It was a terrible mistake. Kim Sylvester, however, thought that she was doing what was right at the time.
Harriet Burkel was 80 years old and had broken her pelvis in a fall at her Raleigh, North Carolina home. She went to a rehabilitation facility to recover. It was only days after the death of Burkel’s 82-year-old husband, who’d moved into a memory care facility three years before.
Sylvester watched in increasing distress as her mother, suffering from emphysema, peripheral arterial disease and a frailty, became increasingly isolated. “I would say, ‘Can I help you?’ And my mother would say, ‘No, I can do this myself. I don’t need anything. I can handle it,’” Sylvester told me.
Sylvester could now get more information. She let herself into her mother’s home and went through all the paperwork she could find. “It was a shambles — completely disorganized, bills everywhere,” she said. “It was clear things were out of control.”
Sylvester sprang into action, terminating her mother’s orders for anti-aging supplements, canceling two car warranty insurance policies (Burkel wasn’t driving at that point), ending a yearlong contract for knee injections with a chiropractor, and throwing out donation…