The Big Move
How do you tell someone they have to move from a place they have come to like and leave people they have come to know? I can’t tell the truth which is your dementia has gotten worse and you need more care so you don’t fit in anymore.
The night before I planned to move my mother to her new home I hardly slept. How was she going to react? Would she be sad? Angry like the first time she went to assisted living? Would I have to tell a lie to make her feel better?
I decided I needed to face it head-on first thing in the morning. I arrived at Atria at 10 o’clock when I knew she would be finished with breakfast. As I walked in the door she had just been wheeled into the lobby by a caregiver. Her face lit up and I could tell she was happy to see me. As I began to talk myself out of telling Mom right then, the caregiver gave me an “out.”
“We were just going to the activity room,” she said. “Your mother wanted to watch them exercise.”
“Great,”I said. “I need to talk with Joseph anyway.”
While she was wheeled toward the activity room I walked up to the reception desk.
“Is Joseph in?” I asked Carla, the receptionist.
“They are all in a director’s meeting, but he should be out in a few minutes,” she said.
The first person to come into the lobby from the meeting was the site director.
“How are you today?” she said.
“I’m confused and a bit upset,” I said. “I have to tell my mother she has to leave today and I don’t know what to say.”
“Just tell her she needs two-person assist,” she answered.
Yeah, honey, I thought, I’m sure she will understand that. Never mind how it will affect her.
Just then Joseph came out.
“What is your usual procedure when a person leaves? Do you announce it? Have some sort of going away party? Or should I just take my mother away quietly without letting her friends know?” I asked.
“It depends,” he said. Some leave quietly and others not.There is no real policy.”
“What if I bring a cake?” I said.
“We could do it at Happy Hour at 4 o’clock,” Carla said.
“Yes, we could do that,” Joseph said. “I will tell the activity director.”
With that, I left. I had successfully put off telling my mother and I had a mission: order the cake.
BJ, my husband, and I arrived at 2:30 to see my mother. He had rented a van to move her furniture into storage and was ready to start, so I could not postpone telling her any longer. When we came into her room she was lying on her bed resting.
I said, “Mom we’re here to move you to a new place.”
“Why?” she said.
“You need more help.” I said.
“Is it here?”
“No, it is a place right around the corner from Atria. It’s very nice.”
“Oh.” was all she replied and then she lay there and watched as BJ began to move her things from the room. I stayed as long as I could and then left to get the cake.
When I returned with the cake, residents were just beginning to arrive in the activity room. Some had come for Happy Hour and others were ones who my mother had become acquainted with. My mother was wheeled in shortly thereafter. Soon my daughter came with the two grandchildren.
After some confusion (some thought it was a birthday celebration) those in attendance finally understood that it was because my mother was leaving. As they finished eating their cake people began to come up to Mom to say goodbye and tell her they would miss her. My mother seemed to understand and acknowledge them with “thank yous.”
The next morning went surprisingly well. Mom had stayed in a respite room at Atria the night before. When I picked her up she was ready and didn’t object when she was helped into my car. Upon arrival at Trinity Gardens the owner and a caregiver came out to help her out of the car. They greeted her warmly and she smiled back.
I slept much better that night.