Don doesn't understand obtrusive advertising
Thursday, June 1 2023
location: unit #4, 201 North Madison Street, Staunton, Virginia
I had ChatGPT compose an email for me this morning to send to one of the executives at The Retreat in Fishersville asking for a residency verification (to prove my mother Hoagie is in a dementia ward, which automatically justifies any attempts to reassign any caretaker role she might have. Gretchen looked at the email and was horrified, saying it looked like it was either created by a robot or someone in India. Maybe I have a few more years before ChatGPT takes my jerb.
Later I had a phone conversation with Joy Tarder, the woman my mother selected as her power of attorney. I'd been somewhat skeptical of Joy since Bob Nutt started calling me and trying to convince me that Joy is actively stealing my mother's accumulated savings. But talking to her on the phone, she didn't sound like someone who is exploiting my mother (even though it would be easy and perhaps tempting for someone in her position to do so). Also, from what she was saying it didn't sound like there was much of my mother's estate that could be stolen. Most of the property is locked up with conservation easements, and Joy confirmed that there is a so-called "special needs trust" set up for my brother Don. This is a special arrangement designed to avoid the problem most people inheriting money in his situation face: a requirement that they spend through all the money they've inherited before they can go back to collecting government assistance (such as SSI and Medicaid). Money provided in a special-needs trust can only be spent on certain things, but for someone who has lived his entire life in poverty, such restrictions won't seem to onerous.
I then asked Joy what she knew about Bob Nutt. She proceeded to give me a long and winding tale, starting with her initial impression (which seems to be everyone's initial impression) that he seemed like a very nice guy. Later, though, his main interest in Hoagie was what investments she had and she soon decided he wasn't up to any good. This seemed to harmonize with my impression of Bob Nutt, perhaps explaining why it is he is attempting to manipulate me to get control of my mother's funds. After Joy was done telling me this, I told her that Bob Nutt had been trying to manipulate me against her, since I no longer felt the need to hide that from her. Perhaps I'm wrong and Bob Nutt is right, but that doesn't feel like the way things are.
I had a fair number of meetings in the remote workplace, including an unusual Thursday afternoon group QA session. That always goes a little long, so I'd arranged for my brother Don's social worker A to come over so we could discuss his case. She was a thick woman who labored so hard to climb the stairs to my upstairs apartment that I thought maybe she'd walked there from across town. We had a good conversation, though Gretchen had already told me nearly everything she had to tell me. I had one interesting piece of information for A that she didn't know: that Don has a special-needs trust. Otherwise, the upshot of our meeting was that Don needs an ID before he can access a lot of things that social services provides, such as a possible residency program at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center. I asked A what people who lost everything in Katrina did, and she proceeded to tell me the story of what happened to veterans whose records were lost in a huge fire at the National Personnel Records Center. She said that if veterans couldn't produce mailings documenting their veterans status, they were out of luck for obtaining things like veterans benefits.
Once A was gone, I could finally chillax, so I unscrewed the top from the big bottle of white wine I'd bought yesterday and started drinking.
After my workday, I drove over to Walmart to charge up my car some more and buy a few things: some oranges for Don and a headlamp allowing me to better look for stuff in the chaos of my abandoned childhood home.
When I got out to Creekside, I immediately went across the street to the abandoned house and started looking though the bureau in my brother's room. To my surprise, the drawers mostly contained paper, about half of which concerned Don (though there also appeared to be unopened mail address to Hoagie. I collected anything related to SSI or Medicaid in case it should prove useful some day for getting Don an ID.
Don appeared, as he often does, just as I was emerging from the abandoned house. He was freaking out, saying he needed to install an app on his phone to deal with all the things taking up room. What he was saying was garbled, but I soon realized that he apparently seen an advertising popup and had decided it was telling him the unvarnished truth. (For similart reasons, he never uses a wagon he bought because of some cautionary verbiage it came with about using it on hills. He also takes the boilerplate California-required warning about carcinogens that appears on nearly all manufactured items as reason enough to avoid them.) So then I had to explain the state of advertising to Don and the fact that advertisers can and will say anything to get you to do things like install an app that either tracks your behavior or, perhaps, uses your phone to mine BitCoin. (And yes, as a tangent, I did my best to explain BitCoin). Don is not very well mentally equipped to understand things beyond what they literally say. He doesn't know when and by how much to discount things, so he's low-hanging fruit for the designers of obtrusive phone advertising. So I explained that he should think of such things the same way he thinks of a political ad for Donald Trump. He wouldn't vote for Trump just because an ad told him to, right? He could kind of see my point, but I have a feeling this is going to be one of the problems with him using a smartphone.
I drove with Don and Maple the Dog over to visit our mother at the Retreat in Fishersville. (We left the dog in the car because the ride was mostly all she cared about and we didn't want to get yelled at by the staff for bringing in a possibly-rabid dog.) We came across our mother in the main area with the other dementia patients, and when she saw us she said something like, "Good, I was waiting for someone to come take me home." "This is your home," I said, matter-of-factly, since there was no sense in telling her anything but the truth. Initially she acted like I was kidding or being mean, but when we made it back to her room, which must be familiar to her now, she wasn't demanding to be driven home any more. Now she was just saying she wanted to ride around in a car. That seemed doable.
So we all walked back out to the main area and I asked the morbidly obese guy who works there if I could take my mother out for a little while. He asked if I was her power of attorney, and I said that I wasn't and that someone, a non-relative named Joy Tarder, was. He had to go talk to his boss but was pretty sure it would be fine. About ten minutes later, we had Hoagie outside and I was getting the car from the other end of the parking lot. Initially she freaked out as she was getting in, insisting the car was moving even though it wasn't. But then she got comfortable and I took us on a drive out towards Stuarts Draft (a part of Augusta County I don't know very well). Hoagie mentioned something about wanting coffee, so I was on the lookout for Dunkin Donut, since they're everywhere and I could get fancy vegan coffee drinks if I found one. As we drove, Hoagie seemed much more cheerful and her memory even seemed improved. In fact, I was actually having fun chatting with her, perhaps for the first time since 2011.
I eventually doubled back and found a Dunkin Donut in the western fringe of Waynesboro. That's also where Books-A-Million is, and Don of course wanted to go there, but I reminded him that this drive was all about Hoagie. The Dunkin Donuts could make coffee, but for some reason the only food they could sell was donuts. I got Hoagie one (even though it wasn't vegan), but there was nothing for Don. He didn't want any of the drinks and he didn't want a donut either. Fortunately, I had a bag of peanuts in the car, and Don ended up eating them (and even sharing some with Maple).
Hoagie didn't actually have a sip of her coffee until we got her back to her room. "Man, that's good!" she exclaimed. I would later learn from Joy Tarder that she isn't supposed to take any caffeine, so she may not have slept well later tonight.
After dropping Don off at Creekside, I returned to my AirBnB and drank a fair amount of white wine (though not enough to give myself a hangover).
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