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When your elderly loved one has dementia and a challenging personality, doing the simplest things within their view can quickly escalate to “a big deal.”

Filing bills? “What are you doing? Who’s paying for the helpers? I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”

Looking for something? “What are you looking for? Where’s my sterling silver? It all better be there.”

Contemplating a reorganization of the kitchen pantry? “What do you see? Leave everything alone.”

So, I always take advantage of those moments – few though they may be – when my mom is otherwise occupied. The best opportunity is when she is sleeping, which occasionally happens when I am there.

Such was the case recently when my mom was sleeping soundly in her recliner with the TV on. I took the opportunity to file bills and other paperwork, check out some drawers and closets for hidden treasure, and change out the dirty air filter (“You don’t have to throw that away. Just rinse it out.”).

After I tossed the air filter in the garbage can in the garage I happened to be standing just inside the door to the garage staring at the kitchen wall. My eyes settled on a wooden wall hanging with hooks for keys. I’ve seen it a million times. Car keys, house keys, a key chain, nothing special. I’m always checking out keys because we have numerous keys without a lock and locks without a key! So as I stare, I notice one key that I’m sure I’ve seen a million times before. I look at the tag attached. Nothing on one side. Then I flip it over and see it: safe deposit box.

I cannot believe it. Months earlier I went through a whole saga with Bank of America to unlock a previously unknown safe deposit box. It involved me bringing in power of attorney paperwork, filling out forms, setting an appointment to drill the box open – and paying something like $75. Now here I am holding this key with a Bank of America tag on it and the number 454 etched into the key – the safe deposit box number.

I wasn’t sure if I should have been happy or furious! Happy that one of many mysteries has been solved. Or furious – at myself for somehow overlooking it or at my mom for putting a bank safe deposit box key in such a visible location (although apparently not visible enough to me!)

Kudos to my mom for at least labeling the key. But just another reason why sharing key – no pun intended! – information with your loved ones is so critical – before it’s too late.

Oh, and the safe deposit box? It was empty. Onward!

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