In her condolence note, a friend reminded me of my blogs talking about my mother’s dementia and my struggles managing her care and her life.
Reading through my blogs of a year or two ago, I revisit our struggles. How angry she became when she could not keep her dog or her jewelry in assisted living. How sad she became when she repeatedly told me that she wanted to go home, even though she was in the condominium where she had lived for sixteen years.
I revisit how terrible I felt about moving her to the full-care facility. The social worker told me that other residents had been complaining because Mom did certain anti-social things such as lying on the couches of the living room during cocktail hour. Complaints accelerated when she was cursed with horrific gastrointestinal distress. Because her bouts came on so suddenly, she would rush to use the toilet in other residents’ rooms. This was an invasion of privacy that continued for many months until the facility insisted she had to leave.
I hated to put her in that wing where my father had suffered and died. I could barely force myself to walk in there.
We resorted to loving lies. The patient-care specialist instructed me to take Mom out to lunch. During that time, the staff moved her belongings to the new room to make it look familiar. Feeling like Brutus, I brought her back. Mom immediately said, “Why are you taking me here? This is not where I live.” The specialist said, “You are just staying here temporarily. Your room has been flooded with stinky sewer water. It needs to be cleaned up.”
I knew this was the beginning of the end. I was so sad. Yet, I soon realized this was the best place for Mom. Her condition had deteriorated to the point where she needed the constant attention of the full-care aides who were like angels.
Despite all her infirmities, my mother always smiled and expressed her appreciation to the staff and to me. Despite the profound grief of watching my mother slip away, we shared many beautiful moments. When everything is stripped away – home, clothing, activities, even the ability to walk and feed oneself, all that remains is love.
I recall Lori’s Lesson: “Be grateful for every gift.”