Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cruel and Thoughtless . . .

A disheartening situation has hit our family. A cousin, one that we don't know very well, has reached 93 years of age. Most of the Chapman family made it to the mid 80's, but Mary Lou Chapman has managed a few years more. And, she's not gone yet. Mary was unmarried her entire life. She grew up in a good home, was well educated, has always hd a good job, and has enjoyed pretty good health - until just a few years ago. While she is still very much alive, I sometimes speak in the past tense as if she had already died. Mary is either confused or in her own little world now. She began losing some of her sparkle a few years ago. At first it was mild memory loss, and then mild hearing loss, and then drifting in her speech as she lost track of what she wanted to say. Her Doctor said it was a mild dementia coming on with old age, and nothing to worry about yet. A few month's passed by before she began to have problems driving herself to the market and appointments and so forth, and not long after that she wrecked her car and lost her license to drive. This was a very devastating set-back to Mary. 

This series of events discussed here apparently began about ten years ago and has now reached the point where Mary has serious health issues. She recently fell at her home and sustained a hairline fracture of her pelvis. She was taken to Sharps Hospital in Chula Vista, treated, and then placed in a nearby convalescent care facility for rehabilitation. It is obvious that she can no longer live by herself. Her doctors suggest that following the re-hab she be placed in a 24 hour care facility designed to deal with significant dementia problems as well as other elder difficulties.  

Mary Lou has become old. Most of her family, friends and acquaintances have died. She had a friend since her childhood named Marcella. They remained friends over the years until Marcella died of cancer five or perhaps more years ago. 

While Mary worked for Minneapolis Honeywell (Minnesota) for 20 or more years, she eventually left to take job with Rohr Aircraft Corporation in California. Marcella stayed in Minnesota but about 1960 Mary moved west with another friend, Dorothy Cranz, and together they purchased a small mobile home in Chula Vista, California near the Rohr Corporation facility there. 


Between 1960 and the time Marcella Colyer passed away, they maintained their long time and long distance friendship; Marcella in Minnesota, and Mary in California. Marcella married and had children and Mary Lou began a lifelong tradition of visiting Marcella and her family during the summer of each year. She got to know the Marcella's first born son named Jeff, and was his babysitter from time to time. As he grew up she became a good friend and saw him at various family occasions like birthdays, graduations, sporting events and so forth. As he grew up he and Mary Lou often went fishing in the summers, boating and played golf often. Her favorite sport.

From 1960 onward, in the large and extended Chapman Family, circumstances caused members to move about, marry, change schools, and follow their jobs, and so forth. It was during this time that Mary Lou became closer to Marcella Colyer's family than to the Chapman family. She had been close to Marcella's son Jeff Colyer as he grew up. After his mother Marcella died Mary kept in contact with Jeff. Time passed until during the mid - 1990's, as (Mary's was then around 75 years old), her health began to fail. Ten year's later when she reached 85 or so (2005?) she had become visibly infirm and forgetful. By 2010 it was fairly obvious that she had some kind of early dementia or Alzheimers Disease, suffered from significant memory loss, and required help to get through her normal day. She still lived by herself but was no longer her always clean, spruced up self. Andi, a neighbor who lives about four mobile homes down the road, became her helper. Their friendship caused Andi to become Mary's caregiver. For several years she has taken Mary to the market, the bank, the doctors, and anywhere else she wanted to go. Andi became Mary Lou's personal angel.

Dixon Webb (1st. cousin) and wife Linda, Patricia (their daughter), sister Charlotte (1st. cousin) and her husband Michael, had been visiting May Lou from time to time for many years.The distance between us was a definite factor. In January 2017 we learned from Andi that Mary really needed help. Both I, Dixon, and Charlotte have serious medical problems, so Patricia was asked to drive from her home in Palm Springs to visit Mary Lou and Andi. Patricia came away from the visit extremely concerned. Mary Lou was indeed fading in and out of lucidity, had trouble carrying on a conversation, was not eating, had lost about 50 pounds and now weighed about 80 pounds. She was skinny as a skeleton and no longer able to live on her own.  

Patricia immediately knew what Mary was facing and quickly started to gather family help together. She discovered that Mary Lou had made all all of her bank accounts so that only she could access them (there is no no counter signer) and when she died all of these accounts were to be Paid on Death (POD) to her survivors. At the same time in 2010 Mary had signed a "health directive" giving sole control over her final wishes to Jeff Colyer.  We thought it a bit odd, but no alarm bells went off.

Then, Patricia sent an e-mail to Jeff Colyer describing Mary's situation. He did not respond. She called him several times and was told he was out of town and could not be reached. Patricia let a few days go by and then, over the next few weeks, called his office several times and told the telephone responder the urgency of Mary's problems. She also followed those phone inquiries with more e-mails that included recent photos of Mary. Still no reply. Patricia was frantic. By mid January she contacted me and I sent off a rather stern and explicit e-mail to Jeff's office urging him to respond immediately. He did not answer.

Meanwhile, as the days passed by, Andi and Patricia discovered that in October 2017 Jeff Colyer and his wife had visited Mary Lou here in California. Mary was confused and not really aware of the situation. Andi happened to be in Mary's trailer home at the time visiting Mary with her dog Dekes. Jeff Colyer and his wife asked her to leave. The told her she was not needed as they were going to discuss some family matters.

That afternoon in October 2017 Mary Lou signed a Minnesota Power of Attorney document giving Jeff the POA and notarized by his wife (who does not have notary recognition or approval in California). There were no other witnesses.

Next, on the same afternoon visit, Jeff and his wife persuaded Mary Lou to sign a Trust Document and Living Will naming Jeff Colyer as the sole beneficiary of her estate. Again. There were no other witnesses.

Patricia immediately thought there was something very wrong. She contacted me, I agreed and contacted Charlotte and brought her into the picture. Charlotte rushed to Chula Vista, confirmed everything, and we all got in phone and computer contact to figure out what we could do to help Mary Lou.

Then, Mary fell and broke her pelvis and was hospitalized.




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