Visiting Mom

Mom - July 2009 (she's a lot more frail now than she was then.)

19 May 2013

For several years, now, I've tried to fly to Missouri to visit my Mom at least once a year. It's usually in the spring. This past week, I spent several days with her.

Since she's 96 years old, we have seen some significant decline in her capacities — especially in the last two years, and, even more so in the past 3 – 4 months. I've been able to discern through phone calls that she had declined quite a bit and because of conversations with my two siblings who live closest to her and see her most, we decided we needed to look into an assisted living facility for her.
This is something she has been dead-set against for many years and she's made it clear that she's not going into "one of those places" until she absolutely has to. We were all concerned that helping her reach the point of seeing the need for more care would be an uphill battle, but, we knew we needed to try.

I felt the hand of the Lord as we went through this process and am grateful we made as much headway as we did.

Jim, Carmen and I looked at three facilities within an easy distance of our mom's home. The first one we went to was one that our oldest brother's wife had seen and recommended. It's just up the street from her house, but, it's kind of run down and I wasn't impressed by the staff or some of their procedures.

The next place is just a bit further from my mom's home, still in her small town, and all three of us liked everything about it — until we got to the private room accommodations that she would be living in. They only have one room size, and, it's just a bedroom. Everything she wanted to do except sleep and bathe would have to be done in the common areas. And, even with that, Mom would have to switch to a twin bed in order to have space for anything else in the room. My heart sank when we saw how small it was. It's such a nice facility, otherwise.

We drove to the next town over and before we even walked in the building, Carmen said she didn't like it. However, they were a great facility and had much more room, and at a similar price to the second one. With this one, Mom would have a small living room, a bedroom and a kitchenette. She'd have her own furnishings, and all the privacy she wants, but would have all her meals provided and have opportunities for interactions when she wants them. At first, we were all concerned that it was just a little too big, and that Mom might become disoriented if she lived there — so, we weren't sold on it.

After sleeping on it, though, I was convinced that we needed to try to get her into the last place we looked. I made my case to Carmen and Jim. Jim was on the same page I was, but, Carmen still wanted the second place we looked at. Her reasons: We know the people who run it; there are already two other women there that Mom knows; it's a nice, clean, friendly, well-run facility; and, it's in our hometown so Mom MIGHT get more visitors than if she went to the one Jim and I liked.
Jim and I couldn't get past how small her room would be, though. And, not only is the third home also a nice, clean, friendly, well-run facility, her living space would be more than twice as large and the base price would be $500/month less than the one Carmen likes. (Because of differences in how they bill, they would end up costing about the same, but the last one has more personal space.)

It turned out that the Homestead (which Jim and I like) was having a special entertainment that Friday afternoon and they invited us to come. So, Jim treated all of us to lunch, then Mom consented to letting us take her to the Homestead. After the entertainment, Mom was given a tour of the facility. I saw some tiny glimmers that she was liking what she saw more than she would admit, and that made us feel hopeful. (During the entertainment, Carmen was visiting with a woman next to her and asked her how long she'd lived there. She said, "Two years." Then, Carmen asked how she liked it. She said, "Well, I decided when I moved in that I could either be happy or I could be stupid. I decided to be happy."— I love that! How many other things in life could we apply that to?)

The Homestead doesn't have any openings right now, which is actually good, because then we could talk with Mom about it as a future option rather than trying to have her think of it as an immediate possibility.

Saturday morning, Jim, Carmen and I met with Mom — and Jim asked several times if she'd be willing to be on the waiting list for the Homestead and each time she said "yes." (Truth be told, it wasn't a very convincing "yes" - more of a giving-in kind of one. But, she did agree to it.) We completed the paperwork for applying to be on the wait list and Mom signed the check for the deposit. So, all-in-all we made WAY more headway than we imagined we might when we started.

The Homestead is the kind of place I'd be willing to live in when I reach that stage of my life and I wouldn't want to put Mom in anything less.

The staff said there COULD be an opening as early as sometime in June, but, we didn't bring that up with Mom. (Technically, she could turn it down and wait for the next availability, but, I don't think my brother will want to postpone it.) I know when the time comes, there will be tears and hard transitions to make, but, it's the right thing to do. (Still hard, but, right.)