Many of you have gotten to know my mom a bit in a couple of our previous blogs. Some of you have known her for years.
No matter how long, you know how sweet that she is. You most likely also know how much she is struggling with her memory.
Well, Sunday her life took a dramatic shift and I wanted to share about it, especially since her outlook is one that we should all strive to have.
Let’s back track a bit to Friday, July 13th, to a conversation that God and I had about mom. First off, let me say that my relationship with God is a bit unconventional and so may seem a little unusual to you.
Back to the conversation, I asked God what else I needed to be doing with her. Mom had been telling me that she felt that maybe it was time for her to not be alone. At that point she was living in an incredibly beautiful independent senior living complex. She had been there for a year. But she was having issues with anxiety, and the confusion was increasing, and she just wasn’t content. She had some days that she just felt out of sorts, and some that she felt sad. I called her daily, and usually saw her two to three times a week. She really wasn’t in a position to need full time care, but an assisted living didn’t seem to be the answer either.
The place she was in was fabulous and everyone loved her, but due to her memory issues, she seldom joined in on activities, and spent a lot of time alone in her room. Her apartment was becoming a safe place and a prison at the same time.
So, again, I asked God – what do I do?
His response to me was live with her.
I said, “What? Like move in with her? I have Ken, Michael and the animals, really? Into a studio apartment? That’s what I need to do?”
To which He replied, “No, not there. In a house. Start with your house temporarily and then you all can move into a rental that meets the needs better.” (We live in a home in the woods, miles from civilization and the only access is stairs – not exactly senior friendly.)
Not to be disrespectful, but my first thought was seriously God? I knew full well that Ken and Michael loved where we live, and the thought of moving out of our home and into a place with Nana; while they love her, still wouldn’t be received well. But hey, He’s God, He certainly knows more than I do; so, let’s roll the dice and see how it plays.
Mind you, I was headed out of state for a week and a half the next morning, so the logical thing would be to wait until I come back before exposing the guys to this idea. But hey, since when have I ever been accused of being logical?
So, I jumped onto Zillow, seeing what they had for rental properties. I was intrigued with one that would fit a lot of what we would need. I decided the best way to introduce this idea to the guys would be showing possibilities immediately after telling. Sort of get the creative juices flowing, as well as visual stimulation for thought.
Knowing my husband’s personality, I needed to give him time to prepare for this conversation. I texted him and told him that I needed him to meet Michael and I in Clermont after work if he could. I didn’t explain why, but noted that all was good.
Once he got off of work, and was able to call, I then explained what had occurred and told him that for the moment I just wanted him to think it over. I asked if we could just swing by this rental to get a look and let our minds mull over it. He agreed.
What played out next could only be described as divine intervention. Both of my guys felt at peace and actually felt good about entertaining the idea of moving with Nana. Both of them immediately stepped into the mode of what would need done to make her life comfortable at our home until we could move. Ken said that he was fine giving her the master bedroom and us staying in the guest room; thus, giving her an almost apartment feel.
The three of us discussed it and determined that it would be best not to ask Nana if she would like to live with us until I returned. For my mom at the moment, time is of no essence. We had no way of knowing if she would remember that the move wasn’t for weeks, and not have things packed and be worried that I wasn’t coming to get her.
While I was gone, it seemed that we got continual confirmations that this was the right move. But we needed to wait until I was back to sit down with her. Finally, I arrived home, and we drove over to see her. We all wanted it to be her choice. I do my best not to just make decisions for her, letting her maintain her independence as much as possible.
She was excited and happy to be able to move in. We set the date for August 31, since we needed to pay the month of rent anyway for her apartment.
Each day we would talk about it, and she looked forward to it. Then, Thursday (just 3 days after her accepting the invite) we went to pick mom up for church. She told us that she had fallen. She seemed fine, said that she hadn’t hurt herself, just fell and didn’t know why. Everything seemed okay, so we went to dinner and church. We kept an eye on her, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. When we dropped her off, she complained about her eyebrow, I looked, and she had a spot that looked like one she had had previously similar to a boil. I gave her the cream to apply. The evening ended, and all was fine.
