Welcome back! Before I begin, I have to tell you that this has been a rough week for so many people I know. I’m not sure what’s going on but it feels like there’s been some weird cosmic shift in the universe. Apparently, we’re not the only ones trying to look for a suitable home for a loved one, my father-in-law has been looking as well (for his wife/my mother-in-law). He did manage to find a semi-suitable place but it’s anything but ideal. He doesn’t have the means to ‘private pay’, so he’s only able to put his wife somewhere that accepts Medicaid. The poor guy has been taking care of his wife (with very little assistance) for the last 4-5 years, and he’s at his wit’s end. Yesterday, he received the ‘go ahead’ from a facility nearby, so he went and gathered up her things and ‘dropped her off’. It’s one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do, but he knew he couldn’t continue to be his wife’s caregiver. Needless to say, once he got her settled in, he stuck around for about 4 hours. When he was preparing to leave and say his goodbyes, he stood in the doorway to her room. She was seated in a chair and staring him squarely in the eyes. According to what he told my husband, the look she gave him could have burnt a hole through him.
It’s a tragic situation because he just doesn’t have the means to place her in a home or facility with quality care. Fortunately, things are different for my mom. With the money from the sale of her house, combined with her savings and social security, she has a sizable amount of money to pay for her care. Just before I signed off on the 5th, I had been telling you about the research I was conducting to find her a quality care home or facility to move or transfer her to. What I hadn’t mentioned was that the day prior, I toured two different facilities or ‘communities’. One was exclusively memory care and was where my brother and sister-in-law intended to move my mom to, and the other one was 2-tiered (assisted living and memory care). When I walked through the memory care facility, I felt very conflicted. The grounds were beautiful and well maintained, however, when I went inside, I was less than impressed. Each ‘apartment’ was within one of four ‘houses’ or hallways, which were essentially long corridors that stretched the length of the building. Within each ‘house’ was a dining area, designated exclusively for the residents assigned to that particular ‘house’. When I peered into the dining area, I felt sick to my stomach.
Of the five patients/residents (in the room) who were seated at assorted tables or standing around, one was having a total meltdown and loudly crying (while the staff was attempting to comfort her), and the others looked as though ‘the lights were on but nobody was home’. I envisioned my mom trying to dine with this group of individuals, and wondering to herself how she wandered onto the set of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Part Two’. It was clear to me that she was not at their level, not even close, and that she would not do well in a place like that. In addition to that observation, I was also less than impressed with the ‘apartments’ that were available. The one I viewed was about the size of a shoebox. In fact, I was informed by our ‘tour guide’ that all of the ‘apartments’ in the facility were identical. There was a twin bed, night stand, and small dresser occupying the space, and not much room for anything else other than possibly a chair. The place definitely didn’t ‘wow’ me. Once I completed the tour, I headed over to the facility that was ‘two tiered’. Because it was the weekend, a regular guide wasn’t available to take me through the building, but the activity coordinator was. After getting an opportunity to view all three stories of the building, including the 3rd story (which housed the memory care unit), I went on my way.
The second place was a huge improvement over the first, but I still had my concerns as I observed a lot of folks on the third floor (memory care) who appeared ‘checked out’. Anyway, fast forward to the next day. The following day, as I was making calls to multiple adult family homes and care facilities, I received a call. It was the director of the second place I toured the day prior. The activity coordinator had provided her with my number. When the director (a lovely lady named Chris) introduced herself, I immediately shut her down. “We’ve got another place in mind that might be a better fit and they’re scheduled to do an assessment on my mom this afternoon,” I informed her. She then asked which place I was referring to and how I felt when I toured the building the previous day. When I told her, she became very quiet. “Trust your gut,” she said. After a long pause, she offered, “Can I please give you the phone number to a couple I know? I think you’ll find them useful.” When I didn’t immediately take the bait, she continued in her efforts to persuade me. “Please,” she stated, “I would like to give you a couple’s number who can help you with your decision. Please, please, promise me you’ll call.”
I finally relented, and once the call with the director concluded, I immediately dialed the number for the couple she referred me to. I cannot begin to tell you how glad I am that I called! When the lady answered, I mentioned that I had been referred by ‘Chris’. I also told her that I was on a quest to find a quality home for my mom to move to. At one point, she asked which places I was considering, and when I mentioned the (first) one I had toured the previous day, she said rather emphatically and loudly, “YUCK!!” It caught me off guard, but when she began to explain why she had the reaction she did, it all made sense. According to her, the place I mentioned, the place which was also sending a representative out in a half an hour to perform an assessment on my mom, had received numerous citations for compliance issues by the State. Not good!! After sharing that ‘nugget’, she indicated that she’d love to meet me and my mom, and that she and her husband could meet up in an hour. I told her that my mom had an assessment scheduled for 1:30 by the place she had just said ‘yuck’ about. Her response was, “Cancel it. Believe me, you don’t want to put your mom there.” It was obvious that this lady knew all there was to know about ‘who did what’ in the senior care community.
