Thursday, August 2, 2012


I can't think of a more appropriate title for this blog post than numb. It's how I'm feeling right now.

Almost three weeks ago, my mom moved to a nursing home. We were notified on Tuesday morning, and she was originally expected to move in on Thursday. I delayed until Saturday morning. I thought it would give her a couple more days in her own home, but in retrospect, moving in on the weekend was a bad idea. None of the regular intake workers are there on the weekend, and it was fly by night and make do until Monday.

It's been a tough transition. The night before mom moved, she suffered a mini-stroke rather than the TIAs we've been dealing with. It robbed her of her ability to communicate. She knew what she wanted to say, but couldn't get the words out to say it. My mom is not a chatty person on a good day, so this added an extra layer of stress to her worst nightmare. For her first couple of days in the new environment she was unable to communicate her needs. The staff then made a bunch of assumptions based on what they thought the knew about mom, and caused them to treat her like an addle-brained 3 year old. Why is it that some care givers talk to seniors like they are 2 years old and not the brightest child in the playground? For example, my mom's roomate is immobile, and we were told, doesn't communicate much. I heard her talking to her husband one evening and she could communicate more than she was letting on. I also noticed that the staff called her by one name and her husband called her a different name.  I had lunch with her and mom one day, and I asked her what name she preferred. Turns out she wants to be called by what her husband calls her, but I don't think anyone bothered to ask her.

As the after-effects of the mini-stroke diminished, mom regained her power of speech. She's waging a bit of a battle of wills with some of the staff and it's vintage Myrna. Because of the inoperable skin cancer lesions, her forehead must be bandaged. It's an open wound on a nerve and dressing changes are not a picnic in the park.  The home care nurses had learned the tricks, but the nurses at the home are still learning. Mom made me stop at a pharmacy on the day she learned we couldn't keep her family doctor, and she bought her own supplies and did it herself. I gave the staff a heads-up but told them to let her keep them. It gives her a tiny measure of control in a world that she's lost control in.

I thought she would be safe from falls, yet she's had 2 since she's been there. One they knew about, one she didn't tell them about. She's now in severe pain, and my mom is not one to complain about pain. She avoids taking pain pills if she can help it, and if she's asking for meds, there's a problem. We had to transfer to the nursing home doctor, and he doesn't know mom from a hole in the wall. I think she's hurt something, and I will keep bugging them until something is done. Get used to this face, people.

I now have to start dismantling the apartment. My mom gave my aunt my favorite pieces, an old easel and needlework picture stitched by my grandmother, and a washstand that always stood in our front hall. I can still picture my dad's hat on the corner. I was hurt and angry when mom gave the pieces away, but in the end, I still have the memories and it's just furniture. I'm starting to make a plan for the rest of the contents, but I'm starting with things that have no emotional attachment, like sheets and towels. I have 2 months to get the job done, and it's an emotional grind every time I go over. For 22 years, mom's apartment has been my safe place, and it's hard to see it go. A wise friend of mine told me to approach as one would approach eating an elephant-one bite at a time.

My daughter has taken the transition well. There's a candy machine and a shuffleboard in the lobby, and a large lawn to practice handstands and somersaults while we sit in the shade under the trees. "There's more to do at Grandma's new home," she said and comes to visit more readily than she did at the apartment. That's made things easier for me.

This has been a nightmare journey. Mom went from being self-sufficient with a bit of help, to a nursing home crisis placement in less than 7 months. I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I still go to see mom, but I've been able to skip a day here and there without panicking that she's fallen, or not eaten. On the days I don't go we talk 3-4 times on the phone. There are still many things I have to accomplish, many tasks to do, but at least I know mom is safe and isn't lying in the hall somewhere unable to tell me she's hurt. I had to make my mom's worst nightmare happen, and it's taken a toll. It was the right thing to do. It was the necessary thing to do, and signing the papers and leaving my mom there the first time was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. We're adjusting, but there are still tough days.

At the end of the day, I need to be able to look mom in the eye, and face myself in the mirror and know I did the best that I could for my mom. I can do that. The vision might be blurry with tears, but I know I'm taking care of my mom the best I can.