My mother sat on the couch beside me, her tears mingled with my own. This would prove to be the hardest day of my life.
Only six months ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We had hoped she would be able to stay in the lovely retirement home we had found for her. It was new with spacious rooms, home cooked meals, and many activities. I was able to take her out most days, either to visit at my home, or on a shopping trip, even for a short drive. It was the best we could hope for under the circumstances.
But the disease moved faster than we could ever have anticipated, and this morning I had received a call from the retirement centre to tell me that she must move into the nursing home next door. She had advanced beyond the care they were able to provide.
Most days she was not fully aware of her surroundings or why she was where she was, but today, her mind was sharp and she was totally aware of the move. And she didn’t want to go. Nor did I want her to go. Even today, many years later, my tears are flowing.
I had gone to the centre to begin the move to next door, but we were both so distressed, that I brought her to my home where we sat and cried. I told her how much I loved her and that we’d get through this together.
I ran through our options in my head. Could I keep her in my own home? We were a family of five; my husband and I along with three small boys. A full-time job already. Could I take on a patient who would only get worse? I remembered the call from the specialist six months ago. At that time I asked him if I could keep her at home. He very strongly told me that it was not a possibility and that she needed twenty-four hour care. Was I able to provide that, he asked? And what would I do when she escaped from the house in the middle of the night, and what about when she withdrew knives from the kitchen drawer, or turned burners on high?
He was right; I could not give her the care she needed. Nor could I face putting her in the nursing home. My brother and my husband were rocks of support. My brother was in full agreement that we must follow the doctor’s orders and put her in the home. He knew and my husband knew, that I was not trained to give her the care she needed, nor emotionally or physically could I cope with this extra burden in my home.
So with extreme reluctance, we drove to the retirement centre, packed up her things, and entered the building next door. The atmosphere, although friendly and efficient, was a dramatic change from the retirement centre. She was to have a private room, but until one became available, she would share a room with another lady. This was very difficult for her in her confused state. Everything was new and different; so hard to cope with in her dementia.
I have to admit that I cried myself to sleep every night for several weeks. During the day, I did not have that luxury as life needed to go on for my husband and little boys. Breakfast, lunches, lay out clothes for the day, make sure hair was combed and teeth brushed, walk the boys to school, tidy the house, plan the evening meal; and only then could I fix my focus on my mother.
Each day, after the morning routines were over, I drove to the nursing home and spent time with her. She did not adjust easily; perhaps it would be more honest to say that she never adjusted. Almost daily I could see her decline both mentally and physically.
She lived for several more years, but the quality of life was not there. Only God, in his infinite wisdom, knows why she and I had to travel this path; he who knows the end from the beginning, who sees the big picture, and who makes all things beautiful in his time.
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