Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Move to Assisted Living Part 2: Goodbye Home

I didn't sleep much the night of May 22nd. I just laid in bed and worried how Mom would react to us taking her to this unknown place. Would she become combative in the car and scream at us? Would she not talk to us the next time she saw us? The irony is that she opened several Alzheimer's facilities in her days of an Administrator for Brian Center so I was scared those memories would still be in her mind and she would know what these places are really for.

We all got up and had breakfast together. BB wandered around downstairs picking up dirt and playing with Gumbo. She typically would go to Daycare around 9 so us getting up and getting ready didn't seem to phase her. We put her in one of her comfy outfits (no buttons, no zippers, all elastic) and packed just one bag so she wouldn't get curious about all her belongings. We packed several other bags but hid those in the trunk of the car.

BB's right arm, which is mostly unused.

We all loaded up in Dad's car and headed to her facility around 9:30. On the way Dad started to explain (using our white lie) that she was going here for rehabilitation on her arm. BB's arm had myclonos which they believe is from the Alzheimer's and she is unable to bend it or use it much at all. Her further told her that her Dr. K wanted her to stay a few nights while they worked on her arm. She smiled and said okay and didn't ask too many other questions. 
We parked and got out of the car and walked her into her "Rehab appointment". The rehab area is very state of the art and her nurse/trainer came right out and introduced himself making lots of comments about the arm and took her back. We all kissed her and off she went. 

Just like that. 

We passed our beloved BB to a facility. A place that will keep her safe, clean, happy and surrounded by people at all times. But a place. Not a home. Not HER home. It was heartbreaking. It felt cruel. It felt devious. I hated it.
Beau, Dad and I then went to her room to add a bedspread, some pictures and stuffed animals. My friends in Charlotte surprised us and sent us the Bear from Orvis. He and several other items were placed around the room to hopefully make her feel at ease.

And then we left.

The three of us had a good day together as a family that day. We played in the attic and her closet laughing at some of her most recent purchases and reminiscing about outfits from happier times. Her Wedding dress, crazy 70's' clothes, presents we had given her. Laughter through tears. I would be grabbing all of her strange recent thrift store purchases but then I would come across an outfit I remembered, like this one from  her 60th surprise birthday. And I would sob. 

We ended up donating about 7 bags of clothes to our church which felt good, almost like donating a piece of who she was to women that needed it now. 

BB loves visits especially when you bring something sweet, like Starbucks. 

Dad and I went back on Tuesday and although she asked repeatedly when she could go home we just kept telling her when she got better. It was hard to see her there. Hard to see her apprehensive and scared. She didn't have a good first night because the night nurse was unaware of our "white lie". It was pretty tortuous for Dad as they called him late to say she was upset but finally fell asleep. He just wanted to go get her. (I have since updated her room with cheat sheets of what BB needs to know...and play jewelry in a bucket.)

In the days since it has been harder. Harder on us. You picture her there alone, walking the halls by herself (as Dad found her one day), laying in bed scared that she is without her "Man". You wonder what she wonders. 

And you miss her presence. I miss my Mom. I went home and she wasn't there. Her vanity was empty. Her side of the bed was made. Her flowers needed dead-heading. BB is gone from our everyday life. We can visit her as much as we want but she is not home. She isn't a text message or phone call away.

I wonder what type of grandmother she would have been. Would she go shopping with me for Amelie? Would she help me plan her 2nd birthday? Would she come to Charlotte and go back to school shopping for Ford? You see those quotes about calling your mother 20 times a day after having kids? I can't do that. 

She is adjusting well and besides an ankle injury and an attack by another resident (BB was okay, these things happen and the facility is handling everything beautifully) she is where she needs to be. She isn't where we want her, but she is showered, loved, attended to and safe. 

Please pray for the rest of us. Alzheimer's disease at this stage affects the caregivers and families more than the patient. I've been angry and sad and tired and somewhat of a hermit this summer. I don't know what to do with these feelings. It has taken my mother and grief has taken my funny father. He and I and Beau are doing our best to come to terms with our new reality but it just takes time. 

And all of this is why I continue to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association. A disease has stolen my mother. It has been doing it slowly for 7 years. 
 You can donate here.