In the years since Mom began showing signs of dementia life has been challenging and ever-changing as we both adjust to the limitations of a memory lost (when it comes to eating, taking medication, showering, washing clothes, etc.). I did my best to allow her to live her vision (in her house assured she would go to sleep one night and not wake up in the morning) until it was clear to all of us, including the doctor, it was time to get more support. Support to make sure she was healthy and safe.
I waited longer than likely appropriate to move her from her home of 55 years into independent living, the kind where you have your own apartment and own life, but there is a shared dining room, activities and common places. Her greatest fear was to "be put somewhere." And it was hard for me to explain (by the time she was ready to hear it) the brave new world including levels of "assistance," private space and community--a far cry from her nursing home memory and the morbid feeling that people put there were "waiting to die."
Independent living lasted just four months, waning during summer vacation when I was unable to be there for daily support. Meanwhile she developed what is known as "sundowners syndrome," where she napped throughout the day and made phone calls to family and friends at weird hours in the middle of the night. The staff, her doctor and I were sure it was time to move across the street to "assisted living" where there would be caregivers and more connection and maybe a more normal routine when she took her medication no fail.
I lost sleep for weeks preceding the move. I tried to explain it to her so she could understand the benefits, but I felt like a traitor. How could I put my mother somewhere she was convinced was a one-way ticket to her death? She protested the injustice of moving against her will, of the great conspiracy that binds her. I felt guilty while I completed the paperwork.
But after an uneventful move she nestled in. It didn't hurt that the loving cleaning, security and maintenance people worked in both places. It was inadvertent but inspired that her phone didn't get transferred for almost a week after her move forcing her to make it work with the caregivers. As it turns out she has been granted the attention she felt she always deserved. The caregivers and nursing staff, mostly non-native English speakers who come from cultures way more invested in respecting elders, wake her up each morning, put out her clothes, clean her apartment, do her laundry and make her feel loved throughout each day. Nothing less than amazing.
Proving once again that those things we fear most may turn out to be the best medicine. Sigh.