When it happened to me, I took offense. I didn’t tell them I took offense, I smiled and reassured Mom that I’d be back later, knowing full-well that I would not.
I would do as they asked and stay away for a week at least, but I didn’t like it and didn’t think it was a good idea.
I had been my Mom’s full-time caregiver for 2 years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, and part-time caregiver for many years when her behavior was only curious and odd. I would still be my mother’s caregiver, now, if not for the violent tendencies that had begun to occur as Mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed.
My Mom entered a “group home” rather than a conventional nursing home because I hadn’t been able to find a regular nursing home that accepted people with Alzheimer’s and still met my criteria for care.
In this “group home” there were 9 other residence, all but one suffering some form of Dementia. I spoke with the owner/manager several times, both on the phone and in person. She was more than helpful while I had issues with Mom, and the Group Home had no room for another patient.
I took tours, met the entire staff and visited with other patients. I became familiar with their schedules and was totally satisfied with this new home before Mom moved in.
But soon enough, it was “admitting day” and they requested that I stay away for 7 days while Mom adjusted to her new home without me. And the hitch in my throat grew to a boulder.
Mom was trembling. My stomach was roiling. I told her it was only for a few days. I knew it was a lie but Mom never remembered anything. She had no idea this would be her new home permanently. She had no idea I was about to abandon her and not return for a week.
Her eyes were wide, full of fear and turned to tears before I began to walk away. When she reached out for me, I turned and rushed for the door.
I knew if Mom saw me crying, too, she would be horrified. The staff had warned me that this day would be every bit as difficult as leaving your first-born child at pre-school. I was prepared for that. But for them to ask that I stay away for so long had been a surprise that I did not like.
“She needs time to settle-in,” the supervisor/counselor had explained. “It’s easier for the person with Alzheimer’s if they have time to adjust to the staff, and the schedule, and the other folks here without the daily upset of saying “goodbye” to their family.” She smiled then and added, “I bet you need some rest, yourself.”
I wasn’t surprised by her assessment. I knew I probably looked every bit as tired as I felt. Mom seldom slept all night anymore and the hours devoted to her daily care had stretched exponentially. I couldn’t remember the last time I had my hair done or had an extended conversation with a friend. I felt suddenly, weary and tired and oh so sad.
The relief I expected to feel as I drove away from the ‘group home’ never materialized. Instead, I felt sorrow and guilt and remorse.
- I shouldn’t be leaving my mom behind
- I shouldn’t have agreed to any abstinence from visiting her
- I should be holding her hand and calming her fears–not running away like a weak child.
So many should’s…..
Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get home, climb into a hot bath and sleep afterward until I awoke on my own. A tiny sense of relief pulled at me for only a second before it was dismissed by a jolt of grief. What was I thinking? Tears burned my eyes and I wiped them away. I wasn’t sure what I felt; sad, happy, mad, glad, lonely, guilty. I just wanted to go home.
Over the next few days I wondered if the counselor had been partially correct. Maybe I needed some “settling-in” time, myself. For years, every hour of my day had circled around Mom. Now, I was at loose ends trying to find balance in my own home. One moment I was giddy with freedom and plans for the future and the next minute I was grief stricken and crying, wondering how on earth I had allowed Mom to stay anywhere else but with me.
By the end of the week, my nerves settled-down a little as I accepted the reality of our situation. I could no longer care for Mom at home. She had bouts of anger that caused rage and violence that was out of her control, a symptom of disease that she could not help. As I assessed our situation and accepted Mom’s new symptoms my bouts of tearful remorse began to subside.
As we spoke on the phone every day, I began to hear a change in Mom’s voice as well. Her crying to “come home” in the first few days gave-way to conversations about her new surroundings. They had appointed her as Chief Dietitian, she said, and they asked lots of questions about her lifetime spent in the food industry. I had to smile. Mom couldn’t prepare a meal if she had to, but she accepted this new position at the “group home” as a place of honor.
I was happy to hear Mom’s attention shift to her new home, new surroundings and new people in her life. She found a best friend who’s stage of dementia was similar to her own, and they were forever holding hands and talking.
I was sleeping all night, every night and working around a schedule that best suited me. I felt as though a weight lifted from my shoulders that I hadn’t known was there until it was gone.
When I visited Mom for the first time after our week apart, there was much hugging and kissing and talking and listening. There were no tears and crying, no sobbing and guilt as I’d expected.
Mom had settled in, she had accepted her new home and she could hardly wait to show me her room and all the little things she’d done to make it especially hers; framed photos on the dresser, pretty magazine photos pinned to the wall, a bouquet of flowers picked fresh from their garden.
For the next two years, there were times Mom cried to come home with me, and did visit for many long holiday weekends when the family gathered together. There were times when I felt guilt and remorse that I hadn’t kept her with me longer, but I knew the ‘group home’ was the best place for her at this time in her life when she needed more care than I could give.
They had more resources to handle this stage of her disease, and I was able to be a better daughter when I felt good about myself, rested and refreshed, and ready for all the good times we were still able to share together.
There are many Symptoms and many Questions as you move through the stages of Alzheimer’s with a loved one. Knowledge helps pave the way to make good decisions about the patient’s care as well as your own reactions and self-care.