Giving Care: Senior & Disabled Caregiver Resource Blog

Me, Mom, and the ATM Machine

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The phone rings. It’s Mom.

“See you later, Joy. I’m going out now to withdraw cash from the ATM machine.”

“Wait! What?”

“You heard me. I need cash and I’m heading out the door.”

The ATM machine in our Chicago neighborhood is located inside the nearby Walgreen’s. It’s a busy city scene – lots of people walking in and out of the store all day long. I pleaded with Mom to stop and think for a moment on how easy of a target she is for someone to rob her once she collects her cash. My then 86-year-old, 100 pound, 4’ 10” mother laughed at me. “Stop worrying. Nothing’s going to happen.”

I took a deep breath and said, “Mom, I’ll be happy to get the cash for you.”

“No, Joy. I like the idea of getting my own money when and how I want, and don’t want to have to rely on you.”

Then the bell went off in my head. I suddenly realized that we were not arguing about her safety; the underlying message here is maintaining control. Once I understood what was really going on inside Mom’s head, I changed my approach.

“Mom, wanting to go to the ATM machine is about your doing as much as possible for yourself. Is that right?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I want.”

“Well, why stop there? For several years now you have asked me to manage your bookkeeping and banking, and your incoming mail. Why don’t you start writing checks, balancing the checkbook, and managing your accounts? I’ll still be your power of attorney when you need me; but one less thing on my daily to-do list is fine with me.  How does this sound to you?”

“I’ll think about it,” she replied as she hung up the phone. And off she went to the ATM machine.

Thirty minutes later, there’s a knock on my door. It’s Mom, and she has tears in her eyes. I put my arm around her and led her to the living room sofa. She says, “I couldn’t get the machine to work.”

Mom realized that when it comes to withdrawing cash, and banking in general, she is in way over her head. Her highly guarded “independence” came to a screeching halt. She apologized to me for being so stubborn, and said, “Will you please get me some cash?”

I reassured Mom that when she needs cash, we will both walk over to the bank together and she can make the transaction. She liked that idea, and I can sleep better at night knowing that her financial life is safe and secure.

Stay tuned for more interesting adventures of me and Mom.

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