Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     While I realize it's not Monday, I am playing catch up to bring this blog up to date regarding my mom.  As you know, my last post ended with me being informed there was, at long last, an opening for my mom in the skilled nursing facility I was hoping to place her in.  Ironically, after waiting a solid six weeks for an opening, I finally learned the nursing community had called me while I was driving on a two hour trip to tour a college with my kids.  While chatting my daughter suddenly said, "oh, someone from Canterbury on the Lake called for you yesterday and left a message on the machine!!??"  Whaaattttt?  Needless to say, I called back right away and then we traded calls for a bit.
     I texted my brother who had been on "standby" for awhile and told him it was time to make the move.  I really felt I needed his help to pull it off.  He could do the furniture swap while I occupied and delivered my mom to her new home.  He was going to be off work for three weeks starting July 3rd so that's when we declared our move in date.  Between trading phone calls and a weekend mixed in, the community was very accommodating in letting us move in on that date.  It also happened to be a busy holiday weekend and we had plans to go up north as we do every year.  I hoped I would rest easier knowing she would be getting settled in and receiving more care.
      So, let's backtrack for a minute.  Leading up to this, you have to realize my head and heart had been playing a tug-of-war game for awhile.  Mostly, I was definitely to the point of realizing I could no longer keep my mom safe in her current living situation (in my head), but my heart would say things like what about The Don, what about Sheri, how will we all be able to visit as comfortably as we do now, what if this walking problem is just a fracture or undetermined injury, how will she adjust from a two bedroom apartment to sharing a small room with a stranger, what if my mom quickly declines as so often happens during a move??? 

The Kids Made One Last Visit and Kept Grandma Busy
While I Got Some Things Taken Care of Behind the Scenes
     Unfortunately, there was no time to be faint hearted at this point, and I knew that!!!!  Despite how difficult it was, I was mostly focused and on a mission.  It's a little tricky to move someone who doesn't know they are moving.  You can't bring boxes or do things gradually.  In the end it didn't matter because the reality is there really isn't that much you need to move when you are going to a much smaller setting.  Literally, it became a list like this:  Muffin, her chair, some clothes, a small tv, her walker, her wheelchair, bedding and some photos. That was honestly about it.      
     I believe it was two days before the move that I knew I had to tell Sheri what was going on.  This was extremely hard, but I owed it to her once the move-in date was settled.  Prior to now, I had no way of knowing when or if my mom would be able to move, so I decided it would do not good to tell her of my intent earlier.  I had been thinking a lot about how I would tell her.  It was emotional, but she was understanding.  I told her I would not have been able to keep my mom's last bit of independence as long as we did were it not for her.  I had written a letter of recommendation for her and gave her some extra money to thank her for all of her loyalty and support.  I would still need her support to get through the next 48 hours.  Sheri had spent virtually every single day with my mom for the past eight months.  Besides me, she was the only one who knew my mom and her needs so well.  She helped me pack a bit and covered for me while I did some organizing and straightening so my mom would not suspect.  Being devious like this was not fun, but I reminded myself it was in my mom's best interest.  This same day I also had to give 30 days notice to her senior apartment community and let their staff know.

