The Call

 

Well, I made “the call” today. It’s the phone call most children dread having to make: “Hello, I want to set up an appointment to tour your facility.” The “facility” in question is an assisted living facility for my mother.

She moved into our house a little over a year after we adopted our three daughters what seems like eons ago. She had sold her house in Morehead City, NC, and had built a self-sufficient wing onto our house — bedroom, kitchen, living room, two-and-a-half baths. Her reasoning? “I don’t want to live a seven-hour drive away from my new grandchildren!” ‘Nuff said.

When our girls were little, she looked after them a lot. Mom and Dad could take breaks from parenting, which helped us keep our sanity (ok, many of you Ricochetti have met us, so it’s a debatable claim). Now that the girls are grown, we all look after my mother. In this case, payback ain’t a bitch — it’s a duty, but also a blessing. Even though we help her out a lot, she hired a professional caregiver (a sweet girl) to come three days a week to do things for her.

Unfortunately, our bodies deteriorate as we age, and it takes much more effort to do the simple things in life. At the ripe old age of 89, my mother told me this morning it took her almost two hours just to get dressed and that’s what prompted her decision. Having a part-time caregiver isn’t enough anymore.

So, my wife and I are going to check out this assisted living place tomorrow. It’s right up the street from where we live (close is nice) and my mother has visited friends who are (or were until they passed) living there. Even though my mother took the initiative to ask me to do this, I still get the feeling that I’m shoving her away.

I’m not, and we’re not. Still, sometimes doing the right thing sucks…

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  1. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    I know exactly what you mean. My mother is 90 and up until last August my 90 year old father had cared for her, along with their former housekeeper. My Mom is completely disabled – cannot walk or get her self dressed or get to the bathroom. Her mind still functions well but her body is useless and requires 24 hour care. Well, my Dad died last August 5 and suddenly her care fell to us 5 siblings, none of whom live near her – she is in Florida and we are scattered from Virginia to Arizona to California.

    Fortunately my brother in VA is retired and he went down to FL immediately. To make matters worse my Dad left her in a financial mess – tons of bills, house upside down and only a tiny annuity from his Navy pension. None of us knew the extent of their horrible finances. Anyway my sainted brother took over, organized everything, sold everything that wasn’t nailed down, got her qualified for Medicaid and into a quite nice nursing home in less than 3 months. In the middle of all this was Hurricane Irma. The rest of us sibs tag teamed out to Florida for a week or two at a time to help.

    Anyway, the point of all this is to say that there comes a time when this is necessary. It is just impossible to keep someone at home who requires this level of care when you don’t have the resources to pay for 24 hour care. Even though my Mom knew intellectually that she had to go she was incredibly miserable for the first two months. We got screaming middle of the night emails that she couldn’t spend one more day in  that hellhole. Part of the misery is that none of us are near her – one California sister is working to get her transferred out there. But now that Mom is acclimated we’re not sure of the wisdom of moving her. The home takes groups out for lunch and shopping and they have a lot of organized activities that she participates in. Her emails now sound pretty cheerful.

    What to do, what to do.

    Anyway, good luck in your quest. I think yours will be easier than ours.

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):
    Anyway, good luck in your quest. I think yours will be easier than ours.

    Thanks, and good luck with you too.

    • #2
  3. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    I don’t know how to respond, except to say you are blessed with a wonderful family full with love. Much of that is your own doing. So just keep loving and your actions will always be righteous. You are all very lucky people to have each other.

    • #3
  4. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    A pet can make a very positive difference in how disabled people of any age experience daily life, especially when confined to congregate or assisted living facilities. This website has a lot of good information about pets for elderly people.

    Some assisted-living centers allow the residents to have pets, or the center has its own pets that are loved by everyone.

    It sounds like your mom is used to taking care of others. She might enjoy having a pet at this point in her life.

    Also, a person’s love of music never seems to go away. Most of the assisted living facilities I’ve seen on Cape Cod host as many musical groups–professional and school groups or individuals–as they can. In fact, the professionals love to perform at these senior centers because they have some of the best pianos on the Cape. A grand piano was a huge investment for these facilities, but it was well worth it for them.

    Also, most churches have visiting programs for the local assisted living facilities. They can keep in touch with your mom wherever she goes.

     

    • #4
  5. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I don’t have any words of wisdom to share.  But I’m confident that you are a good son, Stad, and you will do the best you can for your mother.

    • #5
  6. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I would suspect that since your mother asked, she is prepared for this move. That she has already visiting the place should help even more.

    Nonetheless, I will point out that my father’s wife was able to bring into their home a team of part-time caregivers for 6 – 8 hours per day (every day) – 3 – 4 hours in the morning, and 3 – 4 hours in the evening for less expense than moving my father to a facility.