After speaking with her and agreeing to meet up in an hour (out in front of the building where my mom lives), I reached out to my brother and pleaded with him to cancel the assessment. I also encouraged him to meet this couple (who had boundless knowledge to share about ‘senior care’) in an hour’s time. “I promise, it’ll be worth your while,” I assured him. Thankfully, he did cancel the assessment and he did show up. However, my brother is Mr. Skeptic and I could tell by his demeanor (lips pursed and arms crossed) that it was going to take some serious convincing to get him on board. We must have sat and talked for at least an hour before venturing inside and sitting down with my mom. During the meeting, my brother and his wife peppered the lady and her husband with numerous questions and ‘what if’ scenarios. Once they were satisfied, while they remained outside and chatted, the lady, her husband, and I entered the building and made our way to my mom’s apartment (so they could spend a little time with her and determine what her needs were). When we approached her door, I knocked. “Come in!” my mom called out. After entering, we each took a seat in her livingroom. After I introduced my mom to my ‘new friends’, they started asking her a series of questions.
One of the questions they asked her was, “How do you feel about this place?” Without missing a beat, she answered, “I don’t like it AT ALL!” They sat and visited and observed for about 20 minutes (occasionally looking in my direction and winking when my mom would tell them a ‘whopper’) before excusing themselves. “I’m going to walk them out and then I’ll be right back,” I stated to my mom before exiting the room and heading back outside. Once we had all reassembled outside (the lady and her husband, my brother, my sister-in-law, and myself), the conversation about my mom and her needs resumed. “What does your schedule look like tomorrow?” the lady eventually asked, “If you have time, we’d love to set up some tours. We know of a few places with availability that we think would be a good fit for your mom.” Being unemployed, I had all of the time in the world, so I was ‘in’. My brother, despite being employed, was able to adjust his schedule so that he could participate as well. His wife had meetings so she couldn’t come, but I really wanted a third opinion from someone who knew my mother fairly well. It was at that time that I thought of my daughter. After sending her a text and asking if she’d accompany us, I received an enthusiastic, “Absolutely!”
Without getting into all of the nitty-gritty details, I just wanted to inform you that we were able (in one afternoon) to find a really great place for my mom, and we couldn’t have done it without the assistance of this lovely couple. We were in a free fall and they showed up and essentially rescued us. My mom is going to move into an adult family home which currently has 5 other female residents who are all exceptionally sharp mentally and most importantly, extremely sociable. My mom is a social person and loves to sit and visit. She doesn’t care about exercise or Bingo or cross-stitch or ‘doing activities’. She gets her joy from talking to and visiting with others. Because of this couple, this ‘unexpected blessing’, we were able to accomplish a very difficult task with relative ease. Anytime we had a question, they were there to answer it (in a very caring and supportive way). The home they found for my mom is really lovely. Her room is a good size (12 x 15) and there are caregivers on hand (at all times) to take care of her every need. Even better, the backyard is enormous and has assorted flowers planted throughout. It even contains a beautiful rose garden. She loves to sit outside and I know it’ll bring her great pleasure.
My brother finally broke the news to my mom (that he’d found her a new place to live) and she’s so incredibly happy! He and his wife helped her pack her things this afternoon and tomorrow is ‘moving day’. My brother sent me a video of my mom’s apartment with the caption ‘What a mess’. He wasn’t kidding! I have to tell you, I am so excited for my mom. I really hope this ‘change of scenery’ helps change her outlook on life because she’s been so incredibly unhappy (since moving out of her home). Not only has she been incredibly unhappy, so have my brother and sister-in-law. This ‘move’ is long overdue for so many reasons and I’m ecstatic it’s finally happening. I yearn to see my brother get his life back and find his smile again. There’ll be no more running to the store to pick up toilet paper or prescriptions or ice cream. He won’t have to launder her soiled clothes or keep after her about taking a shower or dispense her pills any longer. The caregivers will handle all of it. And someday (hopefully) soon, he can return to simply being ‘her son’ and not have the burden of continually worrying about her well being. That is my hope for him anyway, and I believe it will come to pass. It may not happen right away, but I truly believe that someday soon, he will find his smile again.
Thanks so much for stopping by to find out ‘the rest of the story’. Fortunately, it has a happy ending. I’ll let you know how my mother does throughout this transition. Fingers crossed that she finds her smile again, too.