Tag Archive | assisted living

Brownies for everyone

Wednesday will be two weeks since I had my gallbladder removed. The outpatient laparoscopic surgery went very well, no complications, but the first week of recovery was pretty rough. I’m still not sleeping well, and it’s only in the last couple of days that I’ve started driving and getting out of the house for more than a walk around the block. Today I made my first visit to Mom in 13 days.

I made a pan of brownies (from a mix) a few nights back when I was bored and craving chocolate and, because I do NOT need to eat an entire pan of brownies by myself, I packed up most of them to take to Mom. I had to stop at Walmart and pick up a prescription for her on the way, so while I was at it I stopped in Starbucks and got her some “fancy coffee” (a vanilla latte) to have with her brownies.

Mom was, as usual, in her recliner in the TV room with the other ladies. Her face lit up when I handed her the coffee and showed her the brownies. She ate one, licked her fingers appreciatively, and then leaned over to her roommate in the chair next to her, tapping her on the arm and gesturing toward the Tupperware container in my hands. “Have one!” I passed the brownies to Yoko, who took one carefully and said, with a big smile, “Thank you.” In all the many times I’ve visited, it’s the first time Yoko has ever spoken to me. Usually she just smiles and nods, and I wasn’t even sure if she understood English.

The three wheelchair-bound residents were all seated around the dining room table, and I saw one of them turn her head to see what I was doing. I smiled and brought the brownies over to the table. Though none of those ladies speak much, and two of them need assistance to eat, their smiles said it all. Chocolate is a universal language.

After I’d handed out brownies all around, I returned to my seat next to Mom. “Thank you,” she said quietly. “I don’t have anything to share around except when you bring something.”

We sat and talked for a little while, about my surgery and about my brother’s recent visit to her, and then I suggested that we play a game of Scrabble. The staff made room for us at the end of the dining room table while I brought the game from Mom’s room. We only play a couple times a month now, so Mom always needs a little prompting at the start about how many tiles to draw and what to do with a blank one… but once she gets going, she still plays as well as ever. We played two games. I won the first by three points, she won the second by two.

She’s always enjoyed Scrabble but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her have so much fun with a game. Her eyes were sparkling and she got enthusiastic about every good play, whether it was hers or mine. After she played a Z on a Triple Letter Score and got a 42-point word, she did a little dance in her seat. It made me so happy to see her like that, I hated to stop at two games… but my surgery area had started to ache and I needed to get home and lie down with an ice pack.

I left the brownies on the little end table by her chair and reminded the staff, who had declined them earlier, that they were for everyone.


Girls of All Ages Have Drama

I read a great article (Mean Girls in the Retirement Home)  recently, and it got me thinking…

I didn’t witness out-and-out bullying at the two assisted living communities where my mom lived, but I definitely saw that there was a pecking order, with those who were still mentally sharp shunning those who were cognitively compromised. I used to worry about Mom being mistreated as her dementia advanced. So, first off, I’m thankful that we got her out of that dynamic and that she now lives in a homelike environment too small for cliques.

But I had noticed the last couple of times I visited that they’d moved the chairs in the TV room, separating Mom from her chatterbox friend Georgia… and that Miss Chatterbox (or, as Mom calls her, Miss Know-It-All) seemed quiet and sullen. The article got me to wondering if there had been some kind of Mean Girl drama. So when I took Mom to get her nails done yesterday, I asked her about it.

“Well,” she said. “I heard her talking about me and I didn’t like the way she described me, and I told her so.” The offending piece of description was something like “she does her own thing and doesn’t care about anybody else,” and Mom said “If that’s what she thinks of me, I don’t see how I can be friends with her.”

No one who knew my mom pre-dementia would ever describe her as someone who doesn’t care about others. She’s always been one of the kindest, most giving, most nurturing people I have ever known. So I can understand how being described in that way would sting. But I can also understand why Georgia, who appears to constantly need someone to listen to her and validate her, might be hurt if Mom started tuning her out so that she could focus on her crossword puzzles. Aside from the staff, my mom is the only person there capable of making intelligent conversation… so I suspect Georgia might be sorry she’s burned that bridge.

We never do outgrow the drama, do we? LOL Well, hopefully it will soon be water under the bridge.


I got a scare on Friday evening. I almost didn’t go visit my mom, since I knew I’d be spending most of the weekend with her, but I had picked up some more Ensure and ginger ale to keep in her mini fridge, so I thought I’d just drop it off and check on her quickly. She was lying on her bed when I arrived around 6:30, oxygen canula in her nose, and she said she was feeling tired and “not so good”. I put the beverages in the fridge and sat by her for about twenty minutes, holding her hand and talking and reading to her from her book of daily devotions.

I was getting ready to leave when it occurred to me to check her oxygen level with the finger oximeter. Good thing I did – she was down to 77! It scared me that her oxygen level could be so low while she was hooked up to the oxygen generator. I went to check the generator and discovered that it was OFF. Apparently whoever had taken her down to dinner had turned off the generator and failed to turn it back on when they brought her back to her room.


I turned it on and turned the oxygen level up to 4, and I stayed with her and waited until her sats came up to the acceptable level of 90. I tried not to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t come by to check on her that evening.

Another “Nurse Ratched” Vent

I was in the middle of a meeting with my boss when my cell phone started buzzing – a call from my mom’s phone, and she NEVER calls me (I don’t think she remembers how). I excused myself from the meeting to take the call, fearing an emergency. It was the Care Director (aka Nurse Ratched). I asked if something was wrong, is my Mom OK?