    • #6
  7. Belt Inactive
    Belt
    @Belt

    My dad’s been dealing with Parkinson’s for 2-3 years now, and it’s gotten to the point that Mom can’t provide the level of care that he needs.  It’s become too much of a burden for an 80-year-old lady.  I’ve been providing some assistance for a couple of years now, and last month it became apparent that we had to make a change.  We looked into assisted living facilities, but they don’t provide enough assistance, and I concluded that we had to get him into nursing care.

    Today we moved him into a nursing home.  We went through some financial planning last year and we should be in good shape.  But there’s still an emotional cost.  Dad will never live in a house again, and he and Mom are now going to have live apart.  He will have to rely on strangers to everything for him that Mom had done, his body and time is less his own than it has ever been.  (Well, except for his Army service, I suppose.)

    It’s hard, but it’s the right thing to do.  There is loss, but there is also change for the better.  Sometimes that’s just good enough.

    • #7
  8. CRD Member
    CRD
    @CRD

    May G-d bless and guide you and your family through this process!

    • #8
  9. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Belt (View Comment):
    He will have to rely on strangers to everything for him that Mom had done

    I think this was the most difficult part for my Mom. She was catered to on a very personal level at home and we finally had to be quite harsh with her in explaining that the nursing home caregivers, even though they are very good, just did not love her like Dad did and were not at her beck and call every minute of the day. It hurt us too to have to be so frank.

    Tough love, I guess.

    • #9
  10. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    My brothers and I are struggling with the same decision.   One of my mother’s aides said to me:  there is no right decision or wrong decision; there is only the best decision we can make given the circumstances.

    It is a blessing that your mother was able to make this decision.  It takes away a small part of the pain to know that you are supporting her wishes.

    • #10
  11. Bethany Mandel Editor
    Bethany Mandel
    @bethanymandel

    I love when folks share personal stories like this here.

    “The call” was a very hard one for my grandmother to make for my grandfather.

    When my mother was dying (in her early 40s) one of the things she said to reassure me was that at least I wouldn’t have to make “the call.” I would’ve liked to have had her around as long as  you have, to have that opportunity. It sounds like she still has all of her faculties, a real blessing at 89. As hard as her moving may be, it sounds like you’ve been very blessed with the time you’ve had with her so close, that she’ll remain relatively close even after moving out, and she’s so lucky to have a son who cares so deeply for her.

    • #11
  12. Phil Barton Inactive
    Phil Barton
    @PhilB

    God bless y’all. It’s hard. Our family has been surprised by the grace we encountered from staff, residents, and family in assisted living. I hope the same for you.

    • #12
  13. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Okay, @stad

    Do not pay any attention to the environment of the assisted living facility.  Ignore any fireplaces or other signs of glamor.  You need to focus on the caregivers.  See if you can talk with them without the management present.  You need to get an honest view on staffing, training of the caregivers, morale, etc.  Beautiful homes often hide utterly horrific staff – either corrupt, overworked, or incompetent.  Management generally does not reward excellence from the CNAs – it generally does not bring in more patients.   I have a sister who works in elder care, and this is how it tends to go down.

    • #13
  14. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    It is wonderful to read of the thoughtful and loving communication you have with your mother. We have traveled the same path with two different family members and found that trust and love made each decision made a little easier to make. I agree that the quality and commitment of caregivers is really key: ask about turnover in staffing at places you visit. It is a difficult job, not well paid, and people don’t stay if it’s not well run or they don’t like their job. You will be able,to discern the differences in residences and you will find the right situation for,your mother. It will be a place where you are both comfortable that she will be safe and feel secure.

    • #14
  15. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    You sound like a great son. And you and your kids were lucky to have lived so close to your mother. I’ve lived most of my adult life 2000 miles away from my parents and my kids know their grandparents from once or twice yearly visits.

    • #15
  16. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    MarciN (View Comment):
    It sounds like your mom is used to taking care of others. She might enjoy having a pet at this point in her life.

    It’s a great idea, but she’s not capable of taking care of one.  Also, staff at most facilities aren’t allowed to touch the animals, at least the ones we’ve looked at.

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Okay, @stad

    Do not pay any attention to the environment of the assisted living facility. Ignore any fireplaces or other signs of glamor. You need to focus on the caregivers. See if you can talk with them without the management present. You need to get an honest view on staffing, training of the caregivers, morale, etc. Beautiful homes often hide utterly horrific staff – either corrupt, overworked, or incompetent. Management generally does not reward excellence from the CNAs – it generally does not bring in more patients. I have a sister who works in elder care, and this is how it tends to go down.

    Sage advice, to be sure.  We’re well aware of abuses such as those you mention.  However, we have a couple of things going for us.

    First, she has personal experience with nursing home problems.  She had to move my stepfather three times before she found one that was good (this was in Raleigh, not here).  Frequent visits to my dad were what uncovered the problems.

