34: Shopping for Nursing Homes

34: Shopping for Nursing Homes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

Shopping for Nursing Homes

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.

~Buddhist Saying

As a teacher, I was grateful summer vacation had arrived so I could concentrate more on caring for my mother, who was approaching the middle stage of Alzheimer’s.

Each day presented new challenges. I noticed Mom was losing track of time. She didn’t know how to make her lunch or tell me if she had eaten. These moments made it clear that when I returned to school she would need someone with her.

I heard that a friend’s former babysitter, Lula, might be available. I called Lula and she agreed to come two or three times a week so Mom would be comfortable with her when I went back to work. At first Mom was resistant to having someone there, but I knew she would be much happier being in her own home. I could not imagine my mother agreeing to go to a senior center or to adult day care.

At the same time, I began attending an Alzheimer’s support group. At one meeting, someone said nursing homes sometimes had two-year waiting lists. I had found a temporary solution for day care, but I knew I needed to look ahead. One of the other group members and I decided to meet twice a week to visit nursing homes.

What an educational experience that turned out to be! I learned about the levels of assisted care, private pay, and Medicare. After several investigative trips, I placed my mother on two waiting lists, hoping I would never need them. My ultimate choice in homes was one where I saw reading materials displayed in all the common areas. During mealtimes, residents with dementia were seated with other residents. My thought was that if residents with dementia were always kept together, their skills would decline more quickly, whereas if they were with other talkative people, even if they had difficulty joining in, they could listen and help keep their minds alert.

My mother that summer kept asking me why I would not take her out with me. We usually went everywhere together, even if it was just to have the oil changed in the car. I am a terrible liar and coming up with excuses was getting harder and harder. I felt worse each time I fabricated a story.

One evening when she was especially lucid, I sat with her and told her how much I loved her and how I wanted to take care of her. She had to let Lula come so I could go to work. Then, I don’t know where the courage came from, but I did something I have never regretted. I told her that I would keep her home with me as long as it was humanly possible, but someday she might have to go into a nursing home for the best care possible. We both cried and I asked her to trust me.

I did not tell her this for her sake, but for mine. If the time came when she needed to live in a nursing home, I knew she might not be mentally aware of the situation. I was asking permission and forgiveness in advance, and gratefully, I received them.

~Jean Ferratier

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