“Oh, she’s fine,” said Nurse Ratched. “But she is ADAMANT that she won’t get up, won’t get dressed, she just wants to stay in bed.” Her tone sounded cross, impatient.

“She’s sick,” I said, startled. “She just got home from the hospital.”

“So I should just let her stay in bed?” she demanded, in an incredulous tone like she can’t believe that’s going to be my answer.

“She’s been very sick and she’s still weak,” I replied. “Let her rest. Just don’t give her pills on an empty stomach. Make sure she has some food with them.”

I explained that I have to take my mom to the doctor this afternoon and would be there to pick her up between 2:00 and 2:30, so she would need to be dressed in time for that. But until then, yes, it’s perfectly fine if she stays in bed.

For crying out loud, has this woman NO empathy?! This is an 85-year-old cardiac patient on oxygen, who was just discharged from the hospital the day before yesterday. Isn’t it understandable, even necessary, that she get a lot of rest? Why does this b*tch need to bully her into getting dressed at 8:30 in the morning?

Man, I can’t wait to get my mom out of there! Counting. The. Days.


Mom was discharged home on Tuesday evening. I thought for sure they’d send her to skilled nursing rehab first, not straight back to her assisted living facility, and I have mixed feelings about it.

I don’t think she was ready to go home. She’s still so weak she can’t get off the toilet without help, even with the grab bars in her bathroom. They sent her home with oxygen, thankfully, but I called yesterday morning and discovered she’d taken the canula off when she went to the bathroom and forgot to put it back on. She barely ate yesterday, only half an Ensure shake for breakfast and a few bites from the lunch and dinner trays they sent to her room.

If my aunt and cousin weren’t arriving on Saturday, I would have pushed for her to be sent to rehab for a week. I think she needed a few more days of bed rest. Then again, hospitals and nursing homes can be the worst place to be when your immune system is vulnerable; so maybe she’s safer at home in her room. Still, I will be so relieved to have family here to spend time with her during the day while I’m at work next week. We just need to get through two more days…

… and here’s the catch.

So, apparently there was some miscommunication with the owner of the new board and care about the cost. The amount that I thought was the inclusive rate did not include all of the care my mom needs. We spoke today and negotiated a rate that is manageable, just barely. Every cent that she gets from social security and the VA pension each month will go to the board and care. The board and care does not pay for incontinence products, so I will have to pay for those – along with her medication costs (about $150/mo.) and her hair appointments (another $100/mo.) and any other incidentals like Ensure shakes or going out for a meal. Thank goodness cable is included and I’d already decided not to transfer her phone service (there is a “house phone” that residents can use), because we couldn’t afford it anyway.

I’m trying not to let this rattle me. I know that the much more personal, attentive care she will get there will be well worth the cost. I just hate being so close to the edge, financially. I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck myself, so it’s not like I’ve got an extra $250+ per month lying around. I’ve got enough in savings to cover her for a while, but I’ll have to dip into that for her moving costs and our family vacation in May… and I was really hoping to be able to move into a handicapped-accessible apartment building by this Fall, so that Mom can spend holidays with me instead of me having to join her at the board and care home.

Thank God I’ve still got credit.

Thirty Days

Yesterday I gave our 30-day notice at Mom’s retirement community. I’m relieved to have found a much better place for her – a small board and care home with only six residents, where she will get the kind of attentive care she needs and deserves. She will have to share a room, but it’s the largest and best situated room in the house, with a private bath and a sliding glass door opening onto the beautiful fenced backyard. The owner of the home has been in this business for twenty years and she impressed me with her compassion and commitment to this work.

When I took Mom to see it, she said the home was beautiful and absolutely loved the yard and garden – but she said she didn’t want to move again. Understandable, since she’s already moved twice in the past 15 months. I gave her a few days, then broached the subject again, and I didn’t even get through half of my carefully prepared arguments before she agreed that the care home sounds like a good move. “This place is nice,” she said, “but it doesn’t feel like home.” I asked her if she wanted to take some time to think and pray about the decision before I gave her notice, but she said no – “this feels right.”

I’m so happy she’s on board, though I was prepared to take the decision out of her hands if I had to. The woefully inadequate care at her current facility was underscored by what happened Thursday night and Friday of this week. I called her on Thursday night around 9:00 p.m. She was really out of it when she answered the phone, not making a lot of sense. She told me that “they” (staff) had taken her someplace and just brought her back and got her ready for bed. When we hung up, I called the front desk and was told that staff had found her sleeping on one of the couches in the public areas and brought her back to her room. Considering that she almost never leaves her room after dinner, I can only assume that she stopped to rest on her way back from dinner (around 6:00 p.m.), fell asleep and was still there nearly three hours later. It is inexcusable to me that they could just leave her lying there all evening. There are cameras throughout the facility, so someone must have seen her. Concerned, I stopped by on Friday morning before work. I found her bedroom window wide open, the room very cold, and Mom huddled under every blanket she has, phone still in her hand from our call the night before. She was drenched in sweat and had soiled herself. Her medical alert call button was lying on the dresser, the button part having come loose from the necklace.

Let me count the ways this was unacceptable. All of them will make it into the complaint I file with the state licensing board the day after she moves out. I wish we didn’t have to wait 30 days. I wish I could move her tomorrow. But we can’t afford to pay for two rooms at once. So I’m just going to check on her daily, if possible, and be a thorn in everyone’s side to get her the care she needs. It will be an enormous relief to move her into a home where someone will actually CARE.