Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Christmas Visit--Part One

Before Christmas my emotions were running deep as I was trying to come terms with the fact that it was time for my mother to move into an extended care facility. I knew that it was the best thing for her, but also grieved as I thought about her leaving the home she had been in for many decades and the one I grew up in.

And then suddenly, a few days before Christmas, there was an opening. That turned up the emotions another notch as I thought about my mother spending Christmas away from home. But you gotta do, what you gotta do. As a result of this, my sister and I spent almost a week with her around Christmas helping her get settled in.

We spent long days in the new place trying to find the right balance between helping my mother and letting her adapt on her own to her new surroundings. During this time, we made friends with the staff. They were a friendly, professional, hard working, and funny group. We were happy that they were caring for our mother. (Interestingly enough, my mother was a nurse who worked on this unit many years ago and some of the current staff actually worked with her then.)

However, we had the best time meeting some of the other residents. I have been in several nursing homes before, but always with short visits to a particular person. Never long enough to get to know others like I did this time. There were a variety of people there, but most of them were in there 80's and 90's. A few of them had lost there ability to communicate in the traditional ways, but always responded well to eye contact and a smile. With others, it took a little time to figure out where their mind was taking them at that time, and yet others were always with you in the here and now. The biggest hindrance in the initial meetings was the hearing loss most of them suffered. However after the first meeting, we usually figured out how to communicate without much difficulty.

Some of them had lots of visitors and some had none, but they all were eager to tell their story--where they grew up, what their jobs had been, and who their family was. After a day or two, the conversations grew more intimate. Thelma told me about how it frustrates her that people think residents in places like this aren't smart. She said that most were quite smart. Bertha told me that she didn't like the holidays and couldn't wait for them to be over. They always made her sad.  Emmogene told me how she was praying for my mother to get better.

The best day was Christmas Eve when Santa came to visit and brought multiple presents to each resident. He also had his picture taken with each person including my sister and me. Everyone was eager to see what was in their packages and we were as eager as they were. Even Bertha, who was sad at Christmas, was having a good time. So like Bertha, the Christmas I was dreading was actually turning out to be okay.

I'm home now and while I'm still trying to grasp this new phase of my mother's life, I feel much better. She seems to be adjusting and I know that she is surrounded by good people. I'm looking forward to the next visit to see my mother and all of the new friends I made.

Unfortunately, out of respect for others, I can't show any of the pictures from my visit.


  1. I hope she will be ok there. I never want to go to a nursing home, worked in them when young. Watched my mother virtually rot in one in Myrtle Point, tied to a chair, very few staff, underfed, and I couldn't do anything about it. There were not enough staff there as was the case with every home I worked in when I was younger. I know there probably are good nursing homes out there, sounds like you found one of those for your mom. And maybe its just a problem here. As for me, I hope someone shoots me in the back of the head or I can swallow something before it comes to that for me.

    1. Strayer, I'm sorry that you've had those bad experiences in the past. From the three or four nursing homes I know well, they are all pretty good. I hope that is the trend every where these days. I know there are a lot more laws than there used to be to prevent things like your mother went through.

      I am hoping for the best for my mother, but know that problems do arise. She has good eyes watching her that are not afraid to advocate for her if she needs it.

  2. Good luck with your mom, June. Barbara and I know some of how tough it is, as we had a similar progression with her mom (so far, my 83-yr old mom, KOW*, is still doing OK in her old house). Hang in there and all the best to her. I have to say, for my step-grandmother, going to a care facility has been the best thing for her as she eats decent food regularly, gets her medicine on time, and now has friends to talk to. She is lucky that her facility is well run, though. (* KOW - Knock On Wood)

    1. I watched Ward's grandmother blossom after she went to a facility following a stroke. The new social stimulation was very good for her as she had become isolated. Although my mother is shy, I'm hoping the new stimulation will be good for her also.

  3. Welcome back. So glad your mom's experience has been positive so far. I love how you connected with the other residents and their family members. It sounds like a great facility and I hope that takes some of the pressure off of you, knowing she is well-cared for. It is hard to make these kinds of decisions and I feel for you.

    1. I never expected to connect with the residents that way because I am often uncomfortable in these situations. But as I introduced my mother to others, they just happened. I am very happy to have met these people and wish I could spend more time with them (and of course, with my mother). However, the distance prevents that.

  4. My thoughts are all over the place after reading this that I'm not sure where to start.

    I'm happy for you that you were able to spend time getting to know the staff and residents at your mother's home to put your mind at ease. My grandmother spent the last few years of her life in a home, it was a good one thank goodness, but she hated it. I arranged to take her out one day to do some Christmas shopping thinking it would brighten her mood and had to cancel when my grandfather forbid me to take her out for the day because he believed it would make returning harder for her and he couldn't bare to go through that again. I figured he knew her best but it broke my heart not to give her a day out.

    I fear the day I may need to go in a home but at the same time I hope I know when it's time and make my own arrangements to spare my children the task and the guilt I know they will feel. We've talked so many times about my future and it's still not settled. My boys insist they will take me into their home first but I know the stress it would put on their families to have caregivers in and out of the house or even worse for them to do the care giving.

    I also know how it feels to lose your childhood home. I struggled to find balance when my grandfather died, at home, and they were now both gone at the same time I could no longer use the key to enter the home that provided safety to me through the teen years. To say I was lost was an understatement.

    Anyway, I'm sorry the decision had to be made over Christmas but I'm glad you, and she, are adjusting as well as can be expected.

    1. Sorry, Lois. I didn't mean to stir up so many difficult memories, but life is not always fun, is it?

      We had been able to keep my mother in her home much longer than many thought possible with 24 hour care. However, after this last fall, she was no longer able to help with any transfers, so she needed two caregivers. We tried, hoping that things would get better as she healed, but it was just too difficult to staff two people 24 hours a day.

      We had had the discussion many times with my mother about what she wanted and she chose not to move close to us, but to stay in the place where she was familiar. Luckily, one of her caregivers, who is like another daughter to her, is still with her every day seeing to her needs that we can't because of the distance. That helps or I'm not sure we would have been able to honor her wishes with this placement.

      If you end up in a care facility, Lois, I imagine you would be like my grandmother. She was active on a council and made changes in what food they served among other things. She won a lot of prizes playing the games and was able to give many of them away to others including her grandchildren. It was always fun for my kids to visit.

      One things is for sure, your boys will do the very best they can for you. You raised a couple of good ones.

      Now back to the here and now. I'm looking forward to seeing the continuing changes you are making to your house.

    2. No worries I found reading your story to be healing in a way. If I need to resort to a nursing home one day it's good to hear of quality homes where the residents are truly cared for.

      I don't know how you managed to keep your mother home so long with her needing so much care around the clock. I'm glad you had the time to talk to your mother to know what she wanted, that must have made the decision easier for you.

      I don't know how I would do in a home, I prefer solitude over having people around me all the time and just having to share a room would be tiring on me but I'll face that day when it comes.

    3. It was very difficult to keep good staff round the clock for my mother. In a small town, there are no agencies, so it is all individuals that you get by word of mouth. We ended up with a good group, but there were some problems along the way. The hardest thing was when someone gets sick or weather prevents someone from showing up. It's a relief now to not have to worry about how we are going to keep someone with her all of the time.


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