This New York Times article, Deciding on Care for Elderly Parents in Declining Health, made me think about the process my husband and I experienced with his mother following a stroke. This is the first of several postings describing our journey.
Read Part II of Moving Mother Series Part III Part IV
Why/When We Decided to Suggest A Move to Mother
At age 88, after acute care for her stroke and six weeks in a skilled nursing facility, Mother lived independently in her retirement community condominium for over a year. She went to meals in the dining room, and because maid service was provided her apartment was not hard to maintain. Each day lots of activities were scheduled, and because the retirement community ran a home health aide division, we were able to hire people to help as needed.
- A nurse came once weekly to organize Mother’s medications.
- Several times a week a home health aide helped her bathe and ironed Mother’s blouses.
- Occasionally a home health aide sat in the apartment for a few nights at a time when post-stroke fears and visions occurred.
However, over the course of the year things began to change.
- Fears increased, a common after-stroke occurrence. As a result, sometimes possessions were hidden and then took a while to find.
- Difficulties developed with day-to-day medication taking, even though a nurse had organized everything.
- Post-stroke speech skills stopped improving, limiting spontaneous interactions with friends.
- More meals were taken at her apartment and fewer in the dining room (further limiting her social interaction, and further keeping Mother’s speech from improving).
- Phone calls asking us for help increased dramatically, usually for small problems that could have been handled right there at her retirement community (but she did not want to ask them).
- Friends, with whom she had been close, passed away.
For more than a year we made a trip each month to South Carolina, and it was arduous, causing stress, exhaustion, and requiring more than a few missed days at work. We could not keep it up, we concluded. Moreover, the activities of daily living were becoming harder for Mother to accomplish on her own. She needed to be closer to us, and we needed her nearby. Wherever she lived some caregiving would be required. Furthermore, there were lots of activities Mother could still enjoy, she loved to attend concerts and eat out at restaurants, if we were close enough to help.
So my husband and I began looking for an assisted living community close to our home where Mother would be comfortable. We hoped to find an environment somewhat similar what she was accustomed to in South Carolina. During a tw0-week period we checked out seven assisted living communities and visited three. At last we found Chesterbrook Residences, a new assisted living community started by several committed faith communities. Chesterbrook had been created with great attention to detail, comfort, and resident independence. It felt wonderful to walk in the front door.
While we had occasionally discussed the possibility of a move, mother had brushed off our conversations. When she and Father had moved to South Carolina nearly twenty years earlier, the two of them had been clear that it would be the last move. Father had been dead for eight years, but Mother’s much-adored brother lived a few short miles away.
But we knew it was time.