You probably knew that with what is going on with my mom a blog post would soon follow. Writing helps me. Getting the words out of my head also releases them from my heart.
I’ve known this day was coming for quite some time but I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared. Mom can rally and be fairly cognitively aware and yesterday was a good example. As each of us kids showed up I could see her becoming a little more suspicious of what was going on. We live far enough apart that other than formal family gatherings it is rare for all of us to be in one place at the same time. As the last of my siblings arrived I actually saw her start doing a head count. And then the meeting was called to order…
She took it well, my dad not so much. He was pretty weepy and had to make several trips to the restroom. We loaded up the obvious stuff and made decisions on the lesser things fairly quickly. My siblings and I work well as a team and before noon we had two pickups filled and were caravanning our way over to Mom’s new home.
This is where the picture in my head of how things would go started to deviate from reality. Not in a major way, but in minor nuances and “aha” moments. There wasn’t any hand holding from the facility. We were basically left to ourselves to move stuff in with no formal intake process. (The intake process happened later in the evening, once the chaos of the daily activities of the ward died down.) It was right at noon so they offered a lunch for mom and it was helpful to have a place for her while we setup her room and got things in order.
Once last-minute things had been brought from the house and the final touches put on the room I started to see the gap. I hadn’t really thought about it. We were all eventually going to leave. Even Dad. Mom would be left in a new and unfamiliar place. Unable to effectively get herself around so she could learn her new surroundings. Even navigating the logistics of her room will not come easy for her. I started to fully understand exactly how many things Dad has been managing. Every. Single. Day. Day in and day out.
He gives the structure to her life. Hours, days, weeks, routine, these are all lost to my mom. Dad gets her up, makes her breakfast, gets out her pills. He runs the TV and makes the calls. He knows when it is time for lunch and gets them both to the dining room…same process for dinner. He fixes her bra when she puts it on backwards. She can putz around getting dressed, lay down and take a nap halfway through the process, and when she finally emerges from the bedroom Dad will remove one of the shirts if she has put on two. In one fell swoop this safety net is gone.
My mind knows she will have a new safety net, one that will develop over time as her old one did. A safety net that will come with many extra things my dad can’t provide, but the heart discards that and runs on pure emotion; logic be damned. She will have a new safety net…
But it won’t be us.
I felt like a parent leaving a child at school for the first time. Will she make friends? What if she doesn’t get along with others? Or others don’t get along with her? Will people be respectful of her things? What if someone takes something that belongs to her? Who will stand up for her, defend her, protect her? What if she gets confused in the night?
This being a memory care facility the typical social aspects of coming into a new community aren’t there. Many residents are in their own world. Introductions are awkward at best and will probably need to be repeated often. Everyone is confused and lost to some degree. How will she get integrated? How long will it take? There is no road map. I just want a god damned road map.
I feel like a fool that these things had not crossed my mind until yesterday evening. It doesn’t change my mind on the decision that was made. This change was necessary for so many reasons; for the well-being of both my mom and my dad. I just wasn’t prepared for the stark reality of the depth and breadth of the gap that will slowly need to be filled.
I woke up several times in the night and each time wondered if she was awake, confused, lost. I want to get in my car and go see how she is doing. At the same time I know she needs time to assimilate. We need to find the perfect blend of involvement. If we step in too much and try to fill the gap she will not get the full benefit of what The Waterford has to offer for her. So, here we go, another new normal. I am getting very tired of new normals. What is wrong with things just staying the same?
The short answer is, that is life. Ever changing. There is no normal. Adapt and keep moving forward. Humankind has been doing that for years on end. I am not the first person to want the cycle of life to stop and I am sure I won’t be the last.