A family’s dilemma: Part Two

In Part One of this two-part series, 88-year old Mom is less than enthusiastic about the new living situation in which she finds herself. Although she was not physically or medically capable of doing the legwork required to find an assisted living situation to meet her needs, she feels left out because all control was taken away from her by her family. (This scenario assumes a cognitively healthy family member, fully capable of making determinations that are important to her.)

Going forward, and for those of you who might yet face this family dilemma, let’s propose a few actions that might have helped Mom to be more accepting. That said, I still remain supportive of the family’s decisions because in most cases, they come from a pure heart of wanting to do what is in the best interests of their loved one.

  • Discuss options with Mom: an assisted living community (ALC) with perhaps numerous floors and many residents or a maximum of five other residents in an adult family home (AFH). If Mom likes a more intimate environment, you might push an AFH that guarantees far few residents but most likely a smaller living space, e.g. a private bedroom in a home with shared bathroom and common spaces such as living room, dining room, and such. An ALC may offer larger private spaces and a broader choice of activities so if Mom is quite the socialite, that option may be best suited for her.
  • Once Mom’s preferred type of living situation is determined, the family can call around to discern availability of said space and if time permits, the family can tour locations, take photos (common spaces, available apartments, dining room) meet with staff to learn about their programs and learn of the particulars needed to become a resident.
  • Meet with Mom to discuss all you’ve found, including basic prices, provide a photo review, and glean which of the locations she might be most interested in. Caveat: Basic prices will not be the final monthly financial outlay. Once a medical assessment is conducted to discern current and potential future needs, the true price will be arrived at.
  • When Mom voices her preference for location, if at all feasible set up a phone call with the administrator of said location so that Mom can have a one-on-one phone meeting. (Or a conference call with no more than one family member participating.) Then, reminding Mom that time is of the essence, let her tell the administrator that she would like to make her new home at that location. This benefits everyone: Mom feels in control because she is, and if things go sour after moving in, she will have been the one to decide the location, not you. You’ll thank me for taking that extra step should that happen.
  • Once you’ve found the place for Mom, sit down with her to discover which pieces of furniture and which items of clothing she wants waiting for her at her new place. This is a laborious task, to be sure, but it is well worth the effort to avoid disagreements once Mom gets settled…I know there’s no guarantee Mom won’t change her mind once she moves in, but asking her preference before the move will put you in good graces with her and you’ll feel glad you allowed her the control that she fears is slipping away…which it most certainly is.

These few suggestions aren’t the be all and end all of a successful transition into long-term care, but when time permits, you’ll be glad you followed a path that might make Mom’s future – and therefore, your future – a more peaceful one. I will admit that taking the necessary steps outlined above in such an abbreviated period of time is hellish on those involved because let’s face it, you have a life too, right? But short-term inconvenience and stress serve everyone concerned: Mom’s move into long-term care is a more pleasant one for her and your relationship with Mom will be on more stable ground going forward.

One final word: try to imagine being in your Mom’s place – you very well may be some day. How would you like your transition into long-term care to play out? If you’re like me, you’ll want to retain as much control as you can while you’re still able. Is that too much to ask for your future?

My novel, Requiem for the status quo, addresses the situation outlined in this two-part series, as well as the following:

  • Family dynamics during stressful times
  • Solo vs team caregiving
  • What Alzheimer’s and other dementia look like from the perspective of the person diagnosed with the disease
  • Treating family members with the respect they deserve while fighting a terminal illness
  • End of life decisions being put in place prior to a person’s cognitive level being compromised
  • and much, much, more

A family’s dilemma: Part One

Part one of a two-part series.

What’s a family to do? Mom moves into a rehabilitation center (RC) for extra care after an illness. When her rehabilitation period is nearing its end, Mom is still not able to live independently so she cannot move back to her apartment in town and can no longer remain at the rehab location. She needs more care than the RC can provide so new accommodations need to be arranged, and the family only has a week in which to do so.

The problem is, Mom is in no shape to accompany her family members to research such options so her family lovingly takes over to facilitate the move. In their minds, they are extending a huge favor to their 88-year-old mother, and they most certainly are.

The family finds a top-notch adult family home (AFH) that has the capability of caring for the family’s mother both now and in the future, chooses furniture from Mom’s previous apartment that will fit into the smaller personal space she will have in the AFH, chooses a variety of clothing the family feels Mom will be happy with, they set everything up at the AFH and relocate Mom to her new home, and with smiles on their faces the family steps back and awaits the gratitude that will surely pour forth from Mom’s mouth.

But Mom isn’t happy, as a matter of fact, Mom is furious with her family’s choices. Even though Mom knew in advance that the family was doing all they could to make the move as pain-free and carefree as possible, she hadn’t been involved in any of the decisions so, in place of gratitude, she is resentful. Mom is well aware that she doesn’t have the ability to schlep around town to find a new home, nor does she have the ability to return to her apartment to painstakingly sift through all her clothing and furniture to choose exactly what she wants to be moved to the AFH, but she’s still mad as hell feeling she has been overlooked in the process.

In my novel, Requiem for the status quo, Colleen’s father, Patrick, is able-bodied but his cognitive health is somewhat diminished at the time due to Alzheimer’s disease. Patrick is still able to tour several memory care units with his adult children, however, and he makes the final decision on where he wants to live. There are other characters in my novel, however, who move into a memory care residence without the luxury of making such decisions. As those who have been in this particular situation know, that task is a fly by the seat of your pants, learn as you go endeavor that is rarely without drama and trauma for everyone involved. But as Maya Angelou once said, When you know better, you do better. It’s far too easy to judge the well-intentioned actions of others. Unless and until each of us has been put in the tenuous position of having to make quick long-term care decisions with little or no experience in doing so, those on the outside need to support those whose lives have become a whirlwind of forced decisions and resultant stress.

Part Two on this topic will address what might have been if the loved one is somehow included in the emergent tasks at hand. Hindsight is 20/20, but perhaps going forward, all of us will be a bit more prepared if such instances crop up in our lives. Hope to see you Thursday for the conclusion of this series.