When Mom could no longer live on her own, I hired in-home Agency Caregivers. At first, the hours were minimal. Mom was fine on her own from the time she got up, had her coffee, read the newspaper and did her crossword puzzles. Then lunch and a nap. It was later in the day when she wasn’t as sharp and, in my opinion, needed help. It was worrisome knowing Mom was cooking dinner. Often, I’d show up smelling a burnt pot, then see the evidence in the kitchen sink from the night before.
Even though she understood and agreed to having Agency Caregivers, the reality was quite different. When they’d arrive, I saw the indignity and anger on Mom’s face. She would excuse herself and go back to her room and close the door.
Agency Caregivers are used to, and trained for, this kind of rejection and dismissal, but, boy, it was very hard on me doing something that hurt Mom’s heart and pride. I had no choice at this point. It was necessary to keep her and her property safe. Period.
Eventually, the Agency Caregiver’s hours increased to almost full time, at which point Mom had had enough. She and I both had already talked about keeping her in her home until she died. What we didn’t know at the time of these conversations, was what having round-the-clock in-home care would subsequently do to her autonomy. She hated having “strangers in her home,” and frankly, I didn’t blame her. The only other option was to move her to an Assisted Living Residence where she could be independent in her own apartment, yet have help right outside her door. She chose to move.
Just like taking the car keys, there was a lot of maneuvering, plotting, tears, arguments and angst prior to the actual move. One of her best friends, Randy and Joan, called Mom to encourage her to move. “If you don’t move, we are going to lose Vicki,” they gently said.
Randy and Joan were right. I had let my caregiving job reach a critical point where I was milliseconds away from being one of the “sixty-seven-percenters” who die before their parent or loved one because the stress is so extraordinarily high.
Randy and Joan’s words were a reality slap for Mom, and even though she agreed to the move at the time, she still dug her heels in for weeks. I was forced to pick a date, call the moving company, and recruit one of her friends to take her out of town for two days. I ultimately moved her without her knowledge or consent.
When Mom was brought back into town, she was taken to her new apartment, not her home of 52 years. It was not a Disney homecoming. Not even close. Mom couldn’t speak for an hour and the tears kept coming. The only solace I had that day was her friend made a point to say, “Vicki, you made the right decision. I didn’t realize how bad your mother was until I spent two full days with her.”
What Is True For Me: This disease reverses the role of parent/child. My mantra of keeping Mom “safe, calm and happy” (in that order), was cut to just keeping her safe with this move. I had to have faith that “calm and happy” would come later.
I was the parent watching my mother cry like a child. I don’t, and won’t ever minimize her pain and grief because I know, despite this disease, there’s a whole world in one tear.