The Big Decision


The Big Decision

I guess it took something really big for me to realize I couldn't continue being on call to care for my parents all the time. If I could have moved in with them, maybe it would have been okay, but I couldn't do that. When Mom's doctor heard what was going on, she was convinced they needed to be in assisted living. Fortunately, the PACE program helps with that process.

The timing was perfect--or as perfect as it could be--because it was a big birthday year for both of them. Mom would turn 85 and Dad 90. All my sibs were coming out for a combined birthday party in the summer. We took this opportunity to talk with them about moving.

It went over about like we expected. They said no. We talked about looking at assisted living apartments and getting them on a waiting list. These waiting lists could be long, we told them. It's better to have a plan and not need it than to need a plan and not have it, we told them. It would also be better to choose to move than to have the choice taken away from you, we told them. They agreed to look at one place. Mom became more and more Catholic as her mental state became unstable. The Catholic facility was the only one she'd consider. It also lessened the chance there'd be an opening.

We all visited. One lovely thing was my sister had a good friend who was working there. We also had a priest friend who had lived there for some years. And, to top it off, there were some young Ethiopian girls working there. It sounded perfect. Mom and Dad were starting to get excited about the possibility until we were told there was an opening and they could move in right away. This dampened their enthusiasm. Nothing would persuade them. It was too soon, they said. All we could do was put their names on the waiting list for the next apartment.

And then my sibs went home. I worked with the program to make some changes. We arranged for all Mom's medicines to be delivered in med-packs so she would have them all together and on a schedule. The program sent over various therapists to assess the house and see what other services they needed. I made it clear to everyone--they needed to accept more help from the program if they wanted to stay at home.

It didn't take long for the next crisis to come. By mid-August, just a month after my sibs left, Mom was calling me again. She kept insisting the program was getting her medicines mixed up and not delivering them on time. She was running out of her pills. The aides were getting a little bit afraid of Mom, too, and most of them wouldn't go over there unless I was there, which sort of defeated the purpose.

I went over to check on Mom's meds and couldn't figure out why she had run out and why the dates on the med packs weren't right. Mom was quickly going over the edge and was close to being psychotic. A little exploring around the house and I solved the mystery of the missing meds. There, in the trash can, were several packets of daily meds, torn open. The Clonazapam (the drug she abused) had been taken out and all the rest of her meds had been thrown in the trash. This included meds for thyroid, high blood pressure, potassium, and anti-depressants.

And Mom, suddenly, militantly refused any help. She refused to let us move a rug to prevent tripping. She was totally defiant and hostile towards me and towards the aides. I know Dad didn't escape her hostility, either. His humor, usually present even in the roughest times, was not there. He finally told me he knew it was time to move. I was relieved. He was turning 90 that month and still taking care of Mom 24/7. He was too thin, too tired, too drawn.

I called the assisted living facility, expecting to be told we would have a long wait. By some miracle, another apartment had opened up. It would be ready for them in two weeks.

Until then, we had to have Mom's meds locked up and a nurse came every day to unlock her daily dose. Mom was either ranting or curled up in a fetal position in her chair. She became more and more depressed as the days went by and she adamantly refused to have any part in choosing what to take along to the apartment. If I started packing, she'd get upset and then Dad would come and tell me to stop. His way of coping--avoid conflict wherever and whenever possible.

Two days before the move, my brothers came into town to help. Their wives came, too, and I was counting on them staying at the apartment with Mom (who was to go with the first load) and helping arrange things. Anyway, two days before the move, I overheard Mom saying to Dad, "What do you think could happen to make us not have to move?"

We moved them in last September. It was totally chaotic at the house, so I'm glad we'd made our plans for Mom. As she hadn't helped choose what to bring and I hadn't been allowed to pack much (I did some anyway), I was packing frantically. Other helpers were coming and just grabbing armfuls of clothes to take over, not waiting for me to pack them. This is how we ended up with Dad's Knight's of Columbus robe from 60 years ago hanging in their new bedroom closet. And lots of clothes that didn't fit. Once something made it to the apartment, it was there until I could sneak it out without them knowing.

Eventually the essentials were moved into their small one bedroom apartment: couch, two chairs, TV, two hutches, coffee table, bookshelf, two accent tables, large dresser, bed. sewing machine table (without sewing machine), two end tables, about 100 books and 200 cds, several boxes of knickknacks, enough women's clothes for every woman on the floor, and a biography of Bill Clinton, kept safely in her bedside table.

Mom still gets upset because she doesn't have her things.

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Goldie, your humor is awesome. You remind me to that the details that could drive me nuts can also bring me the relief of a laugh.\n\nLooking back, the move must feel like nothing less than a miracle to you. It kinda sounds like one. :)


What a long drawn out process you had to make your mom and dad safe. So, it's been a year now since the move and I'll bet you have no regrets!! Oh, I can't imagine how upsetting it was to find all those meds in the trash. . . You are so strong and loving!! I have really enjoyed hearing your journey!