Yesterday confirmed for me our choice of Atria for my mother was the right one. She has continued to want to stay in her room and not even go to the dining room for meals. I had come to get her to take her to Penney’s for a hair appointment. As we walked down the hallway to the door we passed several aides. Each one of them smiled and greeted her. “Oh, she’s out of her room!” several remarked. When I took her back after the appointment she decided to get some water or juice from the lobby before going to her room. I took some packages to her room, and as I was leaving I glanced in the lobby. She was talking to the Director as he was helping her choose what she wanted. I felt good about leaving her. I knew she was in safe, caring hands.
Living with or helping an elderly person takes patience. Lots of patience. I thought I was patient. Didn’t I live through my children’s teenage years? Surely having taught school for 35 would qualify me. Nothing prepared me with what was required to deal with my mother.
My mother always took a lot of time to get ready. Before she could leave the house it had to be spotless; no dishes in the sink, no shoes on the floor or toothpaste left uncapped. Now multiply that by ten, no, by 100! As you age your body doesn’t move as fast, but when it is complicated by arthritis with which my mother is afflicted, it takes forever just to get out of a chair and move to the closet. When she has to put her feet through two pant legs and ease her slacks over her hips it is an ordeal along with slipping her curled toes into shoes. It takes half an hour to put on makeup that used to be done in ten minutes. It is sad to see my always stylish, “put together” mother just opt for a quick dab of lipstick because it takes too much effort to do anything more.
When we have to pick Mom up to go anywhere I call two hours in advance and tell her I will be there in an hour. She readily assures me she will start to get dressed. An hour before we leave I call again. She usually has fallen asleep and the call wakes her up. Sometimes she doesn’t remember we are coming. “Yes,” she says again, “I’ll start to get dressed.” At this point I tell my husband that we’d better go early.
When we arrive, my husband, who has the patience of a gnat, usually decides to wait in the common area and read his book. I let myself into the room not knowing what stage of dress my mother is in. Sometimes she has fallen back to sleep. If she has not begun to dress Mom has trouble deciding what to wear. Often several outfits are strewn on the bed. She asks me which outfit would be the best. This, from a mother who easily made decisions for herself and had an opinion on everyone else’s! After she is ready I make several attempts to leave. It always takes time to find her purse which she has either hidden in the closet or in a drawer. Her keys should be in the top drawer, but sometimes we have to search for them. Closet doors need to be closed and curtains pulled. Most times she will go back in to get tissues for her purse.
She navigates her walker slowly down the hall apologizing for going so slow. My sister bought her a newer walker with a seat that has large wheels and moves faster. She refused to even try it. She also nixed the wheelchair which is paid for by Medicare and would make it easier for us to travel with her. “I just can’t walk very fast today. I need to get out and walk more,” she says. She says this every time. I always agree. We’re both in denial that she’ll be better tomorrow.
My mother is of the generation that doesn’t do her own hair. I guess when she was younger she did, but ever since I remember she went to the hairdresser once a week to have it done. (I never had this luxury. After two days mine looks like a greasy mess!) I know, though, like any woman, it makes her feel better when her hair is styled , so I try to make an appointment for her every week. We always start out with my mother saying she will call for an appointment. She never does; she forgets she said it. So the next day I call and make it, and then call her. “You didn’t have to do that. I could have done it. You’re so busy.” When I pick her up I always hear the same complaint. “I really want to go to Bonnie. She knows how to do my hair.” “But she’s in Riverside and you’re here,” I say. “No, I think she’s moved. She’s near me now.” And so it goes . . .
Now that we had my mother safely ensconced in Atria assisted living, we had to concentrate on how we were going to keep her there. She did have some savings which would keep her for awhile, but all her money was tied up in her house. After calculating what she would save on utilities and groceries by not living at home along with the cost of her board and care, I estimated she would have just three months before we had to come up with more money. It was easy to see that we either had to rent or sell the house. Since neither my brother or sister, or I wanted to deal with renters and the problems that could arise, even with a rental service, it became clear that we would have to sell.
Once we made this decision everything moved very quickly. A reasonable offer was made the day after we listed the house. The biggest problem, now, would be what to do with all of Mom’s “stuff”. She and Daddy were very organized so there wasn’t a lot of junk laying around, but the drawers and cupboards were filled as well as the garage. Besides furniture, clothes and linens there were all the kitchen appliances, cookware and dishes, especially the good china and serving ware. Mom also had valuable antique dishes, dolls, and other things that she had inherited. Should we have a garage sale? Do we want to take the time to sort and price everything? What do we do with the things we think are worth a lot?
After deciding time was money and none of us wanted to do a garage sale we opted to have an estate sale. Part of what influenced our decision was that the antique dealer who ran the sale had a list of thousands of people on his mailing/email list that would be contacted about our sale. We also asked ourselves what would we do with everything that didn’t sell? In an estate sale everything that doesn’t sell is reduced in price on the last day and then a another dealer comes in and buys what is left at an agreed price and then cleans the house. The dealer would take 33% commission on the sales. This sounded good. We would not even have to clean out cupboards. They would take everything out and price it.
So this is what we did. We took the sentimental and really valuable things and left the rest. It still took a lot of sorting, but was not near the job it would have been. Would I do it this way again? I did have some second thoughts when I went back to the house the day before the sale and saw everything of my parent’s laid out on tables. And the prices. I knew some antiques were worth more and was tempted to take them back, but things were priced to sell. Was I willing to take boxes of glassware and knick knacks from store to store to try to sell them? I think not.