Falling Off the Cliff: Moving My Mother Into Assisted Living
By Nancy Wurtzel on December 05, 2012
Deep down, we knew it would happen, but we didn't really have any other choice. It was no longer safe for my mother to continue to live alone in her senior-living apartment. She needed more care, more activities, more everything.
My sister and I were exhausted and we'd reached that tipping point, where if you don't take action, life could spiral out of control very quickly.
Even though we understood moving Mummy -- as we affectionately call her -- would take its toll, we knew it was the only decision that made sense. So, two months ago we began packing and moved Mummy across town into an assisted living facility.
Now, for the first time in a very long time, my sister and I do not shoulder all the responsibility of doing laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, making meals, as well as handling countless personal care issues. One of us still sees Mummy almost daily, and we take her for outings frequently.
My sister, who lives only two miles away, continues to manage Mummy's finances. She also takes Mummy to the beauty parlor and plays cards with her frequently.
I commute over 200 miles to spend time with Mummy and give my sister a rest.
However, if necessary my sister and I can both be gone for a handful of days, something we couldn't have done before. We don't have that constant gnawing worry. Mummy is safe and well taken care of by a kind and competent staff.
Mummy has also benefited because her new home offers many activities -- from musical performances to crafts and card games to bingo.
The downside -- the very deep downside -- is how our mom was affected by relocating.
Within days, we started to see the toll of uprooting an almost 92-year-old woman with moderate dementia from familiar routine into uncharted waters. She could barely stay afloat.
At first, we thought Mummy might have had a stroke as her behavior changed significantly and her confusion seemed so much worse. Her doctor doesn't believe she had a stroke, but rather the trauma of moving had simply made her dementia much more pronounced.
And, her condition continues to slide downhill.
It is difficult to watch this decline, and impossible not to feel guilty about the decision we made. A decision that was right but not without its consequences.
Dementia always seems to exact an extreme toll -- no matter what you decide.