Friday, May 6, 2016- 6 a.m.
I’m not sure why, but the past couple days have been without a lot of drama, anger, or tears. I woke up this morning thinking maybe it’s because I’ve been here nearly a month and Mom is adjusting to having some assistance. Maybe not. Maybe she’ll have a tirade later today and demand that I go home.
Friend Bonnie sent me a pile of mail that accumulated in Columbia. Son Adam collected it for her to pick up, plus he and I reviewed the contents of the pile during a recent phone conversation.
Although the box of mail only contained some bill and insurance statements plus some magazines, I was delighted to receive it. It was as if I had received a slice of my own life to be with for a while. This is how it must be for prisoners or military personnel when they receive mail and care packages.
Am I implying that being here is like being in prison? Pretty much, yes. I live Mom’s schedule and have minimal privacy. Even she has talked of her own life as being in a prison with the daily routine of seeing Dad, doing his laundry, cleaning the house, reading through mail, and getting up the next day to do it all over again.
Mom hasn’t even fussed much about Monday’s appointment with the neuropsychologist who will review test results. A couple days ago she said she wanted to cancel the appointment, but I just said we are required to go…and that this would be her last appointment with that doctor; she would not have to see her again. “Well, that’s good,” she replied.
“He’s Going To Die Here, Isn’t He?”
While visiting Dad the other day, Mom looked at me and said, “He’s going to die here, isn’t he?” I was a bit surprised by this question, but I said something about this skilled nursing unit is often the last place of residence unless someone is moved to a hospice facility or hospital. She teared up. She would like him to be at home when he dies. I know he would like that, too.
These days she often sits with a worried look on her face. She does not want Dad to live alone, to feel lonely, or to die alone. I understand her concerns.
Early Morning Conversation About Options
This morning I woke up with the birds and made coffee. Mom came downstairs, sat across from me, and stared at the rug.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
“Maybe I’m mistaken, but when I visited Dad by myself yesterday afternoon I thought they had taken his name tag away from where his room is. We need to check on that.”
“Sure. We can do that today…but maybe it was part of a dream?”
“Maybe. I just don’t know. My mind is so busy with things.”
And that led us to a long, easy discussion about options for the future. I talked about how my friends and I were already thinking about what to do when we can no longer live by ourselves due to health or memory problems. We talked about the women we’ve met at Victory Lakes who live in the independent living apartments while their husbands reside in Dad’s unit…how the women can easily visit their husbands and keep them company.
As she had done before, she mentioned things she would take if she decided to move…but also discussed the fear of not wanting to stay there if something happened to Dad.
“I would not let you stay there,” I said. “I would move you to Columbia where we could hang out together more and you could spend time with Adam and your great grandchildren.”
She didn’t respond to that other than to say, “I think it would be less expensive for me to stay here. I’d have to sell the house in order to move over there.”
I assured her that she would not have to sell the house, but that, yes, it is less expensive to stay where she is. That was the perfect opening for me to reintroduce the idea of how some folks who have health or memory problems live pretty well on their own and just need someone popping in a couple times a day or a couple times a week to check in and assist if needed. “Sort of like I do now,” I suggested.
She did not react negatively, so I took the conversation a step further. “And even if someone can no longer drive, there are services that provide transportation. Folks get picked up and dropped off to spend whatever time they want visiting their loved ones who live in a community like Dad’s, and then they get picked up and brought back home a few hours later. And these services can also take folks grocery shopping, to doctor appointments…but you even have Kevin next door. He’d be happy to take you over to Jewel or to an appointment.
“Yes he would,” she said.
Shortly before 6 a.m. she decided to go back to bed. I got a third cup of coffee and felt quite good about the conversation we had. I’m not sure what, if any, of the conversation she will remember, but I do know she ruminates about “what to do” quite often…and that’s good.
On some level she knows a change will have to take place. She sees how other families deal with similar situations when we visit Dad at Victory Lakes. She seems to be slowly realizing that her desire to have Dad home will not become a reality. She did not fuss or cry during the conference visit we had with staff yesterday, and that was the first time she was rather complacent. In fact, at one point she said, “He just can’t come home.” Everyone around the conference table slowly nodded their heads in agreement.
My focus lately has been more on “we” and not “you,” because I do think about what I plan to do in the future when I can no longer live independently…and my close friends think about that, too. So I share that with Mom and I think that approach helps.
We’re all getting older. Our bodies and brains are aging. We’re noticing more memory problems. We will need more assistance in the future. It’s just a part of life for those of us granted the extra time on this big blue marble.