Monthly Archives: December 2012

Let Your Mother Live in the Comfort of Her Own Home


It is Christmastime!  My mother remembers what she has done in the past and it is hard for her to do what she would like with her limitations.  She decides she wants to give money to the grandchildren so I take her to the Hallmark shop in the mall. After looking at boxes of cards we decide to find individual ones.  I have made a list of the six grandchildren and eight greats along with their ages.  She sometimes forgets and sends cards inappropriate for the age.  It is very, very difficult for her to make decisions and I know this could be a long process.  She looks at the cards and then at the list many times and I can tell she is getting mixed up.  She says she is tired and wants to find a place to sit down.  I stay looking and find a pack of cards that would be appropriate for the grandchildren and then find individual ones for the greats.  I look outside expecting to see her seated in the bench in front of the store.  Instead I find her still in the store wandering up the aisles looking at the Christmas displays.  I approach her and show her the cards I have gotten for her. She is mad.  “I wanted to pick them out myself!”  “I know, Mom, but you said you were tired and I wanted to help.”   After much grumbling she pays for them.  I slip the list into the sack.  I just hope she is able to tell which ones should go to who.  I will give my sister the twenties to put inside.

Let Your Mother Live in the Comfort of Her Own Home

Even though my mother’s arthritis continues to worsen and  she finds it difficult to go into the yard to water her plants or do simple tasks like changing the bed even with her walker she insists on living at home.  One day she put something on the stove and forgot about it.  The house filled with smoke and the smoke alarm went off which brought over several concerned neighbors.  We knew we were coming close to having “the talk”.  She could not live by herself anymore; she needed someone to help her.  We were delighted when I took her to her doctor for a check-up and he told her she should not live alone.  He told her that he knew many patients who made the move into assisted living and were happy.  We should have known it would not convince my mother.

After she stopped driving she definitely needed help.  My sister or I tried to come up every couple of weeks and help her shop, but that was not enough.  It was a drive for both of us and she could not have the fresh fruits and vegetables that she loved. We were going to hire some help; someone to look in on her and go or take her to the store.  I thoroughly checked out nine senior homecare agencies in the area.  I called each one and personally talked with the owner or director.  I wanted to chose the best one.  I finally decided on one that seemed professional and caring.  Their care givers had on-going training and kept daily logs when at the client’s home.  A woman came out from the agency and talked with my mother; my sister who was there at the time thought it went well.    They worked out a schedule and were due to start the next week.  On Monday morning a caregiver arrived at the house. My mother refused to let her in. “I don’t need any help,” she informed her.  After several failed attempts the agency director called and said they couldn’t do anything if she wouldn’t cooperate.  We thought given enough time my mother would see that see needed help, but she would call the neighbors or the one friend that still drove, and ask them to pick up things for her at the store or take her places.  These same people who had seen the way my mother was and said she should not be living on her own, told us they helped her out because they felt sorry for her.  She also tried to work on their sympathy by complaining about us.  We were so awful.  We took her car away from her. “They just snatched my keys away from me,” she would say.  We were trying to control her life.

After a few months I tried another agency and a different approach.  We said we were hiring someone to drive her on her errands. She did not have to have them help her if she didn’t want to.  This worked for a while.  We envisioned a pre-arranged weekly schedule when she would be picked up to go to the store or get her hair done, etc.  This is not the way it was carried out.  My mother would call shortly before she needed someone and expect them to come right away, like a taxi.  When a schedule was set up she would either cancel or not be ready.  One night my sister tried to call her. She received no answer on either her land line or her mobile.  She called the agency to check on her as well as the neighbor.  When they arrived she didn’t understand what the fuss was all about.  She was just fine.  Her mobile phone had not been charged and her land line phone was off the hook.  This just wasn’t working.

There’s Nothing Wrong with My Driving

Real time update: We are selling my mother’s house.  She doesn’t know it, can’t ever know it.  She loves her house and everything in it.  She has lived there for 59 years and is very attached.  We are sorry it has come to this point, but we have run out of options.  
It was my hope to tell my story in a fairly chronological order.  It made sense.  The events unrolled so neatly.  In the meantime the present and its ramifications caught up with me.  Therefore, I will still tell the experiences that led to this point as well as my reactions to what is happening now.

There’s Nothing Wrong with My Driving

Unlike Europeans with their extensive rail and bus systems, to Americans their car is almost an extension of themselves.  With its myriad of freeways and suburbs this is even more so in Southern California.  You take a Californian’s car away it is almost like sealing them off from the outside world.  So it was for my extremely independent mother.

We had tried to talk with her for several years about her driving.  We noticed her reactions were slower and she got mixed up when she drove somewhere not on her regular routes.  When she talked about having the great grandchildren over and driving them to the beach the summer she turned 89 we cringed.     Later that year after driving the 70 miles to visit us she told us about the “awful driver” who had suddenly stopped right in front of her on the freeway on ramp.   Her car bumper was caved in and part of the hood raised. She also had another accident that we found out about later, that she neglected to tell us.   One evening when she arrived at CVS pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions her car kept going when she pulled into a parking place and it ran into some bushes.  The car received some damage then also, and she had it repaired.

The deciding moment came when she drove 260 miles to visit my sister in Yuma.  I was out all day, but was home in the afternoon when my sister called.  “Have you heard from Mom?” she inquired. Mom had started out that morning and ran into some “car trouble” along the way.  She told my sister that she wasn’t sure she would be able to continue, but she was going to call me because I was closer.  I did not have my cell phone with me that morning so I was not aware of any calls.  Just as I yelled to my husband to check for messages on my phone, my sister said, “Oh good, Mom just drove up.”  Before I had time to even react to her comment, she exclaimed, “Oh no, she just ran into the house!”  My mother had indeed come into their yard and run into two pillars of their carport, knocking one off its base.  She was OK, but she easily could have hit her 15 year old great grandson who had opened the driveway gate for her.

AAA was called to tow the car away.  When it was explained to her that she might cause an accident and hurt herself or a child it fell on deaf ears.  What I have discovered about someone with dementia is you cannot reason with them.  Trying to talk to them is like trying to talk to a three year old.  The car never came back from the repair shop. My brother and nephew came up from Phoenix and drive it to their house. My mother was furious that her car “was taken away” from her and moped for three days.  In fact, she is still mad at us and can’t believe how horrible her children are treating her.