Boomer Grandpa: Come on, charities — please give my mom a break
At 90, she lives her life one day at a time. My mom is just like the majority of elderly ladies who live alone. Like many in her generation, she still wants to help others in whatever small ways she can.
The past couple of weeks I have spent time in Duluth getting her moved from her one-bedroom apartment, where she's lived for the past 14 years, to a new facility that can provide more care for her.
She has had a tough stretch with different medical issues and hospitalizations. Now she is losing her apartment that she loved, because she is now unable to care for herself. Many changes for someone her age is very difficult. This flurry of changes has left her confused.
As I was moving things, I noticed my mom had 17 2014 calendars. I asked her if she needed all of these, and her reply was, "Yes dear, those are all the ones I paid for." I responded with "Mom, you don't have to pay for all this stuff you are sent in the mail."
I am not exaggerating here, I would say she had hundreds of unused greeting cards that she has been sent, hundreds of blank note pads, numerous pens and thousands of address labels — yes, I said thousands of address labels. It seemed like every drawer was filled with blank note pads and address labels.
One of my sisters lives in Duluth and she has been assisting my mom the past several years. One thing she noticed is that mom was writing check after check for charity after charity. Now, these are small checks, like $5 and $10, but as a result the amount of mail she now receives is alarming.
She has been donating small amounts to many different charities over the years, but it is now getting impossible for her to keep track of this. What really ticks me off is that after my mom makes a donation, many of these charities send her a thank you — but it is really a follow-up letter saying please donate more!
A system my sister developed was to have my mom put all of these letters in a bag. They would go through them together and she would help her make decisions. After we got her moved, we still had many items in her old apartment. I spent one evening going through this bag and — are you ready for this? — in the last four months my Mom has received more than 100 letters requesting donations.
Here is the terminology that some of the letters use in bold front:
URGENT: Time sensitive research funding needed.
I hope you are enjoying your calendar and that you will be able to send a gift to help veterans.
Your contribution couldn't be more important.
Please help moms and babies.
Please convey the message of love and send your most generous donation.
Instead of sending in a gift of $10, members should do their best to send in a regular monthly gift.
If you have not sent in your donation, I urge you to do so now.
"SECOND REQUEST" for the sake of babies in Duluth.
This summer will be a hungry one for American children.
Without your help there will be no toys at Christmas.
Some of these are well-known charities that have sent her three to five letters in this time frame, constantly asking for more money. Look, most of these charities do wonderful work, but why do they have to hammer people like my mom with letter after letter, request after request? It doesn't seem right.
My sister is now on my mom's bank account and has the power of attorney over her affairs, so she is able to keep track, but with this move her rent is going from a few hundred a month to several thousand a month. Her money will be gone within a year.
My mom has done her part, and now every dollar is important. She receives one modest check a month to live on. I have started the process of calling these charities and requesting they remove her name from their mailing lists. This is something that we as boomers, who help oversee care for our parents, need to be aware of.
So far I have called 30 charities, with 30 more to go. I was happy to hear the response from one of them. After they indicated they processed my request, the guy said, "Will you do me a favor?" A little unsure what he was up to, I responded with, "And what would that be?" He said, "Please tell Irma thank you for me. We have appreciated her support." Well, I'll be darned.
Finally, one told me, "Well, she will probably still get a 2014 calendar in the mail. I hope you can use it." Nope, I really can't.
Loren Else, of Rochester, also writes the Day in History column for the Post-Bulletin. Do you have a Grandkid Quote of the Week? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe it'll make an appearance in Boomer Grandpa, which runs every Wednesday in the Life section.