Today, I did the second-hardest factor I’ve ever needed to do: I took away Mom’s cat.
Mom’s assisted residing facility known as final Thursday. “We strongly encourage you to consider moving your mother to memory care,” the director advised me. “I know we talked about this a year ago, and at that time you and your family decided she wasn’t ready. We think she’s ready now. She’s refusing her meds. She’s refusing to eat. She’s wandering. She’s more confused than ever.”
I phoned my brother, Jeff, who has dealt with the majority of Mom’s care since she moved to Happy Acres a decade in the past. “What do you think?” I requested.
“I think they’re right,” he mentioned. “Mom has been to the emergency room three times since the middle of November. She seems relatively lucid after each hospital visit, but that fades fast. Within a day of returning home, she’s out of it again. And her confusion does seem to be getting worse.”
“Yeah,” I mentioned. “You’re right. Even when she’s lucid, she’s confused. Remember when she called me from the hospital two weeks ago? She was speaking in complete sentences for once, but the sentences made no sense. She was asking to see the sherriff. She was talking about her dog, but she hasn’t owned a dog since the 1980s.”
Then I added, “The tough part is that she can’t keep her cat if she moves to memory care. And she loves that cat.”
Mom moved into Happy Acres on the sixteenth anniversary of my father’s loss of life, 21 July 2011. She was 63 years previous.
She had been residing alone on the household homestead — the house my grandparents owned once I was a boy — for all sixteen of these years after Dad died. But with out us noticing, Mom started to slip into…nicely, the docs can’t inform us what she was sliding into. But it was one thing like dementia.
That summer season, we realized that she was having issues.
- Her schizophrenia exploded. (She insisted the neighbors had been firing weapons in any respect hours. They did not personal a gun. She reported conversations and occasions that by no means came about. And so on.)
- She grew to become unable to take her medicine reliably. (She’d miss doses or, extra typically, take a day’s price of doses directly. Sometimes two days.)
- Plus, she was what the medical people name “non verbal”. That is, she could not talk what she was pondering and feeling. (Except on these random uncommon events when she may stick with it a nearly-normal dialog.)
The remaining straw got here when Mom drove her automotive by way of the again of the storage. My brothers and I knew then that one thing needed to be completed. And when the docs advised us they could not clarify what was unsuitable, we made the tough choice: We discovered a reminiscence care facility with an open spot and moved her in.
Mom did not just like the reminiscence care unit at Happy Acres. She shared her condominium with one other resident. Mom wished privateness. She did not just like the social actions. She wished to sit down alone in her room and watch the Home Shopping Network. She wished her cats. (She had two cats when she was residing on the household homestead.)
Within just a few months, the employees at Happy Acres really useful that we transfer her upstairs to a non-public condominium exterior the reminiscence care house. That’s the place she’s lived for the previous ten years. She’s had two giant rooms to herself. She spends most of her time watching the Home Shopping Network (nonetheless), however for a very long time she appeared to get pleasure from going downstairs at mealtimes, sitting in the identical chair on the identical desk with the identical folks.
Mom missed her cats, although, so earlier than Kim and I left for our year-long RV journey in 2015, I drove her to the Humane Society. There, she selected a cat. (And the cat selected her.) For seven years, candy little Bonnie has been Mom’s closest companion. She loves that beast, and the beast loves her.
Over the previous yr, nonetheless, Mom’s well being has declined — and so has Bonnie’s. Bonnie was by no means a strong animal to start with, and dental issues have made it painful for her to eat. As a consequence, she’s misplaced plenty of weight. Meanwhile, Mom’s had problems with her personal.
Mostly, her well being has been secure at Happy Acres (apart from her ongoing confusion and a continued “non-verbal” state). Recently, although, she started to have digestive points. These points led to her having three visits to the emergency room on the finish of the yr. For the previous two months, Jeff and I’ve spent plenty of time and vitality attempting to determine the perfect plan of action for Mom.
Last week, when Happy Acres known as to advocate transferring Mom to reminiscence care, we agreed it was time. A fourth journey to the E.R. for her over the weekend merely bolstered that call. Then, when Jeff visited Mom earlier this week, he messaged me: “It feels like she’s just waiting around to die. She’s not eating. She’s not taking her meds. She’s not putting on clothes.”
