My Aunt Joan seems to be losing touch with reality. She has disconnected herself from her friends and community and is barely picking up the phone when family members call. She doesn’t have internet, email, or a cell phone. She lives alone and isn’t letting anyone into her house and won’t agree to let us visit her. She seems very confused and unable to sort out how to do things like plug in her generator when the power goes out or use her snow blower to clear her walkway. She’s become hostile and aggressive towards people in her small town that she’s been friends with for years and she won’t let anyone help her. She’s never been married or had any children and is in her mid-70’s.

Her siblings and friends aren’t sure what to do or how to help. She won’t go to a doctor, but it seems like she has some kind of dementia, Alzheimer’s or mental illness.

I’ve volunteered to team up with my other 2 aunts to go to New Hampshire and try and get her to either move to Orcas Island with her older sister or some kind of facility, though she doesn’t have any money or insurance to afford that. I might be in over my head, but I don’t think anyone is really ever ready for something like this. I’m reading The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss.

My plan is to do what I can in a good way and be there to support my other aunts and drive the car. I’m going to be in the moment, remind everyone to breath and be available to listen if need be. I might be naive and I don’t totally know what I’m getting into, but I do know that I have a special bond with my Aunt Noan and if there’s a way I can help her find some peace and restored health, I want to try.

She’s my dad’s middle sister (of his 3 sisters) and she was the Aunt that I knew best as a child since she lived nearby and babysat us a fairly often. Noan, as we called her, was the most fun, letting us stay up way too late, eating popcorn for dinner, and for some reason she was allowed to give us haircuts…that was not the best idea. I remember always being very excited to see her.

I remember that day we all sat in the living room eating ice cream and she said that she was moving away. I couldn’t understand why, but as an adult I can understand. She’s been living in Maine & New Hampshire for a really long time now, I think since I was maybe 10 or 11. I went to visit her a few times by myself and we’d have so much fun doing wacky things like looking for moose, making snow turtles, and walking in grave yards looking for our names on the tombstones.

The last time I saw her was a few years back when my mom & I went to visit for a week. We went to outlet malls, cooked and spent hours talking around the table. It was early spring and we walked around her garden and puttered in her green house. I bonded with her cats and my mom bought her practical things, like a ladder and socks. She has a cluttered, cozy little home on some nice land in a small New Hampshire town. We visited with friends of hers and went with her to the homes of the pets she was feeding/sitting for.

My aunt has had so many different jobs over the years from managing a Ralph Lauren outlet store to life-guarding and pet sitting. She’s had a simple life, mostly just barely making ends meet. About a decade ago she asked me to be the executor of her will and gave me a copy of her will which I never looked at, but filed away in a safe place.

Recently I had to dig out that will and read it. There’s nothing in it about power of attorney or what to do if she loses the ability to care for herself. I just know that she asked me to help take care of things for her and I want to do what I can. I’m open to any prayers, advice and resources.

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