Mothering Mother

I have an elderly mother who I am very close to, she has outlived her first husband, my father, of 58 years and her second husband of four years; he was eighty when they married. She has outlived two sons and a daughter-in-law. My mom is ninety-three, she suffers from dementia and lives in a full care facility not far from me.

I spend many days a week with her, helping her to eat her lunch because she can no longer manage cutlery on her own, and stroll her in her wheelchair around the hallways because she can no longer work her chair on her own. I listen and nod as she talks, although the words and sentences no longer make sense. But she is looking at me and smiling while she talks, seeming to understand what she is wanting to share. That’s enough.

Being in this place of endings is a constant reminder that nothing is going to get better. Any changes my mom experiences are going to be for the worse. Her new milestones are reached but not celebrated, only solemnly acknowledged because they aren’t the milestones of progress as when we would watch our children reach theirs; first tooth, crawl, steps, school.

These are milestones of Lasts. I was trying to remember the last time my mom was able to get into my car and go out for a drive to the beach she loved, where we used to go frequently; sometimes picking up some burgers and park facing out to the water eating and talking, watching people walking their dogs. Then, when was the last time she walked, the last time she fed herself, the last time she knew my name.

In the past six months her Last’s have increased exponentially, and each last brings her closer; and I know it’s coming, and it will break my heart in a million pieces when it does. But I know that my heart can remain full in knowing I gave her as much as I could, did what I could. I was there, as I am now, to comfort her from the fear and confusion that stole her peace of mind; like a parent reassuring a small child that all is well there is no monster under the bed, I am here.

I take comfort in that she had a long life. Has. And I do focus on the positives she can experience in her days, when she does engage in conversation, when her never failing humour will slip in when least expected and we can laugh together, and her never ending gratitude extended to everyone with ‘Bless your heart’.

I also ask myself how could I come to mourn someone gifted with living well into their nineties when my two nieces lost a father, and another two nieces and a nephew lost both parents when they all were young? I can’t. Because living to such an age where your children are around to look after your care and quality of life is more than many of us could hope for. How can we be sad?

It is all still hard, because- she’s my mom, no matter what age, and I’m bracing for The Day, as I braced for the day when my father, and then my brothers each passed from cancer. With dementia it is a long and lingering goodby as, piece by piece, parts of who she is take leave, what remains is a shadow of who she was.

My part is to be her touchstone, that maybe deep within her memory she knows she’s not alone, that she knows she has her family near to keep the night-light on in her dark room.

 

 

 

 

Round About

We’ve come full circle and as life is certainly a beautiful thing it is also ironic.

In our effort to have our mom moved from up island down to mid island so to be closer to us, her children, we in six months:

Searched out and found new mid-island accommodations in an Assisted Living complex right next door to my sister, prepared her mentally for her relocation, organized the move, garage sales, packing, putting things in storage, sold her car, set up her new apartment, helped her settle in and become acquainted and comfortable with her new surroundings. One month later-boom-in the hospital for moderate complications, which then developed into more complex issues, 3 falls, 2 behavioral melt downs, my sister, brother and I taking shifts to be with her every day for what became a three month hospital stay, advocating for her care, meeting with hospital liaisons, watching her status change from Assisted Living to Full Care in what seemed like no time, then having to move all her things out of the Assisted Living apartment she had recently moved into and put her household back again into storage, then waited for her placement in a full care facility, up Island.

What just happened?

She could afford the private assisted living at $3,000 a month but wouldn’t be able to afford private full care at $7,000 a month, if she could then she would’ve stayed at the complex she was at, she would’ve picked wherever she wanted, but she must take subsidized care for a nominal cost and go where ever the health authority says there is room. And that room was back up island.

The day of the move to Trillium Lodge my brother, sister and her husband and I were with her the entire day till dinner time. She was teary at times, and scared, but the staff were rallying, encouraging and welcoming. We took her outside to tour the grounds, the gorgeous out-door courtyards and gardens that are secured and easily accessed with automatic sliding doors- a big deal for my mom, to feel she can go outside when she likes, especially now that she can scoot herself along in her wheelchair using her feet.

There was a woman playing piano as coffee and homemade cookies were served. We had called a friend of moms who lives nearby and she and her husband came and sat with us, putting mom so much more at ease.

This facility, the lodge, although it is back up in the town she initially moved from, is certainly far better than others that could have been presented. We do have the option, after two months, to ask for a different facility again that is back down mid island, but no, we don’t think so. We’ve done our best and all we could, to have her live close by us, to lessen the constant commuting; to see that she wasn’t alone. We have been committed to looking after her welfare and life quality. That will never change. But we’ve done enough. Because the last thing she needs now is yet another move. And some things are just meant to be. So we’ll let it be.

Truth is she’s in a good place, one that’s familiar to both my sister and I because we worked in nursing in this very same facility 25 years ago. We know the level of care is sincere and attentive even still. And when I called the Lodge the following day to ask how she did for her first night they reported that she slept well through the night, happily ate her breakfast, was cheery and chatted with her table companion and is still, as the day had progressed, doing just fine. No tears. So far so good.

They have a full calendar of events, a great activity staff and tons of outings, and her two room mates are engaging and social. Commuting of course will again be put back on the agenda for all of us, but we can feel all right about spacing them out a bit between my sister, brother and me. Not to be too concerned that she is left alone if one of us doesn’t make it up.

We can all relax a bit now, take some time for ourselves, not worry so much. She’ll make new friends, be busy, in good hands. In good hearts.

What a journey back to where we began.