“I hate it, I Hate It, I HATE IT…!” – (Senior Living Choices)
Last post, I noted that elder care has been the focus of our latest “everyday adventures”.
Here’s our current recipe:
Add one cup of elderly, five cups of worry, three cups of time, six cups of patience, and a cup-and-a-half of irreverent humor. Drop in a quarter-cup of guilt (yep, only one-quarter and only when I’m not thinking straight).
Stir frantically with no attention to timing…desperately toss in other ingredients (love, empathy, frustration, forgiveness, toughness) as needed. Throw in sibling conflict for added adventure.
In nearly any proportion, this recipe offers overly generous servings.
I’ll try not to provide TMI, but two months ago, Mr. D&D’s 91-year-old mom was living in her own home; driving herself to Mass daily, and out for lunch and dinner at nearby restaurants. We were concerned about the driving, but followed her a couple of times and she seemed to be okay.
She DEFinitely had short-term memory loss, but didn’t get lost or disoriented. Still, we had begun contemplating the senior driving evaluation test offered by county adult services. If she hurt herself driving, we could live with it; if she hurt someone else, we knew we couldn’t.
That decision was made for us by a well-intentioned sibling who took the car keys and left Mr. and me to figure out the rest of it.
Meals were an instant issue…my MIL eats out and will not typically eat delivered food (whether by us or ordered). Cooking is not an option, and she’s too picky for Meals on Wheels.
We had previously discovered she had an incontinence problem and started supplying her with disposable underwear, but hygiene was starting to become a major concern. Let’s just say “evidence” was starting to appear….everywhere.
As if an unsanitary home isn’t bad enough, the personal hygiene challenge was resulting in frequent UTIs…never a good thing for an older person.
Then the nightly frantic phone calls started: “Julie took my wallet!” “Julie has all my keys.” Each call, given the short-term memory loss, was new to her… One night there were 17.
Julie didn’t take the keys, btw. Mom forgot—not only the hiding place—but that she herself was the culprit behind the daily hide and seek challenge. I’d go over the next day only to find wallet and keys each hidden in various places…a new hiding place each day. And, trust me, mom got to be a better hider as I got to be a better finder.
The abrupt change in routine had added sundown syndrome to the mix.
Throw in a multi-level home, bad knees and weakening legs, and all the columns began to add up to a necessary change. Mom’s doctor said it was time for assisted living.
We looked at a several places, but none of them seemed right. And it was so frustrating to find her compliant, functional and competent in the daytime and so wheels-off-the-wagon at night.
I know how much the daily outings meant to her and how they helped her “keep it together”.
As much as I was happy to be taking her out and helping everyday, things really started to slide around our house. Plus, I had less and less time to be with my own aging parents.
I accidentally discovered an “independent living” residence that serves three meals a day, has scheduled activities, and offers the opportunity for daily outings. The deal sealer: a healthcare management company leased one of the apartments. That meant we could contract with on-site nurses and aides for med management, assistance with the incontinence and memory issues, and anything else (and from what I’ve seen, nearly everything else) that might surface.
Pricey? About the same as many of the assisted living facilities, but with options for a much larger space (bedroom/bathroom/livingroom/kitchenette). Also—because she is technically in “her own apartment”—it qualifies for some insurance help with the medical services because it’s “home heath care” versus “assisted living”.
Mom was part of every decision and step along the way. The only thing left was for her to like it.
She didn’t. AT. ALL. (at all, at all, at all!!!)
It took less than two hours before she loudly (in the middle of the dining room, no less) yelled the words that became the title of this post.
And that wasn’t the worst of it.
In addition to the effects of the sundowning, she decided that if she was horrible, the management would tear up her lease and kick her out.
Let me say, she was BEYOND HORRIBLE.
Her behavior at dinner left me in tears.
We progressed from basic rudeness to everyone at dinner, to wall-banging, hall-yelling, middle-of-the-night-door-knocking tantrums. And that, truly, was just the first night.
The residence management assured me this wasn’t new to them, but after the second night (involving threats and feigned heart attack symptoms), we decided to use her pretend “chest pains” as an opportunity for a hospital evaluation (besides, there was always the fear that the chest pains weren’t pretend).
This turned out to be a very good thing. After clearing her medically, the hospital began to experience some of the things she had been doing to “act out.” Some of it was her doing, but most of it was enhanced by the sundowning.
They ended up keeping her for several days and offered some prescriptions to help her settle down in the evening.
Mr. D&D had a long talk with his mom…and spelled out to her that if she returned to the residence and conducted herself with her usual dignity, she had a good shot at staying in a lovely place with daily access to the outside world. If not, places like her hospital room would likely be the next step.
The sit-down with her son really seemed to sink in, and there hasn’t been a major incident since she returned.
In fact, people have commented on how well she is doing.
One day last week I stopped by to surprise my MIL and take her out to lunch. She wasn’t in her room, so I went downstairs to the activity room and peeked in to find her participating in an exercise class. I waited until it was over and when she saw me she raved about how much fun the class was.
She’s still “hates it,” but I think she understands this will have to be home.
Some days, she doesn’t even complain. 🙂
I can sense, oh-so-subtly, that she is occasionally a little angry with me as the one who moved her. But I also can sense she knows that it’s the right thing for her and even if she can’t admit it right now, she does say things that indicate she knows that to be true.
Do I feel guilty? Absolutely, positively NOT!!! She is safe, clean, fed and stimulated. She’s pretty much herself again…and with all the structure, even better. As an additional bonus, she doesn’t repeat herself nearly as much. Not that we mind hearing repetition, but now she has so much more to say.
This arrangement is truly the best of all worlds. You can never love anything as much as home, but at 91, you may have to roll with the punches and be grateful for the gift of life that God continues to give you.
In his later years, my FIL couldn’t see, couldn’t hear and passed his time with a rosary in his hand. If I have the opportunity, I hope I will remember to be a good oldie for our children and use my later days doubling down on prayers for them and for the world I’ll leave behind…
The next time my MIL questions her purpose, I will remind her of that greatest of things she could do with her time, as her husband did and set as an example for the rest of us.
So why share all this personal stuff? Well, we’ve been down this road before…with other family members and with our friends. We’ve experienced the dregs of senior living, and know–first-hand–some of the things that happen with difficult and problem patients.
I would have never (ever, ever) thought that “Independent Living” would be an option. I just happened to accidentally ask a question that had the perfect answer for us.
So don’t rule out independent living before investigating if one in your area has a connection to daily services. You may just find the answer to one of your prayers.