Transitioning

Mom has been in her new home for five days now. She didn’t understand at first that this is where she is living now, but seemed to be under the impression that she was staying in someone’s home until her new place was ready. The first night, when Bro and I were getting ready to say goodnight, she asked “Am I sleeping here tonight?” When I said yes, she made a face at me and said “You don’t tell me these things.” I told her that we did talk about it but she probably doesn’t remember and that’s OK. For the next couple of days, whenever someone would ask how she liked her new place, she would reply with something like “I don’t know. I haven’t even seen it yet.”

On the other hand, when asked if she likes where she is staying now, she always says yes. She talks about how kind and caring the staff are, she’s getting her appetite back, and she has already made a new friend. Following the advice I received on the dementia caregivers forum, I don’t try to explain that she lives there now. I just tell her that she will be staying there “for a while” and then talk about some of the good things, like how bright and cheerful her room is or the beautiful garden just outside her window.

Her new friend is nearly 96 years old and was very active and independent until the last few months of her life. Her physical health and strength has declined rapidly but she’s still sharp as a tack. She keeps an eye on the other residents, who are all more cognitively impaired than she, and immediately adopted my mom as her new best buddy. I am thankful for this lady, who I’ll call Georgia, because she’s the only one of the residents really capable of engaging in any meaningful conversation. The caregivers tell me that Mom spends a lot of time talking with Georgia. They sit next to each other at the dinner table and in the TV room. I am also thankful that Georgia is NOT Mom’s roommate because, man, does this lady like to talk! Mom’s roommate is very quiet and seldom in the bedroom except to sleep at night, so if Mom wants peace and quiet she can retreat to her room.

The caregivers are all Filipino ladies, gentle and patient. The one in charge, Maria, is particularly good – warm and caring and on top of everything that goes on in the house. When the physical therapist came to work with Mom yesterday, she watched everything that he did and said she would start doing some of those exercises with Mom in between his visits. If something comes up that needs doing (like reminding Mom to remove her dentures and soak them overnight), Maria only needs to be told once. She also monitors Mom’s oxygen levels throughout the day, and I’m happy to say that Mom is now able to be without the oxygen machine most of the day.

I know it’s an adjustment for Mom, living in a house with five other ladies all together and sharing even her bedroom, but I am confident it will be good for her. It’s only been five days, and I’m already seeing a change for the better. Mom is spending less time in bed, more time interacting with other people. She’s got a healthy appetite again. She even joined the rest of the ladies in exercising on her first day there. As we stood outside the house on my brother’s last night in LA, Bro put his arm around my shoulders and said “Sister, you did good.”

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