As you know, my mom has Alzheimer’s. It’s been a hard year for
her and Dad: it’s an ugly disease and there’s no way to see a silver
lining or bright side. In fact, the only thing that has gotten me
through this is my faith, which has grown strong enough to bring me
peace even in the midst of despair and ugliness – that’s all I can say
that Alzheimer’s brings – despair and ugliness.
But God has gotten me through, and I’ve used spirituality and intellect to conquer the difficulties.
And then we looked at a nursing home today.
Let me tell you this: Mom is 81, and her primary caregiver, Dad, is
84 and has a bad heart history. She has reached a stage of
violence, and he cannot handle her. (Should he?) He does not want
to put her in a home, but he came with his problem on (of all days)
Christmas, and we all sort of knew that something had to be done.
He has nothing left. He is mentally, physically and spiritually
drained. My sister works full time, and I have the little ones,
so neither of us can take care of Mom 24/7 (even if we could, should
we?). The only option was a nursing home.
In my typically scientifically minded style, I was going on and on
since Christmas about how this is what we need to do, this is what
people do, Dad can’t handle her, doesn’t always medicate her properly,
maybe she’ll thrive….BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.
My sister and I visited the home this morning. It’s not supposed
to be a bad one but a decent one. OK, there we are. The
admissions woman, Christine, was very nice, and all ready to process
Mom TODAY. We said no, how about Monday? And then my sister
had to sign about a 1000 forms. (She’s sort of like Dad’s
administrator, right now.) Then she introduces us to the Medicare guy,
who is also nice, and that’s it. We say, “Um can we SEE the
place?” Two minutes and one phone call later, Christine tells us there
is a bed available in this building and we can look at the actual room
she’d be in. So we go up to Floor 3 – “Arcadia” – where they keep
all the dementia patients.
The minute the door opens, a SMELL hits us that my sister later
identifies as urine. There are mentally challenged people in the
corridor, one yelling and one nurse trying (barely) to wrangle
them. All my LOGIC goes out the window. All I can think is,
Oh God, I am so WRONG. Who cares if this is what we HAVE to
do? My mother doesn’t deserve this.
Her room would have been in a room with 3 other women (oh God!) and
she would get this tiny TINY hospital bed and a tiny dresser.
There was a woman in there who was very nice and fairly mentally
stable, showing us her family and all around the room. My heart
went out to her. There was another woman in the room, just
looking at the ceiling. Or maybe she was asleep, I don’t
know. The “lounge” was terrifying. That’s where the only TV
is (you have to bring your own in your room). There were 4 people
in there, each more zombified than the last, and one with
tremors. The lunch room, aka, the rec room, WAS PACKED wall to
wall for an activity – and THAT is not even lunch time. I wanted
to cry, I wanted to tell my sister how sorry I was that I’d been so
cold and logical, I wanted to die from the shame of what I said.
Then Christine turns around and says, “Do you think your mom would do
And then, I wanted to laugh. I literally had to hold it in, and
my sister and I just looked at her and looked away, saying
nothing. My sister said something (to be polite) as we got back
on the elevator, but all I could think was:
This is my mother. My beloved mother, who I’ve been missing
for at least 3 years. Who bore me BREACH and natural at the age
of 41. Who overprotected me to the point of suffocation because
she loved me so much. Who I gave nearly a decade of grief to as a
teen, and still bore it. Who defended me from the wrath of my
father when they found out I had moved in with Chris before we were
married. Who surprised me by buying my wedding dress.
Who gave me thirst for spirituality, and without whom, I would not be the woman of faith I am today.
She DID NOT, DOES NOT deserve this – and there’s nothing we can do.
When we got home and called my dad, we found out that the lump they
found in the mammogram last week is cancerous and she has a doctor’s
appointment next week. So of course we’re postponing the nursing
home. Maybe the one with the waiting list will be better.
And maybe my stupid logic brain will realize that all I’ve seen of
nursing homes are from TV, and that there is no NICE solution to this
problem, and that Mom is so far gone she might not even notice.
And maybe, just MAYBE, when I get to that point, God will come in and save me from despair.