Mom and dad finally agreed to move to an assisted living facility (ALF). I had been trying for several years to convince them this was the right thing to do, but as noted in my previous post (Sentinel Event: The Crisis that Changed Everything), it took a crisis to actually get them there.
Looking back, I started looking at independent and assisted living facilities about 3 or 4 years before they finally moved. Mom had been hospitalized at age 85 and for awhile things looked very serious. Because of his Alzheimer’s I knew that dad couldn’t live alone if anything happened to mom, so I started reading and visiting facilities.
I started by visiting facilities near my home though I was pretty sure mom and dad wouldn’t actually be willing to move near me. It was just easier for me to learn about options nearer to home and then translate my knowledge later to another area. I toured several facilities and had lunch with the marketing director. Immediately I could see a difference in meal quality even though the rest of the amenities seemed very similar. Most provided transportation for medical appointments and activities. The rooms were clean and the people looked satisfied with their living situation.
Mom and I discussed the idea of assisted living again when I was visiting their northern home. Mom and I were very close and I felt we could discuss this. She said she would never move to a place like that “unless something happened to daddy”. I reminded her that they had sufficient savings and would find it easier to live in a one-level home (apartment) with someone else to do the cooking, cleaning, maintenance, etc. Still, she was pretty adamant that they would remain independent until “it was time”. I asked how she would know it was time and she said “if something happens to one of us, the other will move into a home”. Other than that, she refused to plan for any contingencies.
A year before they actually moved to the ALF, I started to talk to mom about it again. I called several facilities near their winter home to send me literature, and asked them to send some to mom and dad too. (Dad has Alzheimer’s, so this would be mom’s decision). Mom looked at the literature and set it aside. It wasn’t time yet.
In November, I convinced their neighbor, Essie, to take them to a nearby ALF – the Gardens– for a tour. Mom and dad had friends who had moved there a few years before. They were given a tour by the marketing director and then had lunch at a table with Pat and Dick who they knew for many years. Mom and dad both enjoyed the tour and dad was ready to move.
I asked mom if she thought they could be ready to move while I visit them from January through March. No, she said, “It’s a beautiful place, but we can’t afford it.” During my visit in January, I tried again to convince mom to start planning to move to the Gardens, but she refused.
Later, when I had a professional Case Manager do an assessment, she also recommended that they tour several ALFs and choose one to move to. Nevertheless, they ignored this suggestion as well. When I left for home at the end of March, after most of mom’s scheduled medical appointments were done, mom was still not ready to move to an ALF.
Just 3 months later, mom experienced the crisis I discussed in my last post. Now that mom had been forced to make a decision they signed the forms to move to the Gardens. Mom and dad first moved to respite rooms while waiting for their double room to be prepared. My son (JL) and I prepared to fly down south to help with the actual move. I arrived a few days ahead of my son.
By that time mom and dad had been living at the Gardens for almost 2 weeks in their separate temporary rooms. Mom did not like it at all. She didn’t want to do any activities without dad, and dad has never participated in bingo and the other activities mom enjoyed. As soon as I got there mom said she wanted to go “home”. I told her it was not possible at that time, but maybe later she could go to her home in the north.
We planned on moving them out of the mobile home while JL was there. I arranged for a transition mover to go with me to their mobile home and give me an estimate on the time it would take, the cost, and how soon he could do it. We arranged for the actual move to take place the following Saturday, as soon as their room would be ready.
JL and I sorted through all of the “stuff” in their mobile home. Mom and dad had been spending winters there for over 25 years and it was obvious. There was so much to go through and so little time. Dad had been shopping at garage sales for years and had a closet full of his treasures. Mom had yarn, books, clothing, etc. as well.
Mom was losing her vision due to macular degeneration and couldn’t see the layers of grime all over everything. She never noticed the mold in the microwave and the refrigerator. Dad had Alzheimer’s and had lost interest in fixing up the home. He had been such a good handyman and had previously helped many of the people in their park, but now their own mobile home was badly in need of repairs.
When JL and I got there, the home was a mess. The lights didn’t work in some rooms. The kitchen floor and bedroom floors were mushy from termite damage. The air conditioner was unable to cool the air below 90, even when it was running constantly. There was no way I could sell this mobile home. I just signed it over to the mobile park manager and gave them 30 days notice.
JL and I started making piles – keep, trash and charity. We filled plastic trash bags for each pile. JL made multiple trips to the Salvation Army store with the bags for charity and to the dump with bags of trash. We filled boxes and bags with clothing and things to be moved to the Gardens. We had to do a similar sorting of the furniture as their apartment would be unfurnished. We determined what furniture could be moved, what could be donated, and what was junk. We had to go shopping for some new items as well. It was stressful because I had to choose only those stores that could deliver by Saturday. I wanted that room to look like home the minute they moved into it!
We moved books of photographs, tapes and videos, pictures for the walls, clothing and other items. The transition mover worked with me to determine where each item would go. I wouldn’t bring mom and dad to their new apartment until everything was in its place with the paintings on the walls, clothes in the bureaus and in the closets, and furniture placed the way they would want it.
The temperature outside ranged in the upper 90’s with the humidity about the same. This was one of the most stressful weeks of my life. I could not have done the move without the help of JL who kept me focused on the task at hand each time I was about to have a meltdown. Mom was unhappy. She was confused. She was angry. She wanted to go “home” though she didn’t remember already where home was. Yet, at the same time, she wanted the mobile home sold immediately so they wouldn’t have to pay any more rent to the park.
Somehow a miracle happened. I got them completely moved into the Gardens in only 7 days. I gave up possession of their mobile home, set up bank accounts to allow me to sign as power of attorney for mom and changed their address at the post office. Then I flew home, exhausted. I still wanted to get them to move north the following spring, but for now they were settled into a safe location. They would have rides to their medical appointments, healthy meals, supervised activities, and 24 hour nursing available. I breathed a sigh of relief.