What an exhausting week! On Monday we met with a placement specialist to talk about finding long term care for Gram. My parents were both there. My uncle and his wife were there. We spent a couple of hours discussing possibilities.
There are many options to choose from for Seniors today. The old days of nursing homes or nothing are thankfully gone. We have Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Adult Foster Homes. Where do we begin? We decide immediately that Independent Living is not an option. Bringing someone into her home to care for her at night while she continues to attend Gentog is an option, although safety is an issue in her home. Assisted Living seems like a great alternative, but we fear that she is past that point in her dementia. So we decide to explore Memory Care facilities and a foster home.
I am surprised by the variety of settings we saw, even with narrowing the search to Memory Care. Old and new. Settings that are very much a “facility” and settings that are more “homelike”. Since Gram has spent 2 years at Gentog, we know that she thrives when she is around other people. She enjoys visiting and doing, even as she is beginning to slow down. She is 93, after all! So we look carefully at the activities offered. We carefully consider the staff/client interactions as we walk around the facilities. We watch the interactions between the seniors living there as well. We look at the rooms and the feel of each place, and try to imagine Gram in each.
Some are out of the question. She would clearly disrupt the peace at the foster home. One of the Memory Care facilities is clearly not thought out well, and has endless halls with no interaction between the people. Each person is sitting alone in their rooms, and I find it so sad. One of the facilities was beautiful, and the Administrator was wonderful…but as we walked around we saw all of the staff chatting at the desk, and ignoring the people living there and sitting around the rooms and halls. The long halls, with each room looking nearly identical to the next felt cold.
On our way to the last tour, Mom and I felt defeated. We talked about how we should just figure out a way to get Gram back home, and hire someone around the clock. Maybe she could still come to Gentog for interactions, and sleep peacefully in her own bed every night. It would take a lot of coordinating if we hired someone ourselves, but the expense of hiring someone through an agency would be cost-prohibitive. But surely we could make it work…
And then we met Leila. She is the Community Relations Director at the last facility we toured. She spent a couple of hours with us. She let us talk about Gram. She shared the story of caring for her own mom, of placing her and the challenges she had encountered. She encouraged us to talk about how we were feeling about the process. I cried (not what I expected to do on one of these tours). She reminded us that we were making a choice that would benefit everyone…especially Gram. She promised to help us through the process, and encouraged us. As we toured the facility, we just knew it could work. There are no long halls here…every room opens out to a common area with lots of comfortable places to sit and visit. Each building is limited to 16 or so seniors, with staff around the clock. There is a lovely and safe yard to enjoy. The staff was friendly and visiting with the residents. The residents were clearly happy. This could really work.
I’ve spent the last couple of days watching Gram, and considering what life will be like for her in her new home. When she got up in the middle of the night, got dressed and was ready to start the day, I thought of how nice it would be for her to come out of her room and have someone say “Hi, Helen! Let’s have a cup of coffee” instead of “Gram, go back to bed!” I think of how nice it will be to have a bathroom in the same room as her bed…maybe she won’t even wander out of her room in the middle of the night with that arrangement! When she comes out of her room and wants to sit in the dining room, she can. When she wants to sit by the fireplace, she can. Nobody to tell her it’s too early or too late. When she wants to visit, there will always be someone there. When she is tired from the activities, she can go back “home” to her room and relax.
And I think about our relationship. I don’t have to be the one to remind her to clean up or change her underwear. I can be the one that brings the baby to visit or the one that comes to take her out to lunch. We can visit and enjoy each others company. I’m still sorry that I can’t be the one that takes care of her until the end…but I’m coming to terms with the idea.
I pray that she will settle into this new phase of her life and that she’ll find peace and happiness there. You can bet that Mom and I will do everything we can to make sure she transitions smoothly. And I pray that we can also settle into this new phase of our lives. I look forward with some hesitation…and lots of hope.