Move to Assisted Living

It’s been an emotional week. I suppose moving your parents to assisted living would be tough no matter when or how you do it. But under these circumstances, it’s very difficult.

First, it wasn’t their decision. Things could have been so much easier if it was something they’d decided to do and planned for. We could have systematically chosen what to take and how to handle everything else. They could have started living there when they were both still mostly capable of taking care of themselves. And my mom may have avoided this last fall. But maybe it never happens that way.

Second, the COVID-19 restrictions have been a hassle. Initially, because absolutely no one was allowed inside, we could only bring so much of their stuff. We had to pare down which pieces of furniture we could bring.

The moving process – their stuff

The day before the move, however, we learned they would allow two people to assist with the move. For us, that had to be the movers because there was no way we were going to get even a pared down version of their belongings up to their apartment. It’s not like any of us are spring chickens ourselves!!

We asked if that meant we could bring all of the stuff we’d planned, since the movers would be handling it instead of the facility’s staff. We were given the OK, so we had to make a quick shift in plans. Fortunately, we had already decided what we thought they would want. It’s tough taking a 3400 square foot house full of stuff and fitting it into a space under 1000 square feet.

We had to sanitize everything before the movers could take it upstairs. We had to bring the non-furniture items in plastic tubs, so they could be easily sanitized. Fortunately, we didn’t have to sanitize everything in the tubs. That would have been a nightmare!!

There are no pictures for the walls, only those that can sit on a table. We aren’t able to go to their apartment so we have to rely on the staff there to make sure everything is unpacked and the furniture is set up properly. My sister had drawn a floor plan for the movers, but they had to make a few changes once they got up there and realized where the TV hookups were. We thought we knew that, but evidently we had it backwards.

I’m the ultimate planner so I’d created a table that included all the “to-dos”, who would be responsible, and when each needed to be done. I told Tim I felt like I was back at work, as this was something I did a LOT as part of my job. I wanted to make sure we knew what we had to do, in what order, and who would be doing it.

The moving process – my parents

I had planned to pick up my mom at the care center around mid-afternoon. My dad wanted to go with me, so once everything was done and the movers paid, he and I took off to get her. They were waiting for us and the transfer went smoothly.

I don’t know if any of you have experience with care centers, but we lost a lot of my mom’s clothes along the way. Even when we were doing her laundry initially, things went missing. As we were loading her up, I asked about the two afghans she’d had in her room. All I got were blank looks. These were afghans I had made specifically for her, one many years ago and which she loved. How could they get lost??? I will be heartbroken if they aren’t found.

Once we got back to the assisted living facility, their nursing director came to help transport her/them to the room. It was so tough watching them go, knowing we couldn’t go with them or see them for the indefinite future. It was a good thing I was wearing a mask, although I guess that didn’t hide the tears in my eyes. It was like sending your kids off to camp for the first time.

Dealing with the changes

The last two and a half years have been tough on everyone, as we’ve dealt with my mom’s fall when she tried using a chair as a ladder, her cancer diagnosis, her knee replacement, and now the fall down the stairs.

But it’s been particularly tough on my dad. Not only has he had to deal with his own physical issues, but he’s had the stress of caring for and worrying about my mom. He’s been so focused on pleasing her that he’s let his own needs slide. And while she’s recognized his limitations, she has still demanded so much of him.

I’ve watched him age and it makes me so sad. He is almost 87 but he’s also been a strong guy who took care of everyone else. While he lived with us these past five plus weeks, I could really see just how much his body is failing him. And how he’s happy to let us take care of most everything.

He has trouble staying balanced and his legs are so weak. He has to hold on to something when he walks. However, he won’t use his cane. I feel bad but I also feel angry at times that he won’t accept his limitations and use these aids that will help him safely walk. I see other men with canes and walkers. No one thinks less of them.

Taking care of my dad

While it’s nice to have our house back to normal, I have to admit it was kind of fun having him here. He was absolutely no trouble and he fit right into our routine. Maybe the quarantine made that easier, because we certainly weren’t doing much anyway. Sure, we had to make a few adjustments, but we made those without skipping a beat.

Yes, we had to increase the TV volume. And we had to come up with gluten free meals but that’s become pretty simple. We gave up our bedroom but I got used to sleeping in the guest room. He and I shared the master bath, so I didn’t have to move all of my stuff, and I had to change my schedule a little bit.

I made coffee for him every morning, which meant pulling my old Mister Coffee out of its box. He and Tim played cribbage most days, sometimes even twice. But generally, we went about our days pretty much the same as we would have