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Old 15.03.2014, 12:33
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Took mother to assisted living

Well, it finally happened. After successfully living on her own in her big old house in America, my mother suddenly couldn't find her way back home. The police were called, followed by a hospital stay, CAT scan, psychiatrists, geriatric specialists, etc... and the verdict was clear: dementia.

She can no longer drive, nor even take her medications properly. We checked her into assisted living last week. I flew out for 2 weeks to help get the old house sorted, emptied and put on the market, with help from 3 siblings. 2 weeks to sort through a lifetime of photos, momentos, just stupid little trinkets up on the mantel that I remember from childhood. We tried to salvage what we could, but sadly had to leave behind lots of stuff, particularly old books. It all happened so quickly. Anyone had this experience recently? How did your parent(s) fair in assisted-living? At least it's a nice place, near to my brother who can check on her regularly.
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Old 15.03.2014, 12:45
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

I feel for you, Karl.

My parents are in their 80s and back in the States. Fortunately, my dad is fairly healthy and is able to take care of my early-stages of dementia mom

Also fortunately, they moved from my childhood home into a much smaller and easier to manage condo. This means that a lot of "stuff" has already been sorted through. I don't look forward to the day my dad can no longer take care of my mom, or the day that my mom is no longer around to be taken care of, but I know that its coming.

And just makes it that much more important that I get back there for a visit sooner than later.
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Old 15.03.2014, 12:49
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

Yes and it's a very difficult step to take. It involves not only handling your parent's confused emotions but also your own.
Sorry you're going through this. The nice part is that she has her 4 children and that she's close to family.
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Old 15.03.2014, 12:49
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

This is so hard for you Karl- in so many ways and I really feel for you. I spent more than 10 years trying to support my parents and jumping on last min flights to go and deal with crisis after crisis- and it is so draining, both physically and emotionally.

We actually moved to CH in a house very near to my parents- but too late (had to wait for retirement)- but at least that meant all the furniture, photos and family stuff could be moved to the new house- which was a blessing and at the same time a poisoned chalice- as one of these days I shall have to dig it all out and begin dealing with it all.

DantesDame- caring for a dementia patient, even in the early stages is very hard- so please make sure you dad gets plenty of support- and begin to prepare for the next stage. I don't want to alarm you- but we've known so many healthy and strong spouses lose their health to having to care for a dementia patient- partly because they feel so guilty at 'giving up' on them and asking others to take over. My mum was wheel-chair bound and blind but fully compus mentis to the end- but looking after her did slowly kill my poor dad- and finally his body gave in- and I had to put mum in an Old People's home- as dad ended up in hospital with exhaustion, under-nourishment and de-hydration- he had to join her a year later. By then we had bought the house next door, and could move all their stuff into ours- but we moved here just too late to be with them.

Last edited by Odile; 15.03.2014 at 16:16.
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Old 15.03.2014, 12:54
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

Even when we are mentally prepared, it's not an easy thing to go through.

My dad lives on his own. He's 84 and does everything himself: cooking, cleaning, ironing, but he loses consciousness once in a while, only for a minute, but enough to scare him (and us). One day he'll hit his head somewhere and that would be it.

Last week, my sister started to find sings of forgetfulness. That scares me more.

Karl, at least you know now that she is well taken care of.
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Old 15.03.2014, 13:12
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

This is something that my brother and sister and i are hoping will never happen to our mother.

She is 84, independant, drives, etc. but perhaps one day she'll just topple. We hope she won't, just kick her clogs overnight and basta.

Good luck and strength to all of you who are living this.
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Old 15.03.2014, 13:30
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

Well, the upside is that in her state she was more than happy to let me cook for her. She is (was) an amazing cook, and usually never let me get near the kitchen. So I cooked and cooked for her, and she enjoyed every bite. It was a pleasure, and we enjoyed going to the farmer's market to shop for the evening meal. We also went out to several local restaurants, and had a great time. Her memory might be going, but her enjoyment of good food is definitely intact!
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Old 15.03.2014, 13:55
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

Karl, I know what you are going through. Twelve years ago, both my parents had to be moved to a nursing home within two weeks, Dad after a brain stroke that left him totally paralyzed on the right side and with a heavy speech impairment, Mom after a fall that very badly damaged her back. It took my li'l bro and me several months to sort out all the stuff in their huge apartment, about 8,500 books, 128 kitchen towels (no, seriously!), tons of furniture and all those things that reminded us of our childhood.

One might think it's something you have to be prepared for, but it's different once it really happens.

The day before his stroke, Dad, at the tender age of 79, had been working at the company he founded back in 1948, which he did six days a week,mainly in order to escape Mom's daily vacuuming sprees. He accepted the sudden and extreme change with an incredible lot of gallow humor, sort of, whereas Mom, deprived of her vacuuming, dusting and polishing turf, fell into deep depressions. Fortunately, she was being taken care of very well, but dementia set in, and she eventually didn't even realize the further decline of her health until her death five years later.

On the other hand, Dad's older sister, now 97 y.o., still is as fit as a fiddle. She's the chick that quit cross-country skiing at the age of 88, after insertion of the second set of artificial hip joints. She moved to an old people's home a year ago, after her cousin died, who had lived in the same house and for whom she had been cooking twice a day. After his death she felt a bit bored, so she moved to the old people's home to have more company.

She is the oldest person there and the only one who never uses the elevator to go to her room on the fourth floor. She says the elevator is waaayyy too slow.
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Old 15.03.2014, 14:07
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

Karl, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom.

