Tag Archives: Aging

What are the problems confronted by those dealing with a parent who suffers from dementia.

Settling in to Trinity Gardens

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Settling in to Trinity Gardens

Mom fell again. She looks like she has been in a fight; her eyes are black and blue and she has a big bruise on the side of her face. They said she tried to stand up and fell face forward and hit the end of the bed. Of course this meant another ambulance trip to the emergency room and an MRI of her head. (She went three times when she was at Atria) She checked out OK, but needed twenty stitches for the gash in her head.

When Trinity Gardens called to tell me about the fall, I was suffering from a bout of food poisoning and didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it to the ER. Thankfully, hospice was called and between the hospice nurse and a caregiver from Trinity Gardens who drove over to be with her, all was well. My reservations I had about whether or not to keep my mother on hospice quickly vanished. I was reassured that she would be taken care of in an emergency.

My mother seems to like Trinity Gardens. After I left her there the first time, I wondered if I had made the right decision. Atria had activity, and residents were moving around, even if it was with their walkers. Here, a circle of recliners or couches is arranged around a large TV screen, and the residents sit there most of the day sleeping or watching television. I soon realized, being with a more active group could not help my mother. Her dementia had made it harder to interact with others and she needed to just sit for most of the day. This is where she is mentally at this period of time. I wonder if being around residents who were able to converse with each other easily, might actually have been frustrating for my mother. She tried so desperately to make sense when she talked, but most of the time she didn’t.

My worry that my mother would object to sharing a room came to nothing. She did not complain and perhaps didn’t even realize that she didn’t have her own room. This also served to reinforce to me that my mother was not the same person she was two years, even a year ago, when she would have staunchly refused.

The caregivers at Trinity Gardens are kind and genuinely caring people.

When she first moved in everyone remarked, “Your mother is so sweet.”

“ You haven’t seen her when she gets upset, when she doesn’t want to do something,” I said.

Two days after she had been there I went for a visit. “You were right,” Zairita, one of the caregivers, said, “Now I’ve seen her other side. She can be feisty.”

I laughed. This actually made me feel better. I knew then that the mother I’d known all my life, the one with the strong will and independent spirt, was still in there somewhere and wanted to be heard.

The Big Move

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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.

Mission accomplished.

I slept much better that night.

A Place for Mom

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A Place for Mom

I put a $500 deposit on a place for my mother. It is not one I thought I would have chosen, but it feels right.

Last week I received many calls and emails with suggestions from Brad, the senior living placement advisor, and I spent countless hours looking at places for my mother.

I started out with certain criteria in mind.
• It had to be clean, neat, and tastefully decorated.
• Have a private room and bath
• The caretakers were aware of what care my mother needed and had experience with dementia patients and treated                              them with dignity.
• Show that they were friendly, caring people.
• Have a warm, homey atmosphere.
• A positive feeling about it and a place I could picture my mother.

My sister was worried that I would be too concerned about “how a place looked” instead of the people who worked there. I know I am a little compulsive about how a room looks; it needs to be well coordinated with not a lot of knick knacks or frills. My mother’s house was always clean and neat and decorated nicely so I know she feels the same way I do. Even though she has dementia I think she would feel better in surroundings that she feels more comfortable in.

Atria has a lot of windows and always felt open and bright. The rooms have large sliding door windows which also lets in light. The staff was very friendly. Everyone greeted you, and the staff always acknowledged each resident by name. This is the atmosphere I hoped to find again.

I felt a bit like Goldilocks in my search. There was the place that had white walls and floors and hardly any decorations- too cold. And the places that were too ethnic or too cluttered- too warm.

I finally narrowed it down to two.

Emeritus is a large facility that has a 24 bed memory care unit. Residents have private rooms and baths; there are structured activities, a large activity room and dining room. Every week the residents of the unit bake cookies for the whole resident population. It was nicely furnished and seemed like a caring environment.

Trinity Gardens is facility built to house up to ten seniors. It felt more like a home. When I arrived, the cook, a friendly older woman, was preparing the day’s lunch.The kitchen opens up to the common area and is connected to it by a long pine table where everyone eats. There were windows all along the back which made it bright and warm. Off of the common area were the bedrooms. They have both shared and private rooms. At this time they only had a shared room available.

Which place did I choose?

I chose Trinity Gardens. My mother will have to share a room until she can have a private one. I met the lady who it to be her roommate. She does not have dementia, but is limited to a wheelchair because of a stroke. The owner thinks they will get along well together.

Why? My mother baking cookies?! No way. Trinity Gardens is more of a family atmosphere and I think that is what she needs at this time in her life.

She Needs More Care

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She Needs More Care 

The day I was dreading has finally come. My mother has to move from Atria. The Patient Services Director asked me to come in and sign the papers from my mother’s three month review and talk about any changes in her care. It was then he suggested that we have a meeting with the facilities director. We met the next morning. They said it was time my mother moved to a place where she could receive more care.

“Your mother needs more care than we can give her. It isn’t just her dementia, it is her physical limitations. She often                   needs more than one person to help move her,” they said.

This I knew. She had to be helped out of bed and from her chair to the wheelchair. She also needed help dressing and changing her depends. The problem was, when she had to be moved she could not stand to help and was like dead weight, though she only weighed 95 pounds.

My mother liked Atria and I hated to see her have to adjust to a new room and different surroundings, but I knew it would happen at some point. Fortunately, Atria has another senior living community close by that offers memory care. If their rooms and surroundings were similar to where she was it would not be as big of an adjustment, and I liked the care she was receiving from Atria. The directors encouraged me to visit the facility and see if I liked it.

“They will be able to give her more help and get her more involved. They have activities that will stimulate her brain.”

“Stimulate her brain?” I said. “My mother is 96 years old and can’t remember anything for more than a minute. Don’t      you think it’s a little late for that?”

I drove over to Atria Hacienda and was met by the director of marketing who gave me a tour of the memory care unit of the facility. My fears were assuaged. The rooms were not any smaller than the one Mom currently lived in, in fact they appeared larger without a kitchen. The common areas, including the dining room, were nicely appointed. I liked what I saw. Jennifer, the marketing director, showed me the four rooms that were available and told me about a current promotion: if I signed up by the end of the month, which was three days from then, we could have one month free rent. I quickly agreed and we arranged to meet in two days to sign papers. In the meantime the nurse from AH would visit my mother and report back as to what she perceived.

The day before we were to meet, Jennifer called. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but since your mother often needs more than one person to assist her, we cannot accept her into the facility. It is company policy.”

I was confused. “ I thought one of the reasons for the move to AH was that you could give her more care, including assistance.”

I could tell Jennifer felt bad.

“I know, I wish we could help. I have someone that can assist you and help you find a place for your mom,, though” she said. And she proceeded to give me the number of an agency that helps locate placements for seniors.

I had been through this before. I had worked with Senior Living Options so knew the routine. I thanked her and hung up.

I needed time to digest this. What was supposed to be a perfect solution was turned on its head. Of course, I wasn’t given time.

The next morning I got a call. “This is Brad from Senior Placements. Jennifer says you need some help to find a place for your mother. I have contacted some in your area and . . .”