Assisted Living For Mom - Right Choice
The Decision and Transition
Yes, we have toyed with the idea for years. Should mom be in an assisted living environment rather than occupying a bedroom in one of her children's homes. For the past six years she has been living with my sister but recently we’ve noted that her health is deteriorating. Now 89 years old, she is in need of more and more attention every day. She needs help getting ready each morning. She is unsteady and needs someone present when she takes a shower. She can dress herself but it is often a difficult task for her to accomplish by herself and therefore frustrating. I notice that her patience is short. She seems more depressed. She is losing weight and having trouble sleeping through the night.
No reflection on my sister's care, but I soon conclude that mom is just not happy. Thus I go in search of an alternative living situation for her. After much scouting, I find a great establishment that has what they call "Independent Living". The residents are able to have cute individual apartments and pick and choose services they need. After taking mom on a tour and having lunch to get a sense of the quality of food served, we decide that this would be perfect. Mom will be able to have assistance with her shower, and dressing when necessary. She will receive help as she needs it at every phase of her physical requirements from now on. The loneliness she feels will disappear as she makes friends with others her own age with similar problems.
The tone of the residents here is a happy one, everyone seems to love the place. I'm crossing my fingers that this will be the best decision for her.
Mom Moves In
Moving day arrived and while I readied the apartment by setting up the kitchen with new dishes, utensils, glasses and so forth, my sister waited with mom for the movers. They arrived early and before I knew it, they were at the front of the new home calling to be buzzed in. Three other new residents moved in the same day so there was some delay waiting for others to clear the hall. Fortunately in spite of this, I'd say that within two hours, the bed was set up, the clothes were hung, and everything was in the apartment, including mom. She was sitting on her brand new couch, which was delivered the day before. I looked at her and realized that she looked very pale. I think the move was harder for her than we knew. She said she was not feeling very well and my sister and I looked at each other with concern. She had not slept all night.
Then, things began to happen. First a nice gentleman resident came in with a big bouquet of flowers. He volunteered to deliver them from the lobby. He introduced himself and welcomed her. The flowers were from my brother and this made her smile. Then the welcoming ambassador, a nice lady named Lavern who is a long-time resident, introduced herself and left her number in case mom had any questions or wanted escort to dinner. The nurse came to administer part 2 of the required TB test we had initiated three weeks ago. Then the priest came in to visit and met us all. Through this, my sister and I were unpacking the boxes and my husband and brother-in-law were hooking up her phones and TV.
As soon as we completed making the bed, about 3:00, we all left except for my sister who had planned to spend the first night with mom. We all knew that mom needed to lie down and have time to take it all in. The next morning, I called and my sister informed me that mom had gotten sick after we left, as if she had food poisoning. After she got it out of her system, she was fine and slept through the night. When I arrived at her apartment the next morning, she looked 100 times better. I was so relieved to learn it wasn't the move that made her ill after all.
I spent the second night with mom so that she could gradually adjust to her new place. And the plan is to trade off nights with my sister for the first 4 or 5 days.
Mom’s First Week
After my sister and I traded off nights sleeping in mom's living room for three nights, she decided that she could sleep there alone. The security is excellent. The rule is that you must hang a metal cross on your door knob every night and take it in every morning. This lets them know all is fine. The apartments are sound proof so mom can have the TV on as loud as she likes. She says she has been sleeping great, I think this is due to the fact that she is walking more. It is quite a walk down a long hallway to her dining room. She tested low for vitamin B12 and has been receiving a shot every day this week. This has helped her appetite to return. The food is nutritious here and easy on her digestion.
Mom is strong enough to take a shower without supervision now. I am so proud of the way she has learned to open and lock her apartment door and find the mail box herself to check for mail. She has learned how to work the coffee pot and now makes her own coffee each morning. She sent me to pick up more groceries as she was getting low. Friday and Saturday, some of her other children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren told her that they were delightfully surprised at how nice her apartment was. She seems to be gaining not only her strength, but her pride back.
My husband picked mom up for Easter Sunday dinner and when he brought her in our house he whispered to me that she looks better than she has in years! I am so happy, now I'm praying she makes friends. The residents are all very sweet and seem friendly. All she needs to do is reach out.
