Fourteen short months ago my mom was still living alone. She lived just 5 minutes from us and we would go there daily. She had three neighbors who also looked in on her. We knew the time was coming when she would have to move in with us and we had a vague idea of what we would do.
Back in October 2011, she began falling. By the grace of God, she never got hurt, but when she called us at 2 am because she’d gotten up to use the bathroom and fell, I had to figure out what was going on. My husband, who I affectionately refer to as St. Michael, went over to get her up and I googled “sudden, frequent falls + Alzheimer’s.”
She had a check-up scheduled a few days later, but I don’t mess around with UTIs so we went to see the doctor the next morning. She was extremely weak and unable to give a sample. While we were waiting for the doctor to come back in with prescriptions, she began to complain of chest pains. Doc wasn’t going to fool around with that and called an ambulance.
ER ran every test known to man checking her neck, chest, lungs–all good. But, she did have a UTI. Sent her home to our house with an antibiotic. We told her she’d be with us a couple weeks until the infection cleared up and we could determine if she was still falling. Four days later the UTI went south. She slept literally all day. When I went to check on her at 11 pm before going to bed myself, her speech was slurred and she wasn’t making much sense.
Back to the ER.
That was a nightmare. They were very busy. The decision to admit her came pretty quickly but the hospital was apparently full. She was sleeping comfortably, I, of course, was not. The patient in the next “room” was a psych or criminal patient with a guard outside the door. After we’d been there a few hours, another such patient was brought in so they moved my mom, allowing the guard to do double duty. The only place they could move her to was a trauma room. Clear at the end of the hall, out of sight and out of mind.
At 5 am, the nurse came in and said they paperwork was all done, but there was still no room. I was nearly in tears from exhaustion. She assured me I could go home. My mom did, too. Had my mom been in the other room, that would have been easier. But in this room, she was going to need to use the call button if she needed someone. She wouldn’t remember where it was. She wouldn’t remember where she was. She would be scared.
Still, the realization hit me that people don’t get released from the hospital at 5 am. If there was no bed now, there wouldn’t be one for hours. My physical limitations won out. I wrote a note for my mom and laid it on her belly and pulled the call button up on top of her so she could see it. I gave her a kiss and went home. I sobbed the whole way. I don’t know how I didn’t have an accident.
My husband went up to the hospital as soon as the kids were off to school, arriving about 3 hours after I left. They were just moving her to the “admission waiting rooms.” He called me around 11 and said they’d be getting her into a room about noon. I went back to the hospital and he left. She didn’t get into a room until 3:00 that afternoon.
She spent five days there and was then transferred to a rehab facility for physical therapy to build up her strength. She stayed there 30 days.
Late on a Monday afternoon I got the call that she was going to be released on Wednesday to our house, permanently. By this point, we knew she’d be coming to live with us so our plans were a little more defined than they had been six weeks earlier, but we were under the impression she was going to be at the rehab faci at least a couple more weeks.
We had to scramble.
I called St. Michael who left work and came home so we could begin moving her furniture to our house and getting her room set up. We worked all afternoon Monday and all day Tuesday. Of course it poured down rain the whole time. We finished about 7 pm on Tuesday. Leaving only a few things that I didn’t want to get wet until the next day.
My husband went to work Wednesday. He was to fly out that afternoon for a business trip. I got to my mom’s around noon for the last load and found her house had been broken into overnight.
Because I didn’t have enough to deal with already!
Police called. Business trip cancelled. Tears shed.
Hubby came home and we moved my mom in with us that evening.
When I picked her up that mid-October morning to take her to the doctor, neither one of us had any idea she’d never see her home of 41 years again.
So many of our parents will have to eventually leave their homes and it’s not likely to happen when it’s convenient or according to a prearranged schedule. If your loved one is showing signs that he or she is not going to be able to live independently anymore, I urge you to create a plan! Have the tough conversations with all family members involved and start researching options.
Many times the conversations that need to take place don’t because siblings disagree on what’s needed or they don’t live close together. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting around to it.
It’s going to be difficult when the time comes. Having a plan–even if it’s not time to act on it, is in the best interest of everyone.
Especially the loved one involved.
Talk to me! Are you facing the inevitability of your loved one needing round-the-clock care? Have you already had to move your loved one out of his or her home? What successes or failures did you encounter?