Aid & Attendance · Assisted living · Caregiver · Caregiving

Ifs and whens / September 2, 2006

Several times this past week I’ve heard myself telling someone that my mother would probably be moving into assisted living fairly soon. Each time the words startled me–as if I were hearing someone else saying them. I don’t know when the “if” became “when”–or even if it truly has become “when”–but a part of me is clearly readier to think about the prospect.

Since I last posted my mother has been having “good” days. She still asks me each and every night “Where did everyone go?” She still looks for my father before going to bed. She still sits in her place on the sofa for most of the day, staring at her hands or falling asleep. But no unusual agitation, like last Tuesday. No wanting to “go home.” No wandering at night. I did have to remind her to change her clothes on Thursday, which she did readily. But we were back on that steady keel that lulls me into thinking we could go on like this indefinitely.

Maybe I know just a bit more surely that this won’t last? Maybe I’ve seen enough days like last Tuesday that erupt out of nowhere and become the new reality before dissolving? And each time that happens I absorb just a little bit more of what Alzheimer’s means, and this knowledge stays with me–scares me, actually. No matter how much I arm myself intellectually, I’m never emotionally prepared for my mother’s dissonances. Part of me remains status quo, but another part of me panics. And the way I cope with panic is to act, sometimes doing something I never thought I’d do, just to manage the horrible feeling in my gut.

And so I took time during one of the days I took off to do some more hard figuring, some creative visualization about my mother’s potential move into assisted living. I’d been dragging my feet a bit on the Aid & Attendance–I pulled the application and forms out again and requested a “pro forma” from the facility whose waiting list she’s on, in order to project her financial need. I then made a worksheet of her living expenses in the facility and at home. I suggested to my sister that she think about moving into my mother’s house (and keeping up the expenses, which are pretty low) when my mother moves into AL, at least until the house goes on the market–since my sister is unhappy in her living arrangements. Doing this has calmed me down.

Each time my mother disconnects more–even if the disconnect doesn’t last–I see the future. And I understand why I was advised to investigate assisted living in advance. I can imagine that the next disconnect will push me even more deeply into that panicky place where I must do things I just can’t imagine doing right now. Right now I pray that the admissions counselor will not call to tell me there’s an opening for my mother–at least, not until after Christmas? I still pray that she will never have to leave her house, but I wonder just who I am trying to protect with that prayer?

I feel so false to my mother by not involving her in these preparations, but I’ve played out that possibility in my mind countless times, and the only way it works is if my mother is her old self, able to understand the situation. I bring it up with her occasionally, usually in the nurse practitioner’s office in the hope that hearing it from someone other than me will make a difference for my mother. But I know that “if” and “when” moving becomes the only alternative it will be tough going.

And so I keep in mind what her doctor told us at our last visit. “It’s going to be harder on you than it is on her,” he said, and I sensed that there was truth in this as well as reassurance.

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