Taxes + Alzheimer’s =Anxiety x Ten

tax anxity


We were due a nice refund on our tax bill this year, but a few days ago a letter came from the IRS saying they would be “reviewing” our return before any payment would be sent or further action was taken.

I emailed my accountant, “Assume this is routine but thought you should know.” Less than a minute later she emailed me back, “This is not routine, but I’m not saying you have anything to worry about.”

Yikes. I have been through an audit and it was not fun.

The next day I received another letter, with a form to prove Ralph and I are really the ones who filed the return. So now I am trying to convince myself this review is part of the government’s crackdown on fraud returns and that the IRS doesn’t want to send our check to the wrong person.

But of course I am a nervous wreck.

I share this TMI (I know I know; talking about money is a turn off) because I cannot share it with Ralph.

And as I type the words “talking about money” I realize such talk is in fact one of the more intimate aspect of a marriage and that Ralph and I did a lot of such talk, weirdly enough, with gusto. Weirdly because money should have been a sticking point; he came from a working class family always on the brink of financial disaster while I was a pampered daughter of the bourgeoisie. He was a self-proclaimed capitalist, I was a righteous democratic socialist. But although as I’ve written here before, we argued about most things—childrearing, politics, how to spend our free time, where to live, what to eat, making friends, you name it and we argued—we seldom if ever argued over money. Money we discussed rationally.

We were in agreement that Ralph was the one with a talent for earning money, I was the one with patience for nuts and bolts bookkeeping. He went with his gut instinct. I played devil’s advocate. We could while away hours, days, TV seasons, analyzing a financial decision together. Even than nightmare audit was not a cause of tension; we were in it together, like partners in a school science project we discussed endlessly.

But I can’t talk about money issues with Ralph anymore. It’s not that he drives me crazy asking the same questions repeatedly (although he does) or that he might bring up a financial question at an inappropriate time (although the other night our dinner guest blanched when Ralph asked how much we had in the bank in front of her).

It’s that the anxiety of financial decision-making is more than Ralph can or wants to handle. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want to know too much but wants to feel secure. So I give him the basics and repeat them as often as necessary.

But knowing there is a difficult decision to make or a real problem (because I’ve foolishly spilled the beans) spikes his anxiety and the issue gets lodged like a loose widget in his cognitive gears. He can neither grasp it nor let it go.

There’s been no value in putting him through that pain. And selfishly, re-explaining a problem every time he returns to it has usually raised my own anxiety even higher than it is already. So I am keeping this new financial glitch to myself.

If this all sounds dark and self-pitying, there is an UPSIDE of sorts. As I teach myself how to think about money and compartmentalize that thinking, I see more clearly than ever that money, while necessary, is never the end in itself. As Ralph now jokes, as long as he has five bucks in his pocket and me on his arm, he’s happy.

8 thoughts on “Taxes + Alzheimer’s =Anxiety x Ten

  1. Ohhh. Your post put a weight in my belly! I lived through several years of “clean-up” on my parent’s taxes. Just this summer I was called about a filing from 2005. I was pleasantly surprised when I told them my situation and they cleared up the account. However, this year has been a series of follow-ups since she passed away. I’ve had to resubmit the W-2’s twice to the state and one (so far) to the Feds. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I handled my mom’s taxes for years too. Dealing with parents’ finances is not only anxiety producing because of financial complications but also because it just feels weird as the child. And even after death there does seem to be a lot of “cleaning up.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tax audit is the very LAST thing you need right now, Alice. So sorry to hear this.

    And I so appreciate the phrase “Can neither grasp it nor let it go” – that’s the best short description of the situation for a mid-stage Alz person and the corresponding situation it puts the carer in. Our work is not so physical as it is the heading off of mental distress which the person no longer can manage themselves. Thanks for writing.


  3. I hope the financial glitch is speedily resolved.
    I smiled at Ralph asking in front of a guest how much money you have in the bank. That’s a different filter, which is working loose in Ralph’s case – like when dad’s ‘not in public’ filter went and he’d make comments on the size of women in the supermarket.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There’s that caregiver filter again in action! All for the good. It keeps us sane and prevents our spouse from unnecessary worry and anxiety. I love your description of loose widget caught in cognitive gears.

    I picked up all the finances a few years ago. I share enough information with him to reassure that we are in good shape. But details beyond that bring about the confusion and anxiety you describe so well above.

    Thanks for another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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