Last night, in the dining room at of the “Legacy Village” memory-care facility, where my mother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, moved in on Monday, I sat with her at the dining table. She gave me a big smile. “I love it here. Can I live here for the rest of my life?”
Two weeks before, we’d visited the place. “I’m going away on sabbatical, Mom. I want you to look at this place as a possibility for you to stay while I’m away. It’s near Allison, who can visit you.” (Allison is my ex-wife and dear friend who continues to love my mother.) Mom yelled and screamed at me in the car as we drove, demanding I turn around. It was the nightmare scenario I had feared. But I stayed calm, and we kept going. When we arrived, she wouldn’t get out of the car. The director, a wonderfully caring, patient, and empathetic woman came out and talked to her, and within five or ten minutes Mom was touring the place with her. She liked it. They discussed where Mom’s Steinway grand might go.
On the trip home, and over the next week, Mom was adamant that she wasn’t going to move there. “I’m staying in my house.” She just needed me to get her five months of food and someone to visit her once in a while. Meanwhile, Mom had been hiding eggs and mayonnaise and lunch meat in her bathroom, so that her live-in caretaker wouldn’t “steal” it. She didn’t believe those things needed refrigeration. She’d go through her caretaker’s things, lock her in the basement, tell her she had to move out immediately, then later that she could stay for ever. They were “sisters” one day, enemies the next. The caretaker got another job and moved out. I’d moved back in.
Something had to give. The time had come. I’ll stay with her through Christmas, I decided after some agonizing, and then we’ll make the move.
Tuesday last week, Mom was obsessed with the idea that furniture that had belonged to the caretaker was actually Mom’s, and that the caretaker’s “new husband” (a male friend who helped her move), had robbed Mom. She kept demanding that I call the police. I had to go out for a while, so I called the police to let them know that my mother might be calling them herself and explained the situation. And sure enough, she did.
Wednesday (a week ago), Mom had an appointment with her neurologist, who told her that with me going away, it was time for her to live somewhere safer than alone in her house. Mom became incensed, stormed out, and tried to get me to go with her. She went to the waiting room, came back to get me after a couple of minutes, then went back to the waiting room when I wouldn’t budge. The doctor and I agreed that given her emotional state and other behaviors, it wasn’t really safe (for her or me) to take her home. So the doctor arranged for her to be hospitalized in a senior adult mental health inpatient unit at a nearby hospital.
Mom went ballistic when she realized we weren’t visiting a friend in the hospital but she was staying. But by the next day, she’d relaxed, and over the weekend had decided she loved it there. She loved the staff, the other patients, and the activities. The food was great, and the bed “delicious to sleep in” (she laughed at calling the bed “delicious”). Her neurologist was astounded by the shift.
Monday she was transferred to the memory-care place, the best I could find. A lovely place with a caring staff, excellent activities, and a room where Mom’s piano–which means so much to her–can go. I’d set up her room with some photos, toiletries, and clothes before she arrived (they didn’t want me there when she got there). Then I went over to Allison’s and cried.
Last night I visited. So far, she loves it. We rearranged the furniture in her room (I’m sure she’ll rearrange it many times). We visited the room where the piano will go four or five times.
We sat on the couch in her room. “I want to live here the rest of my life.” She was relaxed and happy. “Is there enough money?”
“Yes, Mom. And even if there wasn’t, Christine [my sister] and I would belp.”
“You know, Mom, I’m kind of surprised. When we visited here before, you didn’t want to move here.”
“I know, honey. I was afraid.” (And so was I.) “But I love it here. And I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t arranged it. Thank you so much.”
Well, there’s my Christmas miracle right there.