Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
    Phew!!  Reliving all of that has been a lot (probably for you, too!) -- that's why I took a little time away to regroup a bit.  Moving my mom July 3rd and then leaving for the holiday weekend was a lot!!  Over the weekend, of course I was worried if my mom was sleeping or asking lots of questions about where she was.  Obviously, I was grateful that we were somehow able to move her in without upsetting her, but I still couldn't help but wonder if our good luck would continue.  I was relieved to know that regardless of how she was, there would be plenty of staff around to help her.
     As soon as the weekend was over, Kristin and I went over to see how Grandma was doing.  This is how we found her...sitting in her room in the wheelchair watching some tv.  I was relieved and remember thinking that she looked fairly well rested.  My only fear in anticipation of this "first visit" was whether she would ask me to "go home" or something like that.   

She Makes It Look Like No Big Deal...
     Kristin went across the hall and watched the birds with Grandma while I did some snooping and met some of the staff.  They needed me to inventory all of my mom's possessions and make sure all of her clothing was labeled with her full name.  Although I had hastily done some of this before the last minute move, I still had more to do. Even though there wasn't much, it was a bit tedious and I wished I had some iron on clothing labels. 

Grandma, Kristin and the Birds
      While in my mom's room, I noticed this note with my mom's things.  Obviously, my mom had asked where she was and one of the nurse's had taken the time to write her name and the name of my mom's new home.  This made my heart sink for a moment, but I was glad someone had taken the time to try to help my mom understand.  The change in her surroundings is significant enough that it would be more alarming if she did not ever question it.
A Nice Nurse Took the Time to Explain
     My sister-in-law and her mom also stopped by with Matt, my mom's grandson.  I know how important it is for my mom to see familiar faces while going through this transition, so I was very grateful they took the time to visit.
Always Nice to Know She Had Some Company!
     I still was a bit bothered by how very small my mom's room was, but I was encouraged that there seemed to be more attention from the staff and that everyone knew who "Muffin" was already!
I May Never Get Used to this Small Room
      I also kept thinking about my mom's chair and how she would do without it.  My mom's roommate was sleeping in her bed in the middle of the day.  I still had not actually seen her.

     Before we left, we wanted to make sure my mom would be occupied and when we checked the calendar we learned they were going to be giving hand massages.  We asked my mom if she wanted to go and she seemed uncertain as to what it was and whether or not she did.  Kristin and I assured her she would like it.  She said, "I would!?" and before long she was being pampered with lotion and a nice hand massage.  She liked it -- so we left while she was being treated like a queen!!!  What a relief!!!
Queen Mary was in Good "Hands"!!


Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
    As I continue to play catch up on the blog, you will be glad to know my last post finally got my mom moved into the skilled nursing community.  (In case you have not noticed, I am making an effort to call it a "skilled nursing community" as "nursing home" has so many negative connotations...makes me feel better ;). 
     So, after moving only a few of my mom's essential personal items to her new place, there was one more slightly large order of business -- moving the rest of my mom's belongings out of the apartment she lived in for three years.  I had given 30 days notice, but the sooner I turned the keys in the sooner they might be able to find another tenant. 
     With my brother having three weeks off work, and me stopping by a couple times when I could, we somehow managed to clear everything out within a week after we had moved my mom.  My brother took most of the furniture back to my mom's condo and donated some.  I packed up the smaller stuff and tossed as much as I could.  Downsizing felt good when it came to some things, but was painful when it came to others.  Like my decision that it was time to say goodbye to these... 
     Those of you who have been following along will know that my mom's pink crocs were her favorite.  You may also remember that after one of her more recent trips to the ER, we decided to hide them as we were certain they were no longer giving her the support she needed to safely walk around.  They were well loved, worn and worth every penny.  We donated the couch and got rid of the older style tv as it would not fit in her new room.

We donated some knick knacks and odds and ends.

 I took some things home to sort through and keep or give to the appropriate person.  Remember when I made the artificial flower arrangement for my mom's balcony for Mother's Day since my mom was not able to take care of real flowers on her own!?  Also, the bolster pillow I got her to help with my mom's severe slouching problem!? 

Thankfully my husband came along with me on my last trip, with his truck.  Things went pretty quickly with him making frequent trips to the truck.

The emptier it got, the heavier my heart was...  Mixed emotions.  The relief of having her in a safer place, how much she loved living there, what a relief it would be to have her closer to my house, all the time visiting her with the kids, rushing over there when she fell, spending the nights, the staff, "The Don"...  All the trips back and forth for three years...  I remembered almost every item that came in and out of her place since I was usually the one bringing them in or taking them away.  Each trinket and stuffed animal.  Thinking, oh she loved that thing or oh she never even used that thing.  The things I had to take away because they posed a danger and the things that I had to get because they became necessities.

The earlier days when she was able to walk through her apartment without a walker and the days she had to have the walker.  They days she forgot her walker, and, of course, the days she fell in the hallway, or by the bathroom,

or in the kitchen... 

Here I was one last time in that hot apartment where I had the a/c turned down low to save energy.  I was on a mission with my sorting and tossing and donating and packing.  The last two or more months I had the time to contemplate what I wanted to do with most everything when moving time came.  Emotionally, it was yet another exhausting part of this long journey I have been on with my mom.  It was getting late and it became clear that after double and triple checking everywhere, including looking for the two rings that got "lost" along the way, it was time to say goodbye for me and for my mom.  Tears filled my eyes as I hung that little flag at my mom's door.  My husband let me have my cry and then we left!  Deep breath -- reminding myself she was in a safer place...

Apartment 147...was not ours anymore.  

