Dad’s obsession with the $20

Well after my dad lost the ability to make change at the store or pay for a meal, he became obsessed with money. In particular, it was always $20 that someone owed him, usually my mom. She would play it off and say she was holding it for him. He became increasingly distrustful and paranoid. At one point, he started carrying around a huge wad of bills (mainly dollar bills) that would precariously jut out of his shirt pocket, ready to fall to the ground at any moment. He also would carry multiple wallets (he ended up losing most of the contents in those wallets over time.) My dad was never that organized but now he was a mess.

The altered relationship with money is a common manifestation of Alzheimer’s. I can only fathom dad was desperately trying to stay in control of something in his life, even if it was only reclaiming an imaginary $20 bill or carrying about a sweaty, crumpled wad of bills all the time. Even when he moved to the assisted living facility, he still talked about that $20.

On my last visit home while dad was still living there, he was fixated on collecting change. He would “count” it, or at least arrange it in various formations before putting it back in his pocket. I remember sitting in the guest room, listening to my dad’s mind unravel in the bedroom next door, the constant jingle-jangle that my mom tried to drown out with the radio as she cooked dinner. I wanted to go to dad, talk to him, take his troubled mind off the obsession with change. But I felt uncomfortable and awkward in the face of such odd behavior. So I left him alone, and the tense house continued to be filled with the maddening sounds of dimes and nickels and pennies and quarters colliding with one another. I regret not attempting to ease his distress, even if just for a moment.


Filed under Memories

4 responses to “Dad’s obsession with the $20

  1. FundeMental

    We’re going through the early/mid stages of dementia with my Father in Law at the moment and I know exactly what you mean about the obsession with money! We can only do our best with this horrid illness so don’t beat yourself up over his odd behaviour. It was the dementia, not your dad. xxx

    • Thanks for the positive thoughts! Yes, money does seem to be an obsession with many people with dementia. Best wishes for your family, being a caregiver is both difficult and rewarding, as I’m sure you’ve discovered by now.

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