Helping my parents move from Independent to Assisted Living

movingdayToday is the day we move my parents. My last sibling arrived late last night so we could all show up to help our parents with the move. My home can’t manage all 3 of my siblings comfortably, so one brother and sister stay in my parent’s town house, and another brother stays with me at our house. We decide to meet in the morning and set the game plan over breakfast.

Our parent’s are looking forward to having all the kids in town. After they were notified and we spent the rest of the day discussing and dealing with our very agitated mom, we stopped talking about the move. When we set the timing with the Executive Director of the retirement community, she strongly suggested that someone stay with my parents full-time after they are notified. My oldest brother W. was the freshest, so he took the last day and a half with my parents.

At so many twists and turns, our parents have surprised us. We were concerned they would leave the retirement community and go stay in a hotel.  By not raising the subject, we have avoided the debate. By day two my mom had either forgotten the impending move or assumed her refusal to accept it made it go away.

Today we will arrive a half hour before the movers are set to show up. We know it’s not going to be easy, but the day is here and we need to help our parent’s manage through and make this transition. It’s the best place for them going forward. Undertaken.

Are you sure you don’t need my son’s help?

mysonthelawyerMy older brother, W., is taking a full day shift with my parents. It’s tough duty given my mom’s anxiety and anger over the pending move.

After being notified, she finds a lawyer listed in the resident’s directory and makes an appointment. However, she fails to remember she made the appointment and does not meet the lawyer when he arrived. My brother stayed in the apartment to meet him and give him an explanation.

Neither parent has mentioned the request for a lawyer today nor mentioned the appointment. My brother decides not to raise the issue and lets it be.

At dinner, another resident comes to the table and asks my parents “Are you sure you don’t need my son’s help?” My parents don’t know who this woman is and have no idea what she is talking about. The woman goes on to explain that her son “the lawyer” stopped by to meet with them.

My brother can’t believe this woman. She does not know my parent’s but has come up and pressed them on calling her son “the lawyer”. My mom is a little put-off by the woman and wonders aloud to the woman while she would call a lawyer when she has a daughter who is a lawyer?

While I find the mother’s follow-up horribly inappropriate, my brother is floored at the chain of events. Thankfully, my brother W., can escort her back to her dinner table before this day get’s any messier. Appalled.

Dad has Alzheimer’s

alzheimersFor the past few weeks my mom has given me a variety of reasons to return to their town house:

  • Mom: “Dad needs to do work in his office.”
    Kay: “The boys moved dad’s office to the apartment two months ago. Should we make sure the printer has enough ink?”
  • Mom: “I need to go get my winter coats.”
    Kay: “I just saw some coats in the entry closet. Let’s see if your winter coat is in there.”

We have made these trips, gathered the items they requested, but they don’t remember. 

Sometimes, my mom would ask if I would take them to their town house to stay overnight, I then share with my mom that “Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I’m worried about you having to help him alone.”

Telling her this seems to immediately sink in. She knows he has good days and bad days.  To almost every question she poses to him he will respond “I don’t remember.” He has yelled at her in public and she has had to have others help her get him back to their apartment — she knows something is wrong with my dad. At their town home, she is alone but at the retirement community she has many around her who can help if dad needs assistance.

Over the summer, I had to rush to the town house to meet the police. My parents broke into their own home, then they called the police to report a break-in. The police would not leave until I arrived and they could speak with me. My parents willingly jumped into my car for a ride back to the retirement community.

I’m thankful that telling this to my mom registers.  I wonder if it’s that I can better communicate on her terms by smiling and patiently answering her questions. It could just be that her own survival mechanisms are still intact and she is aware of her own fear. Soothed.

Should making a good cup of coffee surprise me? Well, it did.

When I arrive, my dad asks if he could make me a cup of coffee. “Sure!” I know it’s that dehydrated stuff, but it’s rare I get offered a cup of coffee so I take advantage of his offer.

My dad goes into the kitchen and I start to wonder what I will be getting. Will I get a cup full of floating granules in cold water? Will I get a cup of hot water with a spoon in it? If it tastes horrible will it be because he didn’t make it right or is it because the dehydrated stuff just tastes bad even when its made right?

Given a “moderate” dementia diagnosis (Vascular and Alzheimer’s), the things I’ve noticed with my dad is the absence of short-term memory and his agitation if he has to wait on anyone or answer questions. I realize I’m short-selling my parent’s abilities. 

He then asks “You want milk and sugar right?” I confirm he’s right. A few minutes later he emerges with a delicious cup of coffee. I am relieved and shamed. I enjoy every last drop. I need to acknowledge that both my parents are still capable of many things and I still have opportunities to visit with the people that raised me. Savored.