Have you ever felt like one particular act that you have performed in your life was the defining moment when you had become an adult? Maybe it was when you bought your first car? Or drove to your first job? Or put a down payment on your first house?
As I signed the forms and agreements necessary to enroll my mother in assisted living, I felt it was the most grown-up thing I have ever had to do.
It took years of trying to convince my mother that she needed help before we finally reached this day.
“I’ll know when it’s time for me to move,” she said. “I knew when it was time for me to stop driving, didn’t I?”
Yes, we didn’t have to physically take the keys away from her, but everybody in town would give her a wide birth when they saw her behind the wheel.
“I can’t afford that,” she would protest. “If I pay all that money, then I won’t have anything left to leave to you.”
“But Mom, I’d much rather have you live in comfort in the last chapters of your life than to inherit that money. What kind of daughter do you think I am? Do you really think I would rather watch you be miserable here in this drab little HUD apartment, all alone, with no help, lonely, and vulnerable to a fall?”
“I do have help. Anna comes in every day for two hours in the morning. That’s all I need.”
“But you’ve complained many times that you are lonely. You would never have to be lonely, if you moved to assisted living.
And so on it went, nearly on a daily basis, each morning when I would call to check on her. Because I lived 300 miles away, and because of my blindness, I couldn’t easily visit her in person. At age 90, she was still living in her 6 room ranch style house, with full basement, out in the country. I made her promise back then that she wouldn’t go down the basement steps, and I was horrified when I learned that she was doing it anyway.
Over the years, we had conflicts over the steps to the basement, using the cane, using a fold-up wheelchair, subscribing to Lifeline, hiring help for cleaning, and then for bathing. It was a never-ending argument. At age 94, she relented and moved into town into a one-bedroom apartment, which was not any sort of assisted living, just a HUD apartment, because there was no such thing as assisted living in her town.
Then there were phone calls and emails from well-meaning friends who noticed a decline in her health and her growing need for help with everyday tasks, such as dressing, cooking, and paying bills. It came to a head when they reported to me that she was not aware she was neglecting her personal hygiene.
Her frame of mind was disturbing to me too. She was forgetful, often confused, and generally unhappy. Whenever there’d be a a lull in the conversation, all she could think of to say would be a complaint about somebody or other. She hated it that she had to depend on other people to take her anywhere, and she felt like she was in jail in that apartment. She would complain that nobody came to see her. However, I would get reports from others of visits from friends. She would just forget that they came. This situation had to be dealt with and soon. It was time to quit asking and start telling my 96-year old mother that she had to admit that she was old and needed assistance, and I had to do it in a way that made her think it was her idea.
My next post will be about the move, what I fondly call “Project Mom.”