This is never an easy step to come to terms with, for one's parent or for the adult children, even when we know it is the right thing to do. And the distance makes it more difficult for you, both practically and emotionally.

I understand, I've been there - with my father last year, with my MIL in hospice now, and with my FIL who can no longer cope. You have my full empathy.

One of the things a very wise doctor reminded me of was that it takes five full time staff to provide 24/7 care. We family members muddle through for a long time, trying to do the work of 5 people, all the while trying to keep up our other responsibilities. At some point, for the well-being of our loved one, it becomes clear we may have to call on trained medical professionals in order to provide the level of care needed. Although we hope to keep our relatives at home, sometimes home is not the right option, sometimes professionals are better placed to help at this stage.

Hard as it is, you have taken the right step for your mom.

Some practical advice wrt long distance eldercare:

With Alzheimer's or other conditions involving cognitive decline the patient increasingly lives in the moment. That we were just there visiting yesterday is forgotten today, so whatever we can do to keep daily contact can be more helpful than physical presence in some cases. My father could not use a phone or other technology so I sent him a postcard every day, scenes of Switzerland that might jar a memory. He took to carrying those postcards around like a talisman, even after he had lost the ability to read or fully understand what they were. Until the end, he knew that his daughter was thinking about him, and that's what counted.

MIL could not operate a phone but could still understand conversations so we set her up with skype and called daily at a time when the chaplain would be available to help her use the iPad. Seeing her son everyday, if only via Skype, made the distance less a barrier.

Any little thing you can do to provide regular contact and reminders that you are thinking about your mom will help her.

I wish I had better advice, but what I have learned in the last years is that all we can do is to try to do our best, whatever that is. Your mom's needs are now being met, her safety is assured - take comfort in that.

You and you family will be in my thoughts.
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Old 15.03.2014, 15:01
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

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DantesDame- caring for a dementia patients in the early stages is very hard- so please make sure you dad gets plenty of support- and begin to prepare for the next stage. I don't want to alarm you- but we've known so many healthy and strong spouses lose their health to having to care for a dementia patient- partly because they feel so guilty at 'giving up' on them and asking others to take over.
Thanks Odile
My siblings and I talk to them frequently and while my dad isn't ready to even consider the 'next step', we do know that it is something that we'll have to watch for. He firmly believes that once someone is placed "in a home" (he lumps them all under one heading) that they'll be dead within three years

i bring it up with him once in a while, but not too often because it is such a stressful subject. I also encourage him to bring in help in cleaning the house, and they have good friends and neighbors to help
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Old 15.03.2014, 15:07
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

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Karl, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom.
MIL could not operate a phone but could still understand conversations so we set her up with skype and called daily at a time when the chaplain would be available to help her use the iPad. Seeing her son everyday, if only via Skype, made the distance less a barrier.
Skype is such a blessing! My mom bought my dad an ipad years ago (my technoclutz dad resisted learning it for a while) but now he understand how to make/receive video calls and my mom LOVES being able to see and talk to me at the same time.
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Old 15.03.2014, 15:52
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

Hi Karl - you are not alone!

Both my parents are 88 this year. They still live at home. My mother is about 5 out of 10 along the Alzheimer's path. Some days she is bright as a button other she has no idea who anyone is or where she is.

My father is her carer and hanging on by a thin thread that has nearly been broken a couple of times in the last 12 months. But they are both very determined not to be cared for - itself a great frustration to me and my siblings.

We have been unable to plan for them, as they refuse. We now have adopted a "management by crisis" policy, taking the problems as the arise.

One great tip I learned is never ask questions. These need answers and the answerer knows they could be completely wrong or don't even understand the question and this causes distress. Even asking "how are you?" can be a problem. So instead make statements, such as "you're looking well", "the weather's awful", "you dress looks lovely"...
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Old 15.03.2014, 22:35
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

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One great tip I learned is never ask questions. These need answers and the answerer knows they could be completely wrong or don't even understand the question and this causes distress. Even asking "how are you?" can be a problem. So instead make statements, such as "you're looking well", "the weather's awful", "you dress looks lovely"...
Excellent tip, Abfab.

Another tip when dealing with Alzheimer's or other cognitive decline is to try to avoid forcing the patient back to reality when confusion reigns. Our instinct is to correct facts or try to make sense, but sometimes that often only leads to upsetting the patient, and serves no purpose that will help him. Rather, try to respond to the emotion behind the words and go with the flow, no matter what flights of fancy the conversation may take.

(Dad and I used to have wonderful conversations about the time he went swimming in the Yangtze with Chairman Mao...)

Keeping conversation going is more important than sticking to 'reality' as we know it, because for the patient reality is indeed whatever is going on in his mind at the moment. Listen for the emotion and respond to that. Keeping conversations going is how you keep the human connection.

Perhaps the best tip I was given was to remember that when bad things happen it's the disease, not the person I love.


---

By the bye, two books I found comforting were 'Still Alice' by Lisa Genova, and 'Three Mothers (And A Camel)', by Phyllida Law. The first is a novel dealing with early onset Alzheimer's (the author is a neuroscientist) and the second is a Ms Law's heartfelt and gently humorous account of caring both her mother and mother-in-law.

Again, wishing you all the very best.
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Old 14.04.2014, 13:58
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Re: Took mother to assisted living

This kind of stuff makes me very sad
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