in her report, as quoted by the guardian ad litem: “Paul has no income of his own and it is believed that he is taking advantage of his mother.” This is an outright lie. The hearing was on Jan. 28. On Jan 21, I e-mailed her the following, “I have almost $20,000 in sales for the last three years on eBay. I have a subscription store front. If you would like to see my store, my store name is spaulmeek. Please do not let my brother or sister know this fact---it is none of their business. I share it with you, so if they make put-down remarks about my eBay activities, you will have the background necessary to see their comments as attacks.” (Mark has deprecated my eBay activities as “selling junk.” A handle bar for $866 and a fork for $975, for two examples, are not junk.) Twice the worker flat out lied, the pain reference and no income.
Now for the digression I mentioned. Mark and Martha could not say I was not providing a loving and safe home for Judy. In fact, letters from Judy’s siblings fully supported that I was, indeed, providing a loving home, and making sure she had home aides come in as the disease progressed. I made sure she had social interactions like her bridge club, I took her to church 36 times in 2014 (out of 45 for the year---she was in the rehab for the rest), and went out daily with the home health aides. I took her camping. And I took her when I visited a friend that is also in an elder care situation. His mom and Judy looked forward to these visits. What Mark and Martha did was to find something, anything, to say to get the guardianship process started. So, they chose financial misconduct. The guardian ad litem report quotes Mark, and here is the quote from the hearing: “He (Mark) is not aware of any specific information regarding his mother’s finances, but he does believe his brother, Paul Meek, has been misappropriating funds from her accounts.” No, he did not have “specific information,” but that did not stop him from making allegations, a tactic he has been doing for years now, gossiping, attacking, saying things behind my back. That is all he had to do to get the court involved, say maybe. Then the State of Michigan steps in with their lawyers, and Mark and Martha don’t have to spend any of their money---they just use the system for their purpose. What I mean by that is they have for 6 ½ years now, since I stepped up to take care of Judy, tried to get her into an institutional home. That has been their goal. So, where did they get the idea that all they had to do was suggest something to get a court involved? My two guesses are maybe from the state worker, someone with intimate knowledge of how the system works, or maybe from the rehab place advisers, who also know the system details. Mark and Martha were in communication with both sources.
The primary cause of conflict about Judy’s situation is the adversarial stance against me, produced from narcissism and unearned pride on the part of Mark and Martha. If you are not familiar with narcissism, I suggest you go to the Mayo Clinic website and learn about it. Following are some highlights;
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism...If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don't receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having "the best" of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care...At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection. Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
I know people feel uncomfortable when asked to psychoanalyze someone else, and I am not making a diagnosis, or asking you to do so. However, I do know them both, and in my humble opinion, Mark and Martha red-line each criteria. I believe, if you know them at all, you'll see some or much of the below.
DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:
Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Exaggerating your achievements and talents
Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
Requiring constant admiration
Having a sense of entitlement
Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
Taking advantage of others to get what you want
Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Being envious of others and believing others envy you
Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Interesting that, before Judy's diagnosis, I was close to both of them and they hated each other, often complaining about the above features. This would explain, on the one hand, anger at “living there for free,” and thinking Judy needs to be in a home. He refuses to recognize Judy's needs and feelings, her desire to live in her own home, and reacts with rage and contempt toward me by belittling me just to make himself appear superior. Judy told Mark she wanted the trust changed because she didn't think he would act in her best interest. Instead of manning up and admitting failure, he began attacking me. Sorry for the dirty family laundry list, but with explanation comes understanding, which was my stated goal.
If Mark and Martha get their way, the results will be premature confinement, a shorter lifetime and a less happy one for Judy, and, of course, a major loss from her estate. No more tricycle rides for Judy, no more camping, no more Genesis church, no more bridge club, no more feeding the birds on the deck, no more gazing out the window and saying, “we are so fortunate to live here,” no more planting flowers, no more gathering rocks, no more getting herself a cookie because she wants one, no more long term memory prompts, no more Dr. Phil, no more Click and Clack, no more pick up the phone and call a sibling or friend, no more Carol Burnett videos, no more family reunions, no more visits with Teresa (Martha's ex, whom Judy said she likes more than Martha). Instead, group bus rides to the Dairy Queen and Bingo. This insanity has got to stop.
Letters from Judy's brother and sisters, and my boss
Jan. 5, 2015
I have listened to input about Judy's care and mentally sorted through all information. I am in agreement with other family members that Judy should remain living at home for as long as possible. This is what I feel Judy wants also.
The most impressive thing you have done is structure a Recognition Sunday at Judy's church for her. When you felt members of the church weren't making conversation with Judy during the coffee hour following the Sunday service, you came up with a plan. If members who were not members when this branch of the church was started knew how important Judy was in starting this church, it would open up conversation. This gave her the respect and recognition she deserved.
I think that Judy’s wishes are to remain in her own home. When she was more able to let us know her thoughts, she was content that Paul would move in and be there with her. On a recent trip to visit Caldwells in Auburn, Judy shared with us how she enjoyed sitting in the den watching Paul work on his bicycle projects and other things that Paul was doing. On the way home, she kept buying things such as a decorated cookie to take home to Paul. You could see that they have a close relationship.
Paul stepped up to move in with her, which her other children were not in a position to do at that time. Paul takes her to bridge club and to her church. If she was in a facility, she would have to give both of them up. He brought her to Cadillac for Larry’s visitation, and the following day, he made the trip back to Cadillac for the celebration of Larry’s life at Larry’s house. He brings her to Cadillac for her class reunions every year, and he brought her to Jennifer’s house last year on Christmas day for dinner. He has the day care workers spend hours with her while he is at work, and he plans outings for them to have her participate in. He hosts the family reunion for her and does an outstanding job.