Mom Makes Lunch
Just wanted to document that I just spoke with mom on the phone, and she told me she made herself a zucchini omelet for lunch today! I'm shocked because when she moved in she looked at the stove and said "I won't be using THAT!” The Independent Living Plan we chose provides dinner but the residents are responsible for their own breakfast and lunch. I stocked her fridge yesterday and explained that she might get the urge to cook sometime. The next day I refrained from visiting to see if she would get along by herself. It worked, she said she was hungry so she fixed the omelet and even warmed up some leftover ham I had given her from Easter dinner.
I'm hoping she will grow stronger. Patience pays off...she does something new every day.
Mom Begins to Socialize
Wednesday evening I took mom down to her dining room and ate dinner with her and two gentlemen residents. They usually eat with another fellow who was having knee surgery today.I invited them to join us since there was a table for four ready. It was fun to learn about them, where they grew up, where they served in WWII and about their families. Mom told her story as well and they seemed to be genuinely interested. They also told us inside scoops about ordering food and the place in general. The residents have an association and they have regular meetings where they can discuss problems or changes they want. I noticed that my mom was smiling quite a bit that evening as other ladies dropped by the table to say hello. Her ambassador also dropped by to see how she was feeling.
Thursday morning I woke up with a terrible cold and so I called my sister who thankfully said she would take care of some chores for mom because mom was expecting company. Her girlfriend visited Thursday and her grandson visited Friday. I'll get the scoop once I feel well enough to visit her myself.
Mom’s Solo Venture
I was unable to be much help to mom during the last part of her third week in her new home, after my head cold turned into a bronchial infection complete with a doctor visit, steroids, antibiotics etc. This may have been good in a way, because she was forced to act on her own. The front desk called her and said that she had received a package that they were holding for her. My Brother sent her cookies which she was expecting, so she decided to go there herself to pick them up. She has a really neat walker that is equipped with a basket in front topped by a tray. It even has a side horn for traffic jams!
Well...she got lost, but the good news is that there were lots of residents and employees along the way that helped her with directions. When she finally got back to her apartment, she was actually happy she ventured out. I was relieved to hear this story which confirms that her confidence is returning.
Mom’s Progress – Week Four
Mom began her fourth week by deciding to go to Sunday Brunch. The servers asked her name and stated, "Oh, your daughters usually come and get you food, nice to see you here." They sat her with a lady at a table for two. The woman spoke very little because she was hard of hearing, but mom enjoyed her brunch. When I spoke to her she said she was really full so she must have eaten quite a bit.
On Monday, I told mom that I needed to put my home in order after recovering from my cold, and she said that she planned to go up to the clinic and get her blood pressure taken. Now this was amazing to me because mom does not like elevators.
Next I told her that her niece wanted to come visit her on Wednesday. She said she was busy because they were having the monthly birthday party on Wednesday. Since this is her birthday month, she is one of the honored guests and she had accepted the invitation. It is going to be a Hawaiian theme luncheon and they are going to have Hawaiian entertainment afterwards. I re-scheduled my cousin. Dare I relax...
Mom’s Birthday Celebration
On Wednesday of the fourth week mom's Ambassador, Lavern, escorted her to the room where the Hawaiian Luncheon was being served. Mom sat at the birthday table and received a bouquet of flowers. The lunch consisted of shish-kabob with shrimp, chicken and vegetables on skewers, rice, tropical fruit and coconut. She said it was delicious. After lunch entertainment was provided by hula dancers. They asked three men to come up front and dance with them. Since most of the population at the home is female, the girls got a real chuckle from this.
When I visited mom Thursday to hear the details, she was very animated when recounting her experience. This is the first time I have seen her eyes sparkle in the last ten years. I actually had to hold back my own tears because I was so happy she was happy.
On Friday I brought back a poster I had framed for her and hung it in her kitchen. It was given to her by my brother when she turned 80. I can't believe it was 9 years ago. It is a photo of her in her youth with the following words:
TWO WORDS OF WISDOM FROM NANA: ''EAT SOMETHING''
Feeling fat? Eat something!
Got the sniffles? Eat something!
Flat tire? Eat something!
Too much homework? Eat something!
Boyfriend won't call? Eat something!
Split ends? Eat something!
Baby won't sleep through the night? Eat something!
Boyfriend finally called? Eat something!
THE SECRET OF LIFE? MORE PASTINA!
Our mother was our consul for any situation and her wisdom and humor brought us through the toughest of them. We only pray we may now reciprocate and bring her through this Assisted Living transition with wisdom and humor as well.