     In the midst of it all, I also asked Sheri if she could be sure my mom and The Don saw each other before she left.  Knowing there would be no real goodbyes after living here almost three years also made me sad...and sad for my mom.  All of this was weighing heavily on me knowing my mom really had no idea.  The only "loving lie" I could really come up with to tell my mom "where we were going" or "what we were doing" at her new place was to tell her that she was going to physical therapy to get herself strong and walking better.  It seemed so lame, but it was all I had.  Other scenarios seemed too harsh.  Of course, secretly I was hoping she would be confused and not really question things too much, but I could never be sure. 
     Once the morning of July 3rd came, I was trying hard to keep strong and reminding myself that my mom would finally be safe if we could just make this happen.  For some reason I stumbled on this verse and I kept reminding myself of it all day long.  It helped me get through the day.
     This is how I found my mom the morning I arrived, Sheri had her looking as fresh as could be and unsuspecting of her big day.  To be honest, I almost broke into tears right then, but knew I could not.  I had a plan and time frame to make this happen.  I packed a few things while Sheri was there, Sheri then took my mom to the lobby where I would meet my mom after reviewing the items that needed to be moved with my brother.  Once my brother showed up, it was "show time".  I had texted him and gone over the specifics.  This was the first time my brother met Sheri. 
     Sheri also told me that my mom and "The Don" sat together at breakfast that morning but barely said a word to each other.  I felt better just knowing they had at least been together that last day.  It wasn't long before Sheri's normal work shift was over and we discreetly said our goodbyes with every intent of remaining in touch and with hopes she would visit my mom once she was settled.  She helped us right to the last minute of her shift.
     As my brother, and his helper, my niece, busily packed and loaded up some items from my mom's apartment, I took that time to just sit with my mom in the lobby, get her some water and relax.  I realized I was in no particular rush as I had to wait for my brother to travel to the new community and set things up before I could bring my mom there.  I took a few deep breaths and then told my mom we would get some lunch and then were going to physical therapy.  She asked about it a few times, but did not seem concerned.  She was, of course, glad we would be getting some lunch.  This is also when I kept noticing my mom's bracelet my daughter made that said, "FAITH".  I kept trying to focus on having FAITH and what I had to do to keep my mom safe.  I know this all sounds very dramatic!!  All I can say is that for me it was...

     After relaxing for 20-30 minutes I went to pull the car up to the front door.  Again, this tugged at my heart -- seeing my mom just sitting and waiting, not knowing.  We were leaving her home of three years and she would not be back. 

     We drove around.  The new place was only about 15 minutes away.  I stopped occasionally to receive texts or to send them to my brother of the progress.  I hoped my brother would set things up so my mom would be sure to recognize a few of her personal belongings.  I quickly realized there would not be much time for a long lunch so we went to McDonalds drive thru.  I knew she would love a frozen pink lemonade -- a combination of two of her favorite things.  We chatted in the car and ate our lunch.   Eventually, my brother sent a text and photo that the room was set up and ready.

     Thankfully, my brother and niece waited for us to arrive and met us at the door.  Again, I told my mom she was going to physical therapy to get her strong and get her walking a little better.  She would just say, "Oh, I am?" 
 The time had come, she had finally arrived and we were anxious to show her around...

**Sorry about the pictures, the computer I'm using has no editor and I didn't have to make collages 


jmac said...

Hi! Found your blog from Vicky at Life in my Empty Nest and my first thought for you is You Are Doing the Best Thing!! My heart goes out to you...I know how hard it is to take care of aging parents...I did the same with mine. And as hard as it was, when all was over, I had not one moment of guilt with any decision I made in their care. I did the very best I could do..and that's all anyone could ask for...and knew that it was enough. There was love. There was caring. and there was respect. My mom, I'm sure, is proud of the way her end came.
Can't wait to read your blog!!

Beth said...

Wow, Cindy, what an ordeal you have been through. My mother has earlier stage dementia and I can see that looking through your posts may help me deal with some of the things that may/probably will/ come up. Thank you!

Arlene - Caregiver ordinaire said...

Hi Cindy! You've been on my mind a ton lately! You are such a strength for everyone around you. You might not feel it but you are. And the words, 'this is no time to be faint of heart' really strike home tonight. You've done a fantastic job with your Mom - someday she'll thank you for it! Keep on keepin on... :)arlene

yaya said...

You had me on the edge of my seat. My heart sure goes out to you to have to make all these tough decisions and this had to be one of the toughest. But you know in your heart the best plan for your Mom and her safety and health in her declining years. I'll keep you and your Mom in my prayers and I'll look forward to more posts and hopefully her adjustment will be a good one. Take care Cindy.

D said...

You are an amazing daughter and I'm so proud of you, my friend!! I know we've spoken briefly but I'm happy to be reading these updates! XOXOXO

Balisha said...

The same feelings came back as I read your post. I had the same experience as you, years ago.I remember the lump in my throat... that I thought would choke me. Mom did very well with our faithful visits.

Your mom is in good hands. The facility and yours.

I'm at the age that I wonder what will happen to me down the road. I have assured my kids that I know they want the best for me and, I trust that when the time comes, they will have an easier time than I did.

So, my advise is for you to visit and make it the happiest that you can. Involve some other residents in your visits...that way your mom will socialize more... when you aren't there.

Take care... Balisha