Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Hard To Believe...

It was one year ago today that my family moved my Mom into the Assisted Living Facility (ALF)...I can't believe it's been a whole year. Here is my recollection of that day:

It was a nasty rainy Wednesday, the day before Valentine's Day. It was going to be my job to get my Mom out of the house so that the rest of the family could move her personal belongings out of the house and over to the ALF. I dropped Pal off at school and then headed down to their house. I was early so I stopped at my sister's house, where the others were meeting to wait for me to leave with Mom. Our nerves were shot and all of us were anxious to get the whole thing overwith. If you've never dealt with someone who has Alzheimer's, count yourself lucky. On any given day she could be totally oblivious to what was going on, or she could be really alert and very, very suspicious. I was scared it was going to be the latter.

I left my sister's and went over to Mom & Dad's house. Dad was also very keyed up and nervous, and was talking too much. I asked Mom if she wanted to go to the Mall (her usual favorite place) and her first answer was, "No, not today." I waited a heartbeat and said "Hey, let's go to the Mall!" She looked at my Dad and said "Got any money?" We laughed, and Dad went to get her some money. For some reason, while he was upstairs he decided to look in her room and there was money on her bureau so he took it...when he came down he gave her $60.00, and then she decided to go back upstairs to look for HER money! When she couldn't find it she got very frustrated! I just told her to look for it later, and off we went.

I had about 4 hours I needed to kill, some of which we would spend at lunch, so I drove very slowly to the Mall. We took our time browsing around the stores, but because of her memory impairment, she has really lost the ability to "shop" - something she had gotten very good at in her later years. I did my best to keep her interested in the merchandise, but she just followed me around like she was waiting for ME to find something to buy! I am SO not a shopper, but I had to pretend that day. The best place I found to take her was the "Build-A-Bear Workshop"! This entertained her for a very long time - she loved watching the little kids picking out their animals and she was fascinated by the stuffing machine! Who woulda thunk it?!?! I bought something small in every store we went in, just to kill time. It felt like an eternity.

Finally it was time to leave the Mall and meet my brother for lunch. I called him when we were leaving the Mall and he said that everything was moved and that the girls (my sisters and nieces) were just setting up the apartment. He met us at the restaurant which was only a few blocks down from the ALF. This was a nice change, because it gets very tiring trying to keep up the conversation when the person you are talking to can't remember anything! The funny thing that happened as soon as we sat down, was the waiter coming over to ask us if we would like something to drink. My Mom, who is an alcoholic, ordered wine. Since it was only 12:00 we suggested that she not have a drink (plus the ALF told us NOT to let her have anything to drink before she came there). She got really mad at both of us and insisted on getting the wine. The poor waiter - he was frozen in place with his eyes darting back and forth between her and us! We gave him the O.K. and he walked away. Not even 10 seconds went by and my brother excused himself to go to the "bathroom"...he went to find the waiter to tell him NOT to bring her wine, and when he couldn't find him immediately ~ he!!! I would have loved to see that waiters face when my brother came up to him in the kitchen!! He explained that she was not to consume alcohol, and asked him to give her cranberry juice with a splash of Sprite in it. When the waiter brought the drinks, she never missed a beat and sipped her "wine" happily.

We made lunch last as long as humanly possible (the waiter had caught on by now...!) and even ordered dessert. When we were ready to leave the restaurant, my brother went out and called my sisters to let them know we were on our way and that they should clear out. Like I said, the restaurant was only a few blocks away on the same street. As we were pulling up to the curb, my heart was beating so fast I thought everyone could hear it. I thought for sure that she would see the outdoor signs that say "Assisted Living - with a special neighborhood for the memory impaired" and she would get suspicious. We had already avoided a few suspicious moments during lunch when she noticed us exchanging glances or checking our watches. But, God was smart that day because He sent us the BEST weather possible - torrential rain! My brother popped open a nice big golf umbrella and we ducked for cover - cleverly shielding her face from the big wooden signs!

Once inside, she asked us "What are we doing here?" Our first lie - well thought out and planned - was to tell her we were at a hotel because "Dad called and said there is no heat at their house, and it's too cold to stay there". We had previously hinted around to this "lie" - when she asked why my brother was around to meet us for lunch, I told her that it was because he had been at their house trying to help my Dad with a heating problem. She didn't remember any of this when we were telling her about being at the "hotel". But she wasn't suspicious, which was a huge relief to both of us.

We got off the elevator and turned immediately toward her room. When we walked in, she looked at her bed and said, "Oh, I have that same bedspread at home!" The staff was actually really good, they didn't all come in at once. First the floor coordinator came in and introduced herself and told my Mom that if there was anything she wanted or needed, to let any member of the staff know. Then the woman who we had dealt with from the beginning came in to take Mom's picture (for her medicine lock-box) and Mom posed nicely for her! She said "Wow, they treat you like royalty around here!" The next uncomfortable moment came when Mom noticed some of HER stuff in the apartment - like her jewelry armoire. She got mad, saying "What right did you have to take that out of my house?" Our only answer was "Well, we thought you'd like to have some of your own things here while you stay here." She just "humphed" and forgot all about it a minute later. The floor coordinator came back in with some coffee for my Mom, so my brother and I told my Mom that it was time for us to get going, that we both had to go pick up our kids from school. Mom seemed totally fine with this and we left her there with the floor coordinator.

Could it really have gone that smoothly?

We were in shock. We both hugged and cried once we were back outside. It was scary as hell, but it was the right thing to do. She would be safe there, and well cared for (or so we thought at that time, but that's a different story altogether!).

We went back to my sister's house where everyone was waiting for us to tell them how it went. We just sat around in amazement that it went so easily. We were so thankful but emotionally spent. We decided to go back to my Mom & Dad's house to clean up Mom's room a little (they had left in a hurry to get her things to the ALF so there was stuff everywhere). After a couple of hours of going through her belongings, it was very evident that the day had taken quite a toll on my Dad. He was tired and wanted us to leave so he could go to bed. My brother's wife had very thoughtfully made dinner for all of us and so we headed up to their house, except Dad who stayed home to go to bed. We spent the rest of that evening looking through old pictures that we found in my Mom's room.

At the end of the night as we were all leaving my brother's, we all hugged in one big circle and thanked God that we had each other to get through all of this. It was a beautiful moment.

So, after one year and many emotions later, my Mom is happily situated in a nursing home...she is much better off there than where we started off at the ALF, but I wouldn't trade that experience on that day one year ago, because it was the right thing for her, and us, at the time.

She is still safe and well cared for. And that is why we can all sleep at night.

Have a great weekend -


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