(The Family Once Upon a Time)
It was late in the year 2003 and after moving my sister into our mother's home to assist her as her Alzheimer’s progressed was an arrangement that worked well for everyone; she would occasionally forget she had a roommate and would demand she "get out" and two seconds later ask "what’s for dinner". The seasons where changing and so where our lives; our daughter completed high school and had moved out, my sister and mom's routine was pretty status quo, and me and my husband had started to attend church and study the Bible on a regular basis. We often gave my sister a mental break by picking up mom on either a Friday or Saturday and keeping her over the weekend. Once I was out on an exercise walk and a calm inner voice said to me `its time" and I ask myself time for what and again just as quiet and calm as before that inner voice said `its time to place your mother in a nursing home`; one night she had gotten up while my sister was asleep and wondered out of the house, fallen and had broken her leg but other than that everything was going so well now for almost three years; what was the meaning of this.
In 2005 after praying a lot, I decided it was truly time to consider a more permanent living arrangement nearly nine years after she had first shown any sign of cognitive decline, mom was going to live in a nursing home. I arranged with the cooperation of the facility to set her bedroom up with several personal items from her home (two friends from my job helped me) prior to her arrival. It was important to me for the staff to get to know her while she still had some part of her former personality this would give them a base line for the small things that she still took much pride in, such as having her hair done or never leaving her room without having on her red lip stick. She seem to adjust very will to her new setting, in her mind when she was in her bedroom she was home and when she went to the dining room she was merely at the "center" and in the social room, well she would say "I'm a party host". It was then that I knew I had made to right decision.
There was a lot involved in the transition so do not be fooled by my seemingly easy recall, there was the stacked emotions, the house which had been in our family for over 40 years had to be sold, a spend down required by most states (which involves liquidating personal assets to just below $2000), the training of staff members at the nursing home and of course the many, many sleepless nights coming to terms with if I had done the right thing. Mom's disease continued to progress through various stages and most of the staff were well trained in handling individuals with dementia. She was not identified as a wanderer nor had she ever been aggressive therefore she was never placed on a closed unit. She would sit very quiet, look out her window and sing. Over time she would talk less and less and spend increasingly more time napping, she was still mobile but required a bit more assistance getting up to her feet. Sadly enough my sister who had been such a life line for me in allowing mom to remain in her own home just a few more years died 3 years after mother was placed in the nursing home.
Today mom is 90 years old, I recently moved her to a facility closer to my home. It's been a journey filled with both joy and pain. I started my story with a question "how many of us moms can truly say that we are moms exclusively" we are mothers, wives, sisters, teachers, but most of all we are in demand. THE END