Yesterday, my father and I moved my mother into a nursing home.
It's an understatement to say that it's been a difficult few days. My mother broke her hip last week and had surgery, and her surgeon recommended she spend a few weeks in a skilled nursing center for rehabilitation and therapy.
We took advantage of her hospitalization to get her evaluated for her ongoing memory issues and have confirmed that she has fairly advanced Alzheimers. Because of this, chances are good that she'll stay on in the cognitive care unit at the nursing center as a full-time resident when her therapy comes to an end.
This has been agonizingly hard on all of us. My Dad is contemplating living alone for the first time in forty four years. We've both been running around nearly nonstop for the last five days dealing with hospital beaurocracy and figuring out where to get her placed for her skilled nursing stay and trying to sort out the overwhelming list of issues that suddenly needed a very quick solution.
Most important was finding someplace for her to go on her release from the hospital, at least for the short term, so we quickly toured a number of places, some of them truly horrifying, some mildly depressing, and one that was really nice. Luckily, the nice one had a bed in the an Alzheimer's ward, and we were able to get her moved there. Even better is that it's an easy ten minute drive up the road from our neighborhood.
Mom moved into the cognitive care unit on Saturday, and actually, she seems to like it there. The hospital made her very unhappy, with the numerous people always coming in and out and the lack of privacy and the awful gowns and nothing to do, but the cognitive care ward is pretty and homey and small - only 22 residents and about eight or so staffers most times of day. The rooms are lovely and the staff is so attentive and caring.
They take her to their "sunshine club" every morning for two hours of exercise and music and crafts, which she's enjoying, and they have activities ranging from scenic drives to hand massages to brownie troop visits. There's even a resident cat, a big tuxedo cat named Ellie, who wandered into Mom's room immediately on her arrival and plopped down on her bed for a long visit. The nurses said she greets every new resident this way. They seem to have taken a shine to each other.
Dad and I spent most of the day there yesterday, then came back today for a shorter visit at lunch time, since her mornings are pretty full with scheduled activities. When we arrived, she was delighted to see us and couldn't have been happier. We spent two hours sitting in the common area with her and she told us story after story of the many things she's seen or imagined since she's been there, and we left feeling somewhat relieved that she's not unhappy with her situation. She talked about her room there as "her apartment," didn't seem to remember the house she hadn't returned to, and told us we should get ourselves apartments there too because the food is so delicious.
I'm cautiously hopeful that maybe she's going to settle in okay. I really hope so.
In a few days, I'm going to take Sofie to visit. She knows grandma has been sick, and visited her in the hospital the first day she was there, but has been puzzled since about where grandma is, why grandpa is alone when he comes over for dinner, and why Mommy is never home right now.
I've started to try to explain to her how grandma is going to be fine but will be living with the doctors for a while. I hope Sofie is comfortable with the nursing home and doesn't mind visiting - although the presence of a friendly cat and a huge fish tank will undoubtedly help on that front. If she's not scared by it, I'd like to take her to visit a lot, since she adores her grandma and really misses her.
It's strange and disconcerting to suddenly find myself at this phase of my life. I'm going to be forty in a few weeks, my parents are in their eighties, my mom is leaving us a little bit at a time, and my dad is alone. But I have a wonderful little family who I love and great friends who care about us so much, and I'm so grateful mom and dad are here so that I can help and so that Dad doesn't have to deal with making these decisions all alone.
And with that, I'm going to stop. Hoping for a quieter week and to start the process of figuring out how this all works in the longer run. Wish me well.