You’re the hidden cost and the think that’s lost in everything I do - Jackson Browne, Sky Blue and Black
At the end of her stay in skilled nursing, mom made it out of the wheelchair and into a walker; not by her choice, the staff took the wheelchair away once she had used the walker successfully during her therapy. She was not happy with the walker and it wasn’t because she was afraid of falling, I think she just didn’t want to change. She’s always been that way. She pouted for a while and then forgot she had ever used a wheelchair. Silver lining.
Just before mom was to be discharged from skilled nursing, Mary asked to meet with me to go over mom’s living arrangements. She said that even though mom has dementia, she felt she would do better in the assisted living area rather than memory care. She had a valid point - she was afraid that if mom was placed back into memory care her behavior would start mirroring that of the other residents there. Unlike many of the others, mom was still able to participate in conversation, enjoyed being social, and didn’t need any assistance feeding or dressing herself. She also wasn’t one to wander, especially outside.
I thought assisted living was a great idea - she would have more freedom and she would have her own private apartment and restroom. I was a little worried about yet another change in such a short time span but there was no other downside to this move. It was less expensive, I could bring in more of her furniture and she would be able to sleep better without worrying about someone wandering into her room.
We moved her things over to assisted living, put up curtains and brought in her dresser and chest of drawers from the storage unit. I bought a few more lamps and a plant, hung some of her favorite pictures on the wall, and stocked her fridge with wine splits and snacks. Now to move her in. I was nervous that she would be anxious about her fourth move since March, that’s a lot for anyone. On the day she was discharged from skilled nursing, I walked her to her new home which was right next door. We went down the hall, past the salon and dining room, and then finally came to her apartment. I opened the door for her and she just stood there for a minute. Then she said, “I’ve been waiting a long time to come back home, I’m so glad to be here”. I could have explained that this was a new place but what was the point? She seemed happy and that was good enough.
Within the first week, she had made friends with a very nice man named Oscar who was living there temporarily. He made sure that she got to the dining room for meals and kept her company. He didn’t have dementia and I never did know what brought him to live there but eventually, the time came for him to leave. Mom was so sad and she couldn’t understand that he had to go back to his home. It was so hard to see her cry; he had been lively and kind and I really think he helped mom preserve some of what dementia was taking away. He came back a few times to visit her, but one day he showed up after a couple of weeks and she no longer remembered who he was. He stopped coming after that.
The next friend she picked out was named Larry. He had dementia as well but at times it didn’t seem like his was advanced as mom’s even though I think it was. He also had a little dog which mom loved. He never remembered me; every time I was there, which was at least every other day, I got to meet him for the first time again. Eventually Larry started to decline and it happened quickly. He began to wander and lose track of his dog and the time came for him to move to memory care. Mom didn’t understand why he had to go away, she thought that as long as she checked on him everything was ok, but it just wasn’t enough. The staff went above and beyond once more and walked mom over to visit Larry every day. Larry was ok for a while but it was becoming clear that he was not going to live much longer; he had become so frail. Mom was able to sit with him right before he died. To lose another friend so quickly seemed incredibly unfair and she missed him so much - but only for a little while. Within weeks she forgot that she ever knew him.