I had to drop off the keys during normal business hours, so the next day I did...and I never looked back.


Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Well, let's see if I can make this post a little less drama filled...but no promises!!  I imagine some of you have read some of my last couple of posts and are thinking, oh my Lord, just move your mom into the nursing home already!!!  A valid point indeed!  However, since I've managed to detail most of our journey thus far, I want to continue to capture all of my mom's reactions and my feelings along the way.  After all, it was a big change for us.
     As I ended my last post my brother was literally wheeling my mom into the new skilled nursing community.  This is where I was afraid it could get awkward...  The picture below is what my brother texted to me once he had set up my mom's things and tv.  The room is so small that this is literally my mom's portion of it -- except for the chair which my brother literally put in the middle of the room (but we'll get back to that).

Praying mom would not notice she went from
a two bedroom/two bath apartment to this...  Didn't seem possible.
     I couldn't really explain the way the room is configured, so I drew this "very complex" (ha!) blue print of the room as shown below. 

      Most of the rooms seemed bigger and equally divided in half.  I had looked at this room before we moved in, but the truth is you get what you get and I would have taken almost anything that wasn't dirty or unsafe!  I don't know why this particular room was configured this way.  She was put on the second floor right off the elevator and close to the nurses station.  The floor is fairly busy with residents and staff and looks a bit like a hospital.  We showed her the room briefly and she was a bit confused, but nothing major.  My brother wheeled her around a bit while I tinkered with some things in her room and talked briefly to the staff to let them know she had "arrived".  I had also typed a list of all my mom's favorite things and a brief history cheat sheet which I left with the head nurse.  I will say, I was not overly impressed with their reaction to my mom's arrival.  Everyone seemed preoccupied and a bit underwhelmed by it.  I suspected that her 2 pm Thursday arrival the day before the Fourth of July holiday weekend played a role in this.  Nonetheless, I reminded myself there were plenty of staff all around and surely my mom was in a safer place.
     For the record, there are three floors.  The first floor is rehabilitation, the second floor is long term care, and the third floor is memory care.  Right outside of her door and just down the hall a tad there are some birds to watch.  That was one of our first stops.  Not sure if you can see the birds, but they are in there and fun to watch.  There are also fish aquariums around, too.

     After a bit of time passed, it was getting a little awkward and we were running out of things to show her.  Interestingly, she did not ask too many questions.  When she did ask, we would say she is just going to stay here awhile to do some physical therapy and regain her strength so she could walk better.  We showed her the room again, but there really wasn't the space for the four of us to hang out there.  I have to say I was very bothered that her beloved chair only fit smack in the middle of the room.  I didn't have the heart to tell my brother that I didn't think they were going to allow it there.  We tried to ask some staff but they were kind of dismissive and said, I think it's ok.  I knew Muffin, my mom's chair and the tv were normally a pretty important part of her normal routine. 
     Finally, my brother said I think something is about to happen in the dining room, people are gathering.  We checked the calendar and low and behold "Happy Hour" was supposed to be taking place soon.  So, we found a table and it wasn't long before my mom was enjoying some snacks.  It appeared someone was going to be coming to sing soon!   As an added bonus, my niece's aunt works as an RN in the assisted living building attached to my mom's new nursing community.  She kindly came down to see my niece and my mom.  She is a long time family friend and has known my mom awhile (although she had not seen her recently).  She also was instrumental in helping us get my mom into this senior community and for that we are forever grateful!

Mom, Nicole (granddaughter) and Tanya the RN

Snacks always work wonders...
     Before long, this guy appeared with his red, white and blue on and was singing away!  I remember one of his songs was "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and my mom was singing away.  I glanced at my brother and right then I knew we had pulled it off.  Although not what anyone hopes for, her confusion had worked in our favor and allowed us to move her to a safer place.  She was content in the moment.  After a bit more singing, I let the staff know I would be leaving.  I was pretty drained after spending the last five hours together.  I actually snuck out before my brother did as I didn't want all of us to leave at once.  It was hard, but I like leaving while she is in a fun social situation.  Before I even got home, the community called to tell me my mom's chair could not stay where it was and that they would hold it for me in storage.  This bothered me a bit because I did not like the idea of my mom sitting in a wheelchair all day and not having "her chair".  For the moment, I pretty much had to let it go as my family was also waiting for me so we could travel up north for the long weekend. 

Happy Hour Continues...blurry picture
     Below is a quick glance at her new place.  I will probably share more pictures in the future.  It is a pretty little campus setting with a senior apartment complex, a church chapel, an assisted living community and my mom's skilled nursing community all in one area.  The employees are not contracted employees -- they all work directly for the community.

     Good news -- I did not receive any emergency phone calls while I was up north.  As you may recall, there have been a few Fourth of July weekends where my mom has been injured (you could read about one here).  What a relief to go accident free!  It also gave me some piece of mind to receive a few pictures from my brother who went back for a visit while I was gone.  It looked like she was doing ok!!

There's a gazebo and lake at the back of the community...
     When I returned from the holiday weekend, I visited her again. I had to fill out an inventory of all of my mom's personal possessions.  I was relieved that the staff seemed more attentive and seemed to be getting my mom's paperwork more in order.
As I began to unwind over the next several days, I realized that after all I had been through these last months and weeks it had, in the end, taken a much bigger physical and emotional toll on me than it had on my mom.  She was not particularly agitated and seemed content and only mildly confused.  The drama I feared thankfully never happened.  There are titles associated with Alzheimer's Disease such as "The 36 Hour Day" or "The Long Goodbye".  I definitely see why those are fitting -- it continues to be quite a journey.

I call this one -- The Sun Will Come Out - Tomorrow!!!!