    Second, she knows a couple of the people at the facility my wife and I visited this morning.  They had nothing but good things to say about the place.

    However, we will keep our eyes and ears, as well as our noses, tuned for any signs of neglect or abuse.

    • #17
  18. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Okay, @stad

    Do not pay any attention to the environment of the assisted living facility. Ignore any fireplaces or other signs of glamor. You need to focus on the caregivers. See if you can talk with them without the management present. You need to get an honest view on staffing, training of the caregivers, morale, etc. Beautiful homes often hide utterly horrific staff – either corrupt, overworked, or incompetent. Management generally does not reward excellence from the CNAs – it generally does not bring in more patients. I have a sister who works in elder care, and this is how it tends to go down.

    When we were looking for a place for my mom we were told the above. Once we got her settled, the same person gave us good advice: stop by often and never on a set schedule.

    We have a big family, so that was easy to do

    • #18
  19. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Here is my story from when we moved my mom.

    A little background: she was a dyed in the wool Democrat and even though my dad never made much money, she had plenty of money. But she was Scottish and didn’t like to spend it

    My mom’s mental decline was startling. We would get adjusted and then the gears would slip again. We finally decided to move her into the home where my mother in law had lived. While my MIL was never thrilled to be there we had all been impressed. But my MIL had complained bitterly about the cost.

    I had to trick my mom into a tour. On the way home she asked about the cost. I told her it wasn’t a problem, that she could afford it. She wanted a number. I told her $850/month. (A huge lie)

    she continued to challenge me, that she knew Betty had paid a lot more. So I finally told her that Obamacare was going to pick up the cost.

    Which she bought hook, line and sinker.

    I thought she would haunt me after she passed and found out what the real price was. But so far so good

    • #19
  20. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Annefy (View Comment):
    So I finally told her that Obamacare was going to pick up the cost.

    Which she bought hook, line and sinker.

    How sly, devious, even deceitful . . . I love it!

    Seriously, doing the right thing is hard.  It wasn’t totally clear to me from your post (then again, I am a guy), but has she passed?

    • #20
  21. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Stad (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):
    So I finally told her that Obamacare was going to pick up the cost.

    Which she bought hook, line and sinker.

    How sly, devious, even deceitful . . . I love it!

    Seriously, doing the right thing is hard. It wasn’t totally clear to me from your post (then again, I am a guy), but has she passed?

    Yes, she passed in October 2016. She lived in the care home for 2-1/2 years. By the time she died she hadn’t spoken a word in over a year and hadn’t known any of us for longer. I was the first one convinced she didn’t recognize me. I texted all my brothers and sisters: mom had no idea who I was today, but she was sure happy to see me.

    Brother: If she was happy to see you, that’s proof positive she had no idea who you were. (we all have dark senses of humor)

    None of us ever regretted moving her but we were never thrilled about it either.

    We grappled and grappled with the decision – we went round and round, always thinking we were missing something. (There’s five siblings and four spouses and we can talk anything to death)

    Finally someone here on Ricochet (@psychlynne?)  said something that really helped: Sometimes it seems like there are no easy answers because there are no easy answers.

    I know it seems simple and obvious, but that comment broke the logjam and we were able to finally make a decision.

    The last thing I said to my mom a few days before she passed during a bit of a health panic: It’s a good thing you had five kids; in your next life I suggest 10.

    BTW, I tell the Obamacare story often. And always add: it’s the only good thing that came out of it.

    • #21
  22. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Annefy (View Comment):
    BTW, I tell the Obamacare story often. And always add: it’s the only good thing that came out of it.

    And it’s a great story.  I hope belated condolences are in order . . .

    • #22
  23. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Stad (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):
    BTW, I tell the Obamacare story often. And always add: it’s the only good thing that came out of it.

    And it’s a great story. I hope belated condolences are in order . . .

    Thank you. Your post put her in my mind – I just read something and thought: I need to remember to tell mom that.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to not having a parent to talk to.

    • #23
  24. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    I don’t know anyone who’s used the service, but I see Joan Lunden speaking about A Place for Mom.

    You’re a good son, @stad.  Sounds like your mother thinks so too since she chose to spend much of her time with you and your family :-)  Will be thinking of you all as you transition to this new phase.

    • #24
  25. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Annefy (View Comment):
    BTW, I tell the Obamacare story often. And always add: it’s the only good thing that came out of it.

    So it was you @annefy who first said” If you like your old age home, you can keep your old age home.” Obama couldn’t even be original with his lies.

    • #25
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Annefy (View Comment):
    I don’t think I’ll ever get used to not having a parent to talk to.

    I’ve been an orphan for about two and a half years now. I still haven’t adjusted.

    • #26
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