BoomerCafé is running this series of blogs by baby boomer Wendy Reichental about her mother. Her aging mother. At this age ourselves, many of us have one. As Wendy writes, it’s not easy, because there’s always a huge sad elephant in the room.
It’s been three emotional weeks since we found a senior residence to house my mother. More than four weeks since she has been back to her actual home, the home she cherished for more than 25 years but in which the last ten she lived alone as a widow. Since July she has been in and out of hospitals and in-between visits was recuperating at my house where my husband and I did our best to make her comfortable and keep her content. The truth of the matter is that this arrangement was not working. In my head, I knew I had to deal with assisted-living alternatives for my mother, but in my heart I was not ready to move on to this option and sadly neither was my mother. But that was all about to change.
The weeks leading up to us bringing my mother to a residence and walking away were the most stressful we’ve experienced in a while. My mother manages to impress anyone who meets her and dismay them that she is not younger than her actual 88 years. She’s clever, witty, funny, and also exasperating. She needs a cane after a hip fracture she endured almost four years ago and should be using her walker, but she dislikes her walker because it makes her feel “old.” So we compromised and convinced her that her cane is like a convenient accessory she should sport at all times.
For the longest time my mother managed all her affairs at her home, enjoying her hobbies of knitting, painting, reading, and doing domestic tasks like cooking and grocery shopping. Put her in front of any sort of shopping cart and she could outlast a much younger, more strident shopaholic…for example, me!
But there were cracks in this perfect Betty White picture. A few years back, when we noticed that she was repeating questions often and forgetting the answers we were giving her, we set her up with regular appointments at a memory clinic. Her diagnosis from their intensive clinical testing was that she has mild to moderate dementia/Alzheimer’s…and a common treatment drug for this was initiated. I remember being stricken with fear with this news, but it was explained so matter-of-factly by the attending physician, and it was emphasised that my mother could still continue with her lifestyle, she just had to add a new pill to her repertoire.
Since that initial diagnosis, my family noticed that things were definitely becoming much harder on my mother. We hired a caretaker to act as companion and to accompany my mother on her grocery expeditions. We made arrangements to get a power of attorney mostly so that we could take care of paying bills for my mother without her fearing that she forgot to pay one. We visited often and took inventory of anything that needed to get done. But challenges prevailed.
We would drop in and find her sitting in front of the TV with her dinner tray and would notice that pills were not taken and, worse yet, were on the floor. She had her pill organizer box but her pills were taken out of sequence. She insisted that she was taking them right and any attempt to teach her otherwise fell on stubborn ears. My husband would pick up a pill he found on the kitchen floor and she would feign innocence at how it got there. I would joke instead that the floor would end up being healthier than her. But nothing about this situation was amusing.
In June of this summer we took her to our house for some reprieve from her routine. She looked forward to these days where she slept over and got reacquainted with her room at our house. It is such a thrill for her to get away from, as she puts it, “those four walls.” I too look forward to this time, as I want so much to relieve her from her self-imposed loneliness and to take care of her. The only thing different about this visit was that I had made an appointment to view a senior residence with her and was not letting the topic recede.