When we were first making plans to move Mom into assisted living, everyone kept asking me why I didn’t bring her out to California to be near me. I was resistant to the idea and assumed she would be too. It was a big enough step for her to leave her apartment and move into this type of community in the town where she’s lived for over 20 years. But I’ve known for a while that this is only a temporary solution and that eventually she will have to move closer to family. After hearing her answer another resident’s question about why she lives in Prescott with no family nearby, “I didn’t want to leave here; this is the last place I had my husband” – I thought the solution might be to move her back to Ohio where she has a big, extended family. She grew up there. My aunt and uncle still attend Sunday services at the church where my parents were married. My dad’s ashes are interred in her family’s section of the old cemetery. Surely she would feel comfortable there, surrounded by memories.
While we were visiting at Memorial Day, family kept asking Mom if she was going to move back there, telling her how much they would enjoy seeing her on a more regular basis. At the beginning of the week, her answer was “Oh no, I like where I live. I love visiting here, but I don’t want to move.” By the end of the week, she was commenting that she doesn’t see any point in living hundreds of miles away from all her family and agreeing that yes, she probably will move back there eventually. Though I hated the thought of her being even further away from me, far enough that I could probably only afford a couple of visits a year, the knowledge that she would be surrounded by family was comforting.
My aunt scheduled appointments for us to tour the two best regarded assisted living facilities in the area, and I thought we were well on our way to the next phase of this journey. But then the one that I really liked turned out to be completely out of her budget, and the one that has a Medicaid waiver was just… depressing. I returned from our trip exhausted and so emotionally overwhelmed, again, that my therapist recommended that I put all the plans on hold and not even think about it for an entire month. Since Mom is fine where she is now for the time being, that’s what I did. I just let it all simmer on the back burner while I focused on my own life, but I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling I had about the only community we could afford in Ohio. I couldn’t imagine feeling good about leaving her there. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that I want her to live closer to me.
I had never seriously researched assisted living in Southern California. The web searches I’d done back in December had only turned up luxury communities that cost nearly twice her monthly income or depressing nursing homes. I assumed we couldn’t afford anything acceptable in my area. But a chance comment a week or so ago from someone who runs a caregiver support group got me started looking again, and I found a free referral resource for senior living.
Long story short, I toured three assisted living facilities within her budget and found one that feels like a perfect fit. It’s smaller than her current community – two floors and about 70 residents total – with a 1:3 staff to resident ratio. It’s a family run business and both the Care Director and Administrator have been there for over a decade, a big improvement over the constant staff turnover at the place she lives now. When the administrator gave me the tour, I watched him and other staff interacting with the residents and was impressed by their warmth and compassion. The residents I saw in the hallways seemed happy and engaged, and the place feels cozy and homey. She’ll have to give up some space – the kind of full-sized apartment she lives in now doesn’t exist in any place within our budget out here – but the standard studios at this community easily hold a full-size bed, two dressers, a couple of easy chairs and a little bistro table/chairs without feeling crowded. She’ll have all the space she needs and won’t have to share a bathroom anymore. And all of this is just two miles from my apartment. Two miles! Instead of a seven-hour drive, or a plane ride and then a two-hour drive from the airport, she will be five minutes away.
The fact that I found such a great place so quickly and so close to home tells me that I’m on the right track, flowing with the best course for my mom and me instead of fighting against the stream. I don’t even know how to put into words the relief I feel, the incredible lightness of being. It’s like I didn’t realize how much worrying about my mom was weighing me down until some of that weight was lifted.
We talked about it on Thursday and, though she hadn’t been expecting to move again anytime soon, Mom was enthusiastic about being closer to me and thought the new place sounded good. I gave her a few days to think and pray about it, since it will be a big adjustment, and we talked again this afternoon. She’s still enthusiastic and looking forward to being here, which makes me happy. First thing tomorrow I’m going to drop off the deposit to hold her room and call her current place to give notice that she’ll be moving out at the end of August. A new phase of this journey is about to begin.