This was submitted to us by a client. It’s a very touching story that needs to be shared. If you have a story that you would like to share, please submit to TanyaB@MontanaEstateLawyer.com
It is time to “put” my mom in assisted living
For the last two years my mother has traveled between the homes of her children. Her living out of a suitcase came to end recently when she moved into a local senior living facility.
Since my father died, my mother’s destiny has been manipulated by committee –namely, by her children. Diagnosed with moderate dementia and polyneuropathy, she has cognitive and mobility issues, but in many ways is doing quite well for her age. (She is proud that she is not on one single medication. Zero.) One sister took over her finances. As the only sibling in the town where my mother lives, I took over the day to day management of my mother and the condo where she lives. This happened not by executive decision, but gradually day by day as she needed more support. I got the unenviable job of taking away her car keys and selling the vehicle. I arranged meal delivery at her condo. Over the course of her long life, my mother rarely had help with house cleaning. She never thought anyone else did as good of a job as she did, which was true. She also worried someone else would break or steal her precious antiques. Which may not have been warranted. I hired house cleaners for her, and there was a series of part time care providers who could also transport her to get her hair done, pick up dry cleaning, see the physical therapist, do errands, and even just go out to lunch.
As her friends rapidly began to die and her independence was eroding, she complained of being bored and lonely. (Partial hearing loss didn’t help.) When my dad was alive, I always thought he was the extrovert and my mother more reclusive and introverted. But after his death, she displayed a healthy appetite for socializing, always wanting to go to or have a party. Near her home a neighborhood couple sponsored Friday night events open to the whole block. “Bring a chair and come” the imaginative weekly invitations said. Mother attended a few of the parties. One Friday night, she went out late, alone, after dark, with her chair and couldn’t find the party she thought would be well under way. She didn’t know that it had been canceled because of a death in the family of the host. A neighbor spotted her wandering around the block, lost, looking for the festivities, and escorted her home. The neighbor reported the incident to me the next morning, and I told my siblings. The wandering lost at night carrying a chair incident prompted the collective decision to have my mother live with one of her children until we figured out Plan B. Two years passed.
We researched assisted living facilities and put her on two waiting lists. Before you need one you might think there are tons of them in your town. I did. But every single one we looked at had a waiting list. Every one of them, even the ones that seemed flawed like with upstairs bedrooms with no elevator or no private baths. My siblings and I were in two camps about mom care – those who thought she needed 24/7 care by one of her children and those who thought she could still function on her own with lots of support. I was in the latter camp and so was in favor of assisted living instead of my mother living indefinitely with one of us, then another, then another, and then back again. I thought that a senior living facility would give my mother support, management, supervision, and care but also provide independence and autonomy.
Early on a few units opened up that we turned down, in favor of the existing care by one of her children. We weren’t ready, I guess. But last month, when a one-bedroom apartment unit was available at our top pick facility, we accepted it. Most of my mother’s children and my mother herself agreed it was time for her to move there.
My grandmother hated old people and didn’t like being around them. When she was in assisted living, she kept to herself, welcoming her family and younger company, but not interested in her fellow residents. I wasn’t sure how my mother would do living with an elder population. The last few years she has been self-conscious about first using a cane and now a walker. Reluctant to go out in public, but wanting to. Where she lives now most residents use mobility aids. Mom uses her walker with an ease and vigilance I haven’t seen before. She seems more at peace with where she is in the life cycle. She knows she is not alone. More than that she says she is lucky to still have as much quality of life as she does, comparing herself to the others she sees daily who are more challenged.
So far, so good. She has to get herself up, showered, dressed, make her bed, get her wash ready twice a week, etc. She can walk to the front desk to make an appointment to get her hair permed or styled on the premises, or arrange a ride if she needs one. This morning I got a message, the second in two days, wondering where her cell phone charger is (I still get lots of “where is the lost item” calls. The charger is the same place it has been since the day she moved in.), but also that she was going to the front lobby with her book to read where there is more activity. She has made a couple of nice friends already that she sits with at meals. Honestly, my mother seems lighter and happier than she has in years. She loves entertaining company and often has visitors in her apartment when I stop by. She was never lonely or bored with my siblings, but she was living their life, not her own. Now she is more in charge, and she likes it. And for me, it has been a huge relief. For years my visits with her inevitably involved housework as well as mom care. There were always TV or phone problems, a plumbing leak, or an appliance that wasn’t working, a light bulb out, something lost or needed. There was never time just to sit, have a cup of tea and talk. Now there is.