When our dad passed away unexpectedly over a year ago, before COVID hit, it left us kids to care for our mom. With Alzheimer’s and other health issues, she requires full-time medical care.
We got her moved into an assisted living home within days. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I had her tour the facility and get on the waiting list. Thankfully, a room was available right when we needed it.
Her room was decorated with all the comforts of home. She was making friends and had the privacy to rest and grieve. We were all able to visit often. We could even spend the night with her.
No more visits
I remember the surprised faces as I walked past the staff the last day I visited. I had not checked my email yet to read the notice suspending visitation.
Grief, isolation, and recurring health problems led to Mom needing skilled nursing home care sooner than anticipated.
I basically pulled up to a curb and dropped her off at a facility where I had never been past the lobby.
The references of friends who had loved ones there and a friend on staff gave me peace of mind.
We’ve ridden this visitation restriction roller coaster for over a year now.
From chilly front porch visits to Christmas by Zoom
She spent her 81st birthday without us and I marked my 50th without my mom.
I’m grateful she didn’t realize the date of the first anniversary of my father’s death, and we didn’t remind her. Not only did Mom face all these months and holidays without us, she beat a mild case COVID without us by her side.
One bright reprieve in these restrictions has been my being able to take her to doctor’s appointments. It’s a group effort among the residents to select her outfits and paint her fingernails days before. We pick up her drive-thru favorites, make a brief drive by to wave at grandkids, and get a long overdue haircut with precautions.
Every time I drop her off back at the nursing home, I pull off my mask and hang my head on my steering wheel sobbing. How is this our life? How can I leave her?
I’m always second guessing the option of my mom living with us. But with the current ages, stages, needs, and schedules of my three kids, it’s just not the best decision for anyone, including Mom. I leave my house three times a day and would not be able to leave her here alone. Our child with special needs even tells her, “D, go home.”
I’m also always second guessing if I’ve chosen the best facility for her. Is there one newer, smaller, just as convenient, and within our budget for private pay? Mom’s facility is older, but it’s clean and filled with caring staff. As a retired nurse, Mom used to see patients there.
Her neurologist said Mom would benefit from being around more people.
Not only has she benefitted from it, she’s thriving.
She’s learned how to use the phone again and calls me frequently. When I call her I laugh when I hear them holler out a nickname they’ve given her. They have “wine and cheese.”
She even got in trouble for being too assertive in a game in the gym with a beach ball and a pool noodle. That’s my mom.
Nothing is easy about this. These restrictions are just that, too restrictive.
My mom is not a prisoner and it’s time for them to change.
I’ve even consulted an attorney about pursuing immediate change.
I will continue to second guess my decisions about my mom’s care. I will continue to call often, get to know the staff by name, and express our appreciation for them. As physically exhausting as it is to support her during outings to doctor’s appointments, I will feel guilty for not doing it myself every day.
But as I’m walking away from her, pulling off my mask to cry my way home, I’m leaving her in the capable, compassionate hands of caregivers who genuinely care for her. Yes, my mom’s in a nursing home . . . and right now, that’s okay.