Dear Annie: “Pete” was a friend of mine. He was 20 years older than I and died at the age of 87. He worked hard his entire life and retired with his wife, and they lived in a small but nice house in Palm Springs. They didn’t spend much money and had just enough for a comfortable retirement. Their main source of wealth was their house, which was valued at $600,000, and they owned it free and clear.
I live in Los Angeles, a little more than 100 miles from Palm Springs, and we kept in touch by phone at least once a week. I would visit him in person three or four times a year. The point is that I did not keep track of Pete day to day.
You can imagine my surprise when one day I woke up to find three voice messages from him saying that I must fire his new caregiver, “George.” I called Pete back but could not reach him. I found out later he had been taken to the hospital and had died several hours later, alone in the hospital room with George. I was immediately suspicious because Pete had been in excellent health, but I could prove nothing. The hospital said he died of “heart failure,” and considering his advanced age, that was that.
Pete left me various personal items in his will, and when I went to his house to retrieve them, I was shocked to discover George had moved into his bedroom. George is younger than I am, but he was suddenly having an affair with Pete’s widow! I was too disgusted to comment, especially by the timing.
They never had children, so I told my wife I wouldn’t be surprised to hear she died and George inherited the house. Well, that is exactly what happened, within six months of Pete’s death.
I am writing to you to warn your readers about what can happen to the elderly — at least what happened in this one case. I wish I had done more, though I’m not sure what I could do from afar, and I was never close to his wife. Elder abuse is becoming a major problem in our country, and the consequences can be tragic. — Heartbroken for My Elderly Friend
Dear Heartbroken: What a terrifying story. Thank you for sharing it.
Seniors suffering abuse — and anyone who suspects that an elderly loved one is suffering abuse — I implore to call Adult Protective Services’ hotline (800-222-8000) or local law enforcement. For general information about elder abuse, its different forms and symptoms, visit the National Institute on Aging’s elder abuse page, at www.nia.nih.gov/health/elder-abuse.
Dear Annie: I’d like to respond to “Twenty-Something,” who is dreading his or her 30th birthday. My longtime friend, a psychiatrist, gave me this advice when I was turning 30, and it holds for all difficult milestone birthdays: Learn to do something you’ve always thought you might like to do. In my case, I decided at the ripe old age of 29 to learn to play the clarinet. I got so wrapped up in my new skills that 30 came and went almost without notice. It doesn’t matter what the milestone birthday is; it’s not too late to spend your time learning something new. — Becky in Sublimity, Ore.
Dear Becky: Beautifully said. May we all spend more time doing things that make us forget to look at our watches (or our phones, as the case may be).
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