Monday, December 10, 2007
ENDURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
Among the more difficult tasks that each of us face in life is the moment that comes when parents are no longer capable of caring for themselves independently. Ours may not be typical, but on both sides of our family there has been a member who fought tooth and nail against changes in living arrangements.
My mother had Alzheimers and was determined to remain in her home until she died. She could no longer hear the phone when it rang, nor could she dial a phone number to seek help in an emergency. The neighbors had to call the police to get her smoke detector siren shut off. She couldn't hear it. She claimed she had written the combination to the back door lock on the house siding so that she wouldn't forget it and be locked out (though I never did find it written there). Social Services interviewed her to see if I could have her declared incompetent and force changes in her living arrangements, and concluded it would not pass muster with the judge. Her doctor didn't want her to live alone. Finally, with the help of her doctor I was able to have her admitted to the hospital, and transported from there to a nursing home. Then for two years she begged me at every visit as well as over the phone to take her home, and threatened to walk home (though she didn't try it). I cried so much over this transition to the nursing home that I had no tears left for her funeral. It was an experience I would not wish on my worst enemy. She died in 2001 at age 92.
Another 95-year-old family member who has no children of her own, who has been close to our family over the years, who is age 95, and who also resisted the move, fell at home, broke her hip, and was transported from the hospital to the nursing home. Over last summer we spent hours cleaning out her house so that it can be sold. The house is now on the market along with all of the countless other houses that are not selling. It was an emotional trip for my husband and sister-in-law to clear out that house, as we all remember only too well the fun we had in that house in days gone by.
Now the time has come to make the transition for my 89-year-old mother-in-law. She, too, has resisted the move, saying several times that we would have to "take her out of her house feet first". Since she is no longer able to drive, has no close friends or neighbors nearby, and since she lives an hour or more away from us depending upon the time of day and the traffic, helping her there is not reasonable. We need to move her closer to us, and found a retirement facility that provides independent living and assisted living on the same campus, which looks like a good fit for her. But of course we are the enemies for forcing this move, and she is angry and resistant to all we try to do to make the move go smoothly. If we beg her not to pack boxes, she packs them anyway and then forgets what is in them. If we make a floor plan of her new apartment and show her which furniture can be taken, she laments that which must be left behind. She is constantly losing things we have told her not to move. Though she knows full-well the things which she can no longer handle, yet she tells us we think she is stupid because we don't let her do it, and hints that we are trying to mishandle her money. And the list goes on... She has always been in charge, and she is not about to change now. So there are arguments, and angry children. Having this drag on into the Christmas season means that none of us have any spirit this year. Christmas is merely a chore...we are going through the motions.
The move is scheduled to take place this week, so this blog is going to suffer. I spent yesterday helping to pack and there is still more to do. I'm posting this not in an effort to complain, but rather to let you know why you are looking here for new posts and not finding any.