Logically, we predict that is the perfect transfer. Emotionally, nonetheless, it is robust.
Moving to Memory Care
Today, I drove as much as signal the paperwork. I did every thing I may to procrastinate, although, which is a positive signal that I did not wish to do it. I took the longest route attainable, winding alongside Oregon nation roads. I finished for half an hour at a bookstore (the place I did not purchase something). I finished to eat lunch. Eventually, although, I may delay not.
At Happy Acres, the lady in cost confirmed me Mom’s new room. It’s tiny. It’s the dimensions of a faculty dorm room. Plus, it is sterile. We went upstairs to take a look at Mom’s furnishings, and I used to be overwhelmed. Her present house is at the least 4 instances the dimensions of the brand new house, and he or she would not need to share it with anybody. Mom might not be capable to talk, might not be capable to inform us what she’s pondering and feeling, however she’s surrounded by photographs and furnishings that remind her of the life she’s led. She’s going to lose plenty of that when she strikes.
“Mom,” I mentioned, “I’m here because we think it’s time for you to move downstairs. You need more help than they can give you here, so they’d like for you to move to memory care.”
“Oh,” she mentioned. I could not inform whether or not she understood or not.
“The room is smaller,” I mentioned, “so you won’t be able to take all of your stuff with you. Are there things you want to be sure go with you?”
“What?” she mentioned.
“Are there things that you want to take with you to the memory care facility?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know,” she mentioned.
“And I’ll have to take Bonnie with me today,” I mentioned.
“You will?” she mentioned. She appeared to know. But perhaps not. In any case, it broke my coronary heart. Bonnie, who had been winding round my ankles, jumped onto Mom’s lap.
“Hi, Bonnie,” she mentioned and he or she smiled. She hardly ever smiles anymore.
While the gal from Happy Acres photocopied the contract that I’d simply signed, I gathered up all the cat stuff. Mom petted the cat. I am unable to make sure, but it surely regarded to me as if her eyes had been watering. She wasn’t crying however she appeared close to to.
“Do you love your cat?” I requested.
“Yes,” she mentioned, and I died inside. How may I do that to her? How may I take the one factor that brings her day by day pleasure? I felt soiled. And imply. Why did not I merely have Mom transfer in with me and Kim? In different cultures, that might be the expectation, the norm. Not in ours. I felt callous and merciless.
Then a few issues occurred.
First, as I used to be looking for Bonnie’s meals and toys and litter, I seen the state of Mom’s condominium.
There was a bedpan on her nightstand. There had been stains everywhere in the flooring from current “accidents” the place she hadn’t reached the toilet in time. There had been diapers within the closet.
I recalled the current conversations we have had with the employees of Happy Acres about how tough it’s to get Mom to eat or to take her meds or to carry out fundamental hygiene.
Yes, Mom may come reside with me and Kim, however am I geared up to make her care my full-time job? Would I ever really feel comfy leaving the home to run errands whereas leaving her house alone?
Second, Mom mentioned one thing that jogged my memory why she was at Happy Acres. As I used to be gathering gear, she requested me a query: “Are you moving in here too?”
I noticed that, in that second, she did not know who I used to be. She did not acknowledge me. While I believe this has occurred previously, that is the primary time I’ve recognized for positive that she thought I used to be a stranger.
“No, I’m not moving in,” I mentioned. “I’m getting things ready so that you can move somewhere they can better take care of you.”
I stayed for some time longer in order that Mom may pet her cat. Then I hugged her goodbye, mentioned “I love you”, and drove house to Corvallis.
I nonetheless do not know whether or not that is the “right” factor to do. It feels unsuitable. But it additionally looks like the one possibility. And, as Jeff identified throughout my drive house, if we resolve that is the unsuitable alternative for Mom, it is not irreversible. We can all the time transfer her again into the primary residing space at Happy Acres. Or there are different services within the space which may work for her.
I notice it is so much to anticipate, however I’ve excessive hopes that in the future Mom will be reunited with Bonnie.
We’ll see. We’ll see.
Update: To ease her transition, I slept downstairs within the visitor room with Bonnie final night time. Doing so added to my torment. Bonnie is good, and twice through the night time she woke me to pet her. All I may assume is that for the previous seven years, she’s woke Mom to pet her, not me. Last night time, Mom did not have a cat to cuddle. What was that like for her?