Friday when I spoke with her, just before lunch, she sounded like she had a tough morning. She wasn’t sure if she should go down to lunch, and her reason was that she wasn’t sure how long she had been gone. It has happened a couple of times that just being out for hours sometimes blends with the longer trips we have taken, and she isn’t aware of time to know what reality is. I gently explained that yes, go enjoy your lunch, they look forward to your hugs down there and just mentioned that church had been great the night before – to help her re-frame on her length of absence.
Saturday, I called, and she sounded like she didn’t feel well, and hadn’t been up long. She confirmed and said she had just felt out of sorts and her tummy felt bad, so she had just laid around and napped. We all have days like that, so I didn’t attribute it to anything. I checked in later and she sounded fine, didn’t even remember the way she had felt in the morning.
Sunday morning though, when I called, and she sounded just like Saturday morning? I knew something was up, and I went over to check on her.
I was shocked to see the bruising on her temple. She was unaware of it and didn’t know that she had told us Thursday that she had fallen. I called the doctor and off we went to the emergency room. (With a quick stop by my house to get her insurance info and such.)
Knowing that we could be a while at the ER, I threw together a bag to help us pass the time, plus a couple of little snack bars.
The Cat Scan came back fine, and they said she could have a mild concussion, just keep an eye for signs of anything unusual. So, I took her home to stay with us.
Suddenly things twisted from her moving in at the end of the month, to her moving in days after the decision.
Our home is in complete disarray, as we try to juggle life, the addition to the household and the move. Mom had a lot of possessions in her apartment, and yesterday we put it all in a moving trailer that as I look out the window is parked in front of my front door waiting to join all that we own in here.
Ken and I have been married almost 30 years, and even though the fire wiped out everything that wasn’t in the camper or cars, somehow, we have accumulated way too much stuff! So, we are currently purging and relocating to the guest room in stages, as we turn the master into a studio apartment.
What is mom’s outlook through all of this chaos and disorder?
She is positive, calm, helpful and relaxed.
“I just roll with the flow,” is her continual comment. Her mother’s name was Florence – Flo for short, and that was her trademark phrase. My mom embodies that.
While at the ER, talking, she said that she didn’t remember falling, that she didn’t know why she needed to get checked out, but that she knew it would help me feel better to know she was ok, so she was just rolling with the flow.
Changing to moving in immediately, she said it would make me worry less, so no problem she would just roll with the flow.
Working at stacking, packing and piling is taking a few days to accomplish, but she says no problem, we will roll with the flow.
She tells me that while she can’t do everything, she can do a lot, so put her to work. Each day I have multiple little tasks to let her help, giving her a feeling of purpose.
Day before yesterday she was at the table peeling hard boiled eggs and I heard her crying. I walked over to see why and ask what was wrong. She told me that there was nothing wrong, that they were happy tears. She said that she was so happy being able to contribute to the family, and that it meant so much to her that I didn’t treat her like she was no longer of use. She went on to explain that sometimes she felt that because of her age and short-term memory she wasn’t important anymore; but then I would give her projects that helped her see she was valuable.
Each task I have given her, she jumps in with gusto. I know that following too many directions is overwhelming, so I give her simple tasks and step by step things that are not daunting. To see the joy on her face as she hands me a dozen freshly peeled eggs ready for egg salad is a bit of an eye opener to me, as I am learning again to appreciate the pride of the little things in the moment. Small victories that bring fulfillment of purpose and contribution, that so easily get overlooked when our days are so full.
Mom lives in the moment and in memories of simpler days, not by choice, but by circumstance; but it doesn’t distress her. When asked, she just says, “I can’t change it, so why worry? I just roll with the flow!”