Mom’s New Place

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

I haven’t talked about Mom for awhile here. Not since I told you we were moving her into The Lantern, a memory care home for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia problems. It’s a very nice facility, bright and open, and the staff are kind and caring. 
Even so, it’s been a difficult transition. The first week, we were in the ER twice because she fell, once at night and once late in the daytime. She had bruises and no major injuries. I cringed every time the phone rang, fearing another fall. But since then in almost two months now, we’ve made one more ER visit. Again, a fall in the night. Again, only bruises. 
Mom’s a pretty tough cookie. But it could not have been that way. She could have been hurt worse, and that makes the falls a major guilty poke for my sister and me. We were watching her so closely at her house that we were right with her every time she sat up in bed. We had a bed alarm but after replacing it once at a high price, we just went with wind chimes tied to her walker. Then we placed the walker beside the bed so that she’d hit it and ring those “bells” when she tried to get up. The memory care home is not equipped for one on one observation at night. We signed numerous papers saying we were aware of that before Mom moved in. The workers do check on the residents periodically, but there’s plenty of time in between checks for Mom to wake up and decide it’s time to “go to school” or that somebody is “out front waiting for her.” Or maybe just because she needs to “go.”
There are other problems. She wouldn’t eat at first. At home, she ate whatever we fixed, but once at the home, she wouldn’t even look at the food on her plate. That is getting better. She eats breakfast now and dabbles with her other meals. Another problem, she doesn’t like them giving her baths and helping her dress in the mornings. You have to realize where she is with this. At home, when I would tell her we needed to go get cleaned up, she’d tell me she just had a bath. In her mind, I’m sure she had. Sometimes I would have to talk for an hour before she’d come around to letting me help her bathe. The aides don’t have the time to do that at the home. They have other residents to get ready for breakfast. So I understand the problem, but I know no solutions to suggest. The best help I had at her house was simply prayer that she’d be in a cooperative frame of mind.  
All’s not bad though. Even though she wouldn’t smile for me in the photo I snapped on Friday, she seems happier or more satisfied there than she was at her house. She still talks about “going home” to see her mother and father or that she needs to go cook supper for my dad. But she doesn’t try to go out the door the way she did at home. I think because the place is bigger and the trip to the door is so far up the hallways, (and of course, locked if she did get to the door) she gets distracted easier. She thinks she’ll have to wait until later. Plus, the other people there distract her too. 
There are residents at the home who are much younger and in better physical health than Mother and in better mental health too. Some of them wander a bit, walking to find an escape from the confusion that reigns in their minds. Others never say a word. One lady whispers everything and another lady sometimes stands in the corner and cries. 
In contrast, Mom has been chattering a mile a minute the last week. Nothing she says makes a lot of sense and she doesn’t process what you say to her correctly. You say one thing and she thinks you’ve said something totally different. Makes for hard conversations. In this photo, she’s telling me she has four of them – fingers, I think.
I haven’t felt as if she’s known me for a couple of weeks now. When an aide asked her if I was her daughter on Friday, she said no quite emphatically. But I am, whether she knows it or not. And she still smiles when she sees me. At least at first. Then sometimes she’s ready for me to leave so that she can go home. After all, you can’t leave company to do what you want. Innate hospitality forbids that. Maybe that’s what keeps her satisfied in the big gathering room. 
My sister or I go see her almost every day. I’m not sure that’s helping her, but it helps us. You see, it’s not only Mom who has to adjust to the new arrangement, but us as well. Care taking is a demanding thing and it wraps tentacles of guilt around you when you come to the place where you think you can’t do it any longer. 
But what we are continually reminding ourselves is that she wasn’t happy at her house and she seems more content at the facility. There is the danger of falls. She is getting worse with her communication, but that could have happened at home too. The main thing for us to remember is that we love her and she loves us whether she’s able to show that any more or not. 
She was a wonderful mother and I miss her. Those of you going through some of the same things with your loved ones understand what I mean when I say I miss her. Let’s all lift up a prayer for those with this dreaded disease and for the families who have to watch their loved ones decline into a terrible world of confusion.
I took a walk back to my wildflower area today and was surprised to see a lot of the flowers blooming. The one above, Dutchman’s Breeches, was always one of Mom’s favorites. And I also saw my first snake! I think he was cold since he didn’t slither away but let me step right past him on the path. 
Thanks to all of you who downloaded my book, Scent of Lilacs. It’s going to be free for a while longer, so if you have e-reading friends, I hope you’ll tell them about it. You can check my last blog post to see the links to the places where you can download the book. And you’re always welcome to share my blog posts with any friends you think would like to read my ramblings. Thanks. You’re the best.