My heart is happy . . . as happy as it possibly can be knowing and living with the fact that my mother has Alzheimer’s Disease and that things will only get progressively worse. But four months ago, my heart was completely broken. After a lot of thought and consideration, my husband and I chose to place my mom in an Assisted Living Memory Care facility after co-caring for her at home for five years. It was dreadfully exhausting and our stress levels were beyond high. It wasn’t healthy for me, or my family, and honestly, I felt that my mom would do better in a place with daily activities, consistent routine, the social aspect of interacting with other residents, three meals per day (as she was starting to refuse meals at home and unintentionally losing weight), a locked unit (since she started sneaking out of the house), and 24 hour nurse care.
We were warned by many that we’d encounter a difficult, but normal transition period with this move – where mom wouldn’t want to be there; she’d want to go home and she’d ask to go home. And we were even told that she may never completely transition. And so, I planned for this period, and logically I knew in my head this wasn’t going to be easy but that I had to be strong. I even joked with my friend that my mom is so stubborn that she will never transition. And though we joked, I think we both believed it might be true, that she would never fully transition with this move.
The first couple days were completely awful. I related it to dropping your baby or toddler off at preschool as they scream and cry as you walk out the door and your heart completely breaks. That’s exactly how it was day one when we moved mom into the Memory Care home. Mom cried and pleaded for me not to leave her there, and so, I cried my entire drive to work and the entire day at work. I called the nurse’s station probably a hundred times (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit) throughout the day to see how she was doing, and they allowed her to talk to me (which was nothing but tears from both of us), and the nurses told me that mom wouldn’t leave their sides. Fortunately, they were all so accommodating and made her feel as comfortable as they possibly could.
After day two I wanted to go visit, but due to the rough transition, the nurses suggested it might not be a good idea just yet. And honestly, though I truly wanted to see her, I also dreaded going to see her because I knew I would have to deal with the heartbreak of the crying and pleading to take her home, and I just wasn’t ready for that. Honestly, I didn’t want to face any of this anymore. It wasn’t until day three that I finally went to visit. It was so terribly traumatic . . . she just about took me to the ground when I walked through the door, as she grabbed me and hugged me and started sobbing in my arms. She was very confused, didn’t know where she was or why she was there, why I had left her, just completely out of sorts. My mom’s doctors, her neurologist, the memory care nurses, and much reading, had taught me about therapeutic lying . . . white lies that can benefit an Alzheimer’s patient. So, when mom asked why she was there (repeatedly), I gave her the same answer every single time, “we’re going on vacation, so I need someone to take care of you while we’re gone.” She seemed to be pretty content with that answer, knowing that she would get to come back home as soon as we were back from vacation, and thus, the crying would stop. But every day I would go visit (and I went every day for quite a while) she would forget why she was there and the crying would be just as bad as it was on day one. And so, I continued to tell her the same “therapeutic lie” every day, and then she would calm down. By the end of the week, I couldn’t take it anymore, the heartache, and the begging and pleading to take her home. I told my friends and my husband that I simply couldn’t do it anymore and I wanted to bring mom back home. And though I knew my thoughts of bringing her home were illogical, I was going off my emotions. Fortunately, everyone else didn’t have as much of an emotional tie as I did, and therefore, were able to talk some sense into me to give it some more time. Although, Damian said he would support me no matter what decision I made, even if I chose to bring her back home, I know he truly wanted me to give it more time as well. And so I did.
Just a few weeks after move in day, mom was as happy as could be. Happier than I’ve seen her in a long time. She met a man! A man who made her feel like she was in “seventh heaven”, as she claimed! She thanked me over and over for taking her there because she never would have met him had she not been there, and then even asked me if she had to leave after we got back from vacation (the one thing she simply would not forget – that she was coming home after our vacation). Luckily, that therapeutic lie, wasn’t a complete lie. Our family WAS going on vacation, but it wasn’t until three months after we placed her into the facility. So, I was easily able to tell her, “no mom, you don’t have to leave after we come back from vacation. If you want to live here permanently so that you can stay with Tom, I just need to let the manager know and you can rent this apartment as long as you’d like.” (I always try to refer to it as an apartment so that she doesn’t feel like she’s locked up like a prisoner.) So, when I told her she could stay, she was thrilled beyond any joy that I’ve seen from her in a long time! And she still thanks me often for taking her there, as she has met the “man of her dreams”. Though she still tells us crazy and off the wall stories that make no sense at all, never recalls our lunch outings every weekend, is slowly forgetting certain people in her life, and has no clue what she did or ate a half hour after meal time, ultimately, mom is happy, and this . . . this makes my heart happy ♥
Just a few photos of mom in her happiest moments since her move.