I mentioned a while back that my mother-in-law is moving here to SC from Idaho. Well, the time has come: she arrived Monday night. My husband flew up to travel back with her. His other brothers, a new sister-in-law, and two nieces also traveled up from other states, so, with the sister who already lived there, they had a bit of a mini-reunion.
Jim was concerned about the logistics of getting her to the airport, handling his luggage and hers, and getting the rental car back without having to leave her somewhere while he took care of things — she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, but she can get confused in unfamiliar situations or when she is nervous. (The other relatives didn’t come with them to the airport because we fly in and out of an airport about two hours away and rent a car to drive home. Her little town does have an airport, but it’s exorbitantly expensive to fly to it.) Jeremy and I prayed specifically about that at lunch time, and Jim called me later and let me know that someone from Hertz offered to take care of the car for him and bring him the receipt; an airline employee took the luggage on an elevator for them and told them the wheelchairs were at the top of the escalator (she doesn’t usually use a wheelchair, but would have had a hard time walking the distances you have to in airports); a skycap wheeled her straight to the front of the line. Jim had allowed about an hour to take care of all of that and get through security, but it only took half an hour. We were so thankful that that all went smoothly!
She seems to be doing ok — she got a little teary saying good-bye, understandably. I just can’t imagine this week for her: saying good-bye to the area she has lived for 35 years, to the family on that side of the country (we’re the only ones on this side), to her dog, traveling across the country, and now facing a new living situation. I’ve been praying for God’s grace for her during this whole transition process. If you think of it, I’d appreciate your prayers for her and for us. As I mentioned in that earlier post, this is going to be a new situation for all of us.
I have found that when I tell people my mother-in-law is moving here, they smile and say something like, “Oh, that’s nice!” But when I say she will be living in an assisted living facility, their smile drops somewhat and they look a little uncertain.
I know some folks have the mindset that they’ll never put a loved one in a home. I probably felt that way myself at one time. But two things changed my thinking. One was the assisted living facility my grandmother was in. It was more like an apartment complex for older people with medical staff on the premises. She enjoyed living there and having a certain amount of independence while still having care close by when needed. It was hardly being “put away in a home” at all. Then, my grandfather had been living with his daughter, my mother’s sister. She worked full time, so he was home alone in the day time. He didn’t eat right, didn’t take his medications regularly, didn’t do a lot. After he had a series of small strokes, he went into the hospital. Some specification with his insurance or Medicare would only allow him to remain in the hospital a certain number of days: after that he had to go into a nursing home. My mom and her siblings stood around his bed and cried. But none of them was in a position to give him the care he needed. As it turned out, when the time came that he could have gone home, he decided to stay. He found eating three regular meals did help, and he enjoyed someone else providing them (many older people don’t like to cook for just themselves.) His medications were dispensed; he met people and had activities that were stimulating. He loved it and lived there several years until he passed away.
Though family members do have responsibility to see that their loved ones are cared for, there is no one right way to go about it. When a family has to make these kinds of decisions, there are several factors that come into play:
1. Housing situation. Not everyone has the space to include a new adult addition, or the house might not be conducive to someone with physical problems. Though Mom is only staying with us a few days until she moves into her new home, we’re concerned about her dealing with the steps. But this was one factor in deciding on assisted living care. We could move to a house that is all on one level if need be, but that takes time.
2. Availability of other family members. This is one of the reasons she moved here: much of the rest of the family was moving away from her area. I’m the only daughter-in-law who isn’t working outside the home.
4. Mental ability. If the elderly parent has Alzheimer’s or mental confusion, someone would need to stay with them all the time, and even a family with a stay-at-home member might not be able to manage that between errands, school obligations if there are school-aged children in the house, etc. I know some handle this by hiring someone to stay with the elderly parent a certain amount of time each week.
5. Level of care needed. There might be some situations in which the older person needs physical or medical care that can’t be given at home.
6. Relationships. Some older people will always see their adult child as a child, and won’t follow instructions about medical care (e.g., medicines), food, etc., but they would take such instruction from medical personnel in an assisted living situation.
7. Personalities. We might be loathe to admit this and we might think that every family relationship should amicable, but in real life that is just not the case. Some relationships prosper with a little bit of space for each party. Privacy doesn’t allow me to disclose anything about situations I know of personally, but it is definitely a factor (by the way, this isn’t a factor with my mother-in-law. She is pretty easy to get along with).
8. Safety. Particularly Alzheimer’s or some forms of dementia in advanced stages may cause some patients to physically strike their caregivers when frustrated even if the patient would never have done that in ealrier years.
9. Socialization. I almost hate to even use that word because I know it is leveled as an unfair charge against home-schoolers has been a lack of socialization, and most of them get plenty of social interaction and don’t really need to be put into a classroom of people the same age to get it. But this is one of our concerns with my mother-in-law. If she lived with us, we would be her whole world — she wouldn’t feel the need to or have the desire to interact with others besides surface greetings at church. As we have talked with the staff at the assisted living facility, we feel this is an area in which she could benefit. Not only would she have the mental stimulation of interacting with others and participating in the activities there, but it might encourage her to know there are others who are going through the same things she is.
10. Independence. It might seem odd to list this as a factor when a person going into assisted living seems to be giving up their independence. But in such a facility they actually do get to make their own decisions and schedules and have their own living space. Some would feel that if they lived with their children they would be an imposition (even if the family is glad to have them), and they are more comfortable being on their own as much as they can be.
Not all of these reasons are factors for my mother-in-law, but they have been with friends dealing with elderly relatives. As we prayed and discussed the situation with the rest of the family over the past several years, we felt this was the best solution. We know to expect an adjustment period, but if she truly hates it or has a terrible experience, we’ll have to seek the Lord about what else to do. But for now we feel sure this is the right path.
My husband did all the initial legwork in researching the different facilities in out area. The one he chose is only about five minutes away from us, and it has a small, homey feel rather than a big institutional feel. Every time I have talked with any of the staff I have been reassured by their knowledge and attitude. As we have gone over several times in the last week to set up the room, hang curtains, etc., we’ve enjoyed saying hello to the other residents and look forward to getting to know them better. We do plan to visit often as well as bring Mom over to our house and take her to church with us.
I know there may be some bumps along the road for all of us as we figure things out, but ultimately I have every hope that this next stage in her life and ours will be a blessing to her.