The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living Part3

This is part 3 of a series. Catch up on part 1 or part 2

You know how, when you go through something really unpleasant, you say, “Someday we’ll laugh about this?” That’s how my daughter Kara and I got through the first week of my mother’s transition to assisted Living. Only we often found ourselves laughing right then, because it was the only way to keep our sanity.
We got our first ironic laugh over Mother’s stubbornness about giving herself her own insulin injections. “I don’t need help with that,” she protested. This was our first battle to win. After all, this was one of the primary reasons she was in assisted living, to have her meds administered by the nurse. “I can do that myself,” Mom insisted, “And I believe you should keep doing things for yourself if you are able.” Diane, the nurse practitioner, knew just how to handle this situation.
“Tell you what,” she said. “Let’s make a deal. The nurse will bring you the insulin already drawn up, because they can see better than you can, but you can give yourself the injection.” Mom was not happy about this compromise, but she accepted it. In less than two days, she was saying to the nurse, “That’s okay. You just go ahead and give me the shot.” We had been fussing about this for months, and suddenly it was a non issue. Yay Diane!
In addition to all the annoying things to put up with, such as no communication between the people in charge and the people who actually do the work, no bath or shower in ten days, cold food, medicine not being delivered, and no type of orientation or handbook to tell us how things work around there, there was the whole issue of way too much STUFF.
With hindsight being 20/20, in preparation for the move, I should never have told Mother that she wouldn’t have to get rid of very many things. After all, she was moving from a one-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom apartment. Had I known that there would be literally over a hundred boxes to unpack, I would have somehow found a way to get someone to help me go through her stuff, before the move. Kara and Steve both spent the better part of a week, unpacking, sorting, arranging, and disposing of THINGS. At the end of each day, Steve would take dozens of boxes of dishes, decorations, and furniture to his garage, and Kara would haul an unbelievable number of boxes of the same sort of things to my garage.
We had naively fantasized about taking a day or two to unpack. Then we would have the rest of the week, that Kara had taken away from her family, to help Mom get oriented to the rest of the building, take her out to lunch, and have tea and cookies with her, maybe encourage her to play the piano in the lobby.
But oh no. There were things to unpack, things to find a place for, things to pitch, things to give away, things to store for posterity. Each afternoon, when Kara would come back from a day of dealing with things, she would need a release of pent-up frustration over spending all this time with THINGS instead of her grandma. Sometimes, we’d take a brisk walk. Twice, we said we “needed a turtle sundae.” Near the end of the week, I poured us each a glass of wine, and Kara joked, “Are both of these for me?”
Mom did not even recognize many of the things, but she was reluctant to part with them. Having survived the Great Depression, she couldn’t throw anything away.
Through this experience, we gained the understanding that to her, THINGS make her house her home. Kara is thankful that I am not emotionally attached to THINGS. When it’s time to move me into assisted living, we’ll be done unpacking in a couple of hours, and then we’ll have that cup of tea and a really good laugh.
In a future post, I’ll describe our journey in finding a way to pay for assisted living.


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