A One-Woman Wrecking Crew


A One-Woman Wrecking Crew

box-915058_640That was me yesterday.

I spent a few hours with my parents yesterday afternoon. My dad extended his respite stay by two weeks, moving from my mom's room in the skilled nursing section into an apartment in assisted living. Although my mom's Medicare benefits for coverage in a skilled nursing home ended a week ago, my mom chose (with my prodding) to remain in the skilled nursing for another two weeks as she continues to receive physical and speech therapies.

My mom set three goals for herself in order to return home: 1. Use only the walker and not the wheelchair; 2. Get in an out of bed on her own; 3. Manage stairs. She's made remarkable progress but still uses the wheelchair and has only begun to work on climbing stairs.

She wants to return home. I am very concerned because I know how stressful living at home for my dad has been. My parents decided a year ago this month that in a year they would sell the house and move into a condo. My dad has long wanted out from under the strain of managing a household and would have moved long ago had it not been for my mom's preference to remain home. But remaining home now is tricky because of the house's split level, which means stairs. If my mom wanted to live in her bedroom, living at home would be okay. My mom, though, can't stand to be in the house. In my mind, living at home means my mom will die of boredom.

Last week, my parents and I decided that pursuing a Plan B, moving into independent or assisted living, would be a good idea. My dad, one of my brothers and I toured a community that sits in the hustling downtown area of our suburb. My parents have friends who have moved there and its location is close to all my parents' activities--their church, the senior center, the community center. The community has a two-bedroom unit, which my dad loved, available. We updated my mom about the tour and talked about the two-bedroom unit. My mom listened pleasantly to our descriptions and then said, "I'm not ready."

A few days after our tour, my dad admitted to me that he dreads my mom's return home. And, honestly, I do, too. My dad's anxiety increases to an almost-unmanageable level at home. And, my mom's care needs mean that she'll need lots of help, in addition to mine. I just couldn't see how I could manage their care plus keep my business going as well as juggle my two part-time jobs. For me, I feel it's important to keep my parents safe within the world. And, the world at home offers too many traps while at the same time trapping my parents within.

After talking with my dad, I suggested we put a deposit down on the two-bedroom to hold it as we continue to discuss a move with my mom. I offered a compromise: My parents move to the community for the winter, which means they will be safe from blizzards and the return of the Polar Vortex while still enjoying socialization and activities. My dad gave me the go-ahead.

Yesterday, during my visit, my mom again talked about coming home. So, our conversation began about moving from the rehab facility to the community in our suburb. "I want to go home and see how I manage," she said.

"I wonder if we could flip that," I said. "Move to (the community), continue to get stronger and then think about coming home. You've made such great progress and we don't want to do anything to jeopardize it."

"You promised me I would go home," she replied.

"I know you want to go home and I know that's what we're working toward," I said, "but I didn't make any promises."

Somehow and honestly I'm not sure how, my mom did agree to move to the community for the winter. The difficult conversation still haunts me today. She did cry--not long, but she was upset. I focused on her well-being, that she can continue to get stronger at the community and work on using the walker. If I talk about my dad's declines, she simply argues that he's much stronger than I give him credit for. That's not true but it's hard to argue because it feels so subjective. My dad is doing great since he's been in assisted living. He looks better than he has in months. But focusing on her well-being, that we want her to continue to get better, is a much better tactic for my mom.

My dad explained to my mom that he can't care for her at home. He shared that he also misses living at home, that he really misses his grill during these warm days. He emphasized that it's important to be realistic. He talked about his ostomy bag leaking on Sunday morning and how quickly the nurse changed it for him. My mom countered that she could do that for him at home if I wasn't around. Dad and I both told her she couldn't because, well, she can't. She could in June but so much is different now that she no longer can. She's had so many changes in such a short time that I don't think her perception has caught up with her new reality.

After agreeing to move to the community for the winter, she looked defeated. She looked angry at me and didn't return my hug when I left. I think she feels I betrayed her.

Before I left, my mom asked me to take home the Zyrtec I finally convinced my dad to begin taking. "All of a sudden, my nose started running," he said to me a few weeks ago. "It's your seasonal allergies, that's why," I replied. "Take Zyrtec," I directed, "so that your congestion doesn't become something worse, like bronchitis."

Apparently, though, my dad's visiting nurse, who followed him to assisted living, offered a different perspective. Because he only has one kidney, he can't take Zytec. Sure enough, I checked the bottle which says, "Check with your doctor before using if you have kidney or liver disease." Luckily, my dad doesn't really listen to me when it comes to his allergies and only took a few doses.

So, yesterday, I felt like I almost killed my dad. I most certainly killed my mom's dream of returning home.

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<a href='http://www.caregiving.com/members/denise/' rel=\"nofollow\">@denise</a>, well and skillfully handled. Unfortunately, as we all know, the best decisions are often not the easiest ones. You may feel as though you killed your mother's dream of returning home, but from my perspective you have kept alive her dream of attaining her three goals.


Yes, Denise, \"Arm around the Shoulder\" you did exceptionally well with some heavenly guidance, I am sure!! Your Dad's perspective is amazing, your mom is not working with reality and you have to be the \"bad guy.\" I did the same yesterday. I just blurted out the facts! The facts say that your mom isn't able to return home. You have to keep the course of Plan B and they will enjoy the winter then Spring and onward in the Assisted Living Apt. It's hard for change to happen when the dreams of the \"way it used to be\" interfere with reality! You've got half the battle one with your Dad on board, congratulations for the small victories, they do add up!!!


Oh Denise, your title says it all. Exactly what you feel. But, as others have said, you are the steady hand that is trying to keep the boat from capsizing. In that process the boat still rocks and it is important to keep it pointing in the right direction. Oh, enough of that poetic crap...you are guiding your parents in a good direction. I watched as my mother wrecked her body caring for my father. In retrospect, it would have been much better if we had more help with him, or we had moved him to a better situation before his dementia and frailty caused mom so much physical damage. I applaud you for not making promises you may not be able to keep. My mother promised my dad she would never put him in a nursing home and when it became necessary, for everyone's safety, she suffered greatly when we did. It is hard to make decisions that seem to favor one parent over the other (your dad's improvement vs your mother's unhappiness) but in the long run you are looking out for both of their best interests. Be strong, rely on all of us for support and stay the course.

Lillie Fuller

Exactly what those before me said... Everything you've suggested and done has been in their best interest! Except the Zyrtec but that was fixed! :) Don't be so hard on yourself.


I'm going to put my arm around you shoulder, just like you would do for me, and remind you of the big picture, which includes your parents still striving for independence in their choices, and The Village, which is so necessary for their well-being now. You have remained faithful to all your vows, expressed and silent, to them and to yourself, to the best of your ability and with more ability than most. I can understand that being weary can make you easy prey to your doubts. It is all so so much. You are doing such a great job. You have come so far. Even if your mom doesn't recognize it. Right now I'm sure you dad does.

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