Speaking for myself, I would never want to be placed in a facility. Yes, I know there are social activities and exercises offered to the residents. But we siblings have our own social relationships and activities that we enjoy with friends and family we have known throughout our lives, people who love and care about us.
Leo Fettig has recently been placed in a nursing home and then an assisted living and then back into the nursing home. He spent two week long stays at Mercy Hospital. It breaks my heart, because I know he just wants to go home. I can’t take care of him right now and there is no one else. His sister lives in Montana. I know there is a way for him to be able to be cared for at home, but I cannot work it out for him right now.
If anyone has issues concerning the system already in place (Judy in her own home with Paul as her caregiver), we could try to address them in our open family discussions with the aunts and uncles giving our input. We could work together to make any changes or find solutions in a positive, loving way.
Dear Paul, About Judy's future care:
Judy told me several times in recent years that she wants to stay in her own home rather than in an institutional home as she grows older.
She said too that she is grateful for your help in caring for her through recent years.
She said she doesn't want to live with Mark or Martha, and Judy said she regrets that they have been so difficult.
We (Judy's siblings and Judy) are disappointed that Mark and Martha in recent years have not attended the annual family reunions that Judy enjoys hosting (with your support, Paul) at her home.
Judy's siblings who have given an opinion favor Judy's own home as her place of care, with you (Paul) and the experienced caregivers helping keep her safe and as happy as possible. (See emails from Virginia, Mary Anne, me, and cousin Cynthia.)
We try to have cordial relations with all the Meeks, but lately the events involving the legal system have made those almost impossible.
If my emails will help you in court, please feel free to use them.
Thank you, Paul, for your long and kind care for Judy, her household, and business. I hope it can continue. Love, Uncle Art
I am writing to give you my reference as to the benefit that Paul Meek has given his mother since she became a widow. This is my analysis.
When Judy became a widow, she found herself in a whirl of conditions. She had worked as a realtor with Bill (husband) since early days after her divorce from her first husband. Bill and Judy had an excellent relationship, and she worked all of her selling of homes with the backing of Bill. Right after his death, she went back to work. Mistakes were found in some of her write-up of sales. Also, she, at times, had to call someone when she was driving and ask for directions home. She was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. She became uncomfortable living at home alone, and she thought of her son, Paul, living in an apartment. She asked him to please give up the apartment and move in with her. That Paul did. Paul took responsibility of Judy seven days a week. His job at a local college was convenient as far as working hours were concerned. He worked afternoons through the early evening. Therefore, he was home all morning and returned home by bedtime. He called her from work to check on her welfare while he was away. He spent weekends, being her caregiver, whether having friends over or taking her with him. He often called Judy’s siblings to suggest different needs or desires Judy had. Judy had a choice to make when she became troubled staying alone. He found professional care when he felt that it was not safe for her to stay alone. She could have asked any of her four children to help her—each in his/her own way, and she chose the person that she felt would answer her needs the best. That was Paul. He has done his best to meet the requirements.
As her sister, this is my analysis. There are four other siblings who can give their assessments, also.
A letter from me, to my boss, asking for a recommendation
Dear Mr. Selmon,
As you know, I've been caretaker for my mom for several years now. I may have mentioned from time to time how little support I get from my siblings, or if I went into more detail, how they attack me. For example, my brother tells people I am living off my mom, that I have failed at everything I have done, that I can't keep a job, that my job at the Learning Corner is 'just tutoring'. He recently has petitioned the court for guardianship, with the goal of getting me out of her house.
About five years ago, my mom didn't like things he wanted; move her into a home, sell her rentals, buy a new home (for himself) and install a finished basement for her (whose expence?). She wants to live in her home as long as possible, doesn't want to live with him, has worked for 35 years in real estate and planned on an income from her four rentals. She asked him to switch the Living Trust from him as first spot and me as second to me as first. He cannot accept that he disappointed her, that she doesn't have trust in him anymore. This is a guy that not only yells at referees, but has followed them to the parking lot. He started attacking me rather than manning up.
Yes, I live at my mom's for free, as he is fond of saying, dripping with sarcasim. He cannot see it any other way; Yes I live there for free- I do not charge for managing her four rentals, I do not charge for paying all the bills and managing her finances, I do not charge for yard maintance, I do not carge for taking her to church, bridge club, or doing all the cooking. He had my mom over to his house near her birthday, near Mother's day, and Christmas, and maybe a couple other times. Maybe. He lives 5.8 miles away.
To my point. I would appreciate a letter of recommendation from you. I don't have anything in particular in mind. I believe a letter showing my involvment at the Learning Corner would just naturally contradict his attacks, and expose him as the bully he is. I have attached letters from my mom's siblings as examples for you to better understand the situation.
To Whom It May Concern:
It is with great pleasure and high regard that I write this letter of recommendation for Paul Meek. I became acquainted with Paul in 2008 while he worked as a professional tutor for Grand Rapids Community College. The program he worked directly with involved GED and ABE students. Paul went on to be the lead GED instructor.
Paul has been an important addition to our Adult Education Program. Needless to say, Paul is a man of multiple talents. He fully understands the high school student as well as the college student. He displays passion regardless of what task is at hand and motivates students to reach their full potential by guiding them in a way that will help them reach their educational and career goals. Furthermore, he thrives under pressure and stressful situations and rises to be a role model and educational leader.
Paul is a well-spoken individual who takes the initiative to improve any situation that comes his way. He is an active participant in his work and strives to produce the best outcome imaginable. Paul is both a team player and a self-motivated leader. His attitude and dedication make him an excellent candidate for any position.
I can confidently recommend Mr. Paul Meek.
If I may provide you with any further information in your consideration of Mr. Meek please feel free to contact me.
Kind regards, David Selmon M.ED.
Associate Dean of Academic Outreach