I recently had a very challenging situation with a long-term client. She had decided to write one more book in her chosen field before she retired and contacted me about a year ago to edit for her and help her manage the project. She had recently been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment due to a head injury involving a sidewalk and a 6-month-old German Shepherd. She assured me that she was fine and could do the project.
As the months progressed, we ran into more and more difficulties. Her short-term memory deteriorated until she could no longer remember how to attach a document. She also couldn't remember what we had agreed to each do to move the project along. We'd have what seemed like lucid exchanges on the phone or via email and then she wouldn't remember anything. As this happened more and more often, she got angry and frustrated and became abusive, and this week I resigned from the project. I was just worn out and I refuse to work with abusive clients.
So where does the circle of friends come in? I've known this woman 15 years. She was partnered when I met her but she and her partner split up a decade ago. Then two years ago she moved to Eugene to care for her older brother (he's 80 and she's 74 or so). She knows no one in Eugene. She has no real friends in Portland either. I suspect no one is watching out for her. No one is going to step in as she goes further down this path of impairment.
I did what I could. I sent an email to her ex-partner expressing my concern for this woman's wellbeing. I got no response and I have no idea whether they are still connected. But the lesson for me is in staying in touch with my generous circle of friends and my siblings, to keep a strong support network available.
Many of us aging women are living on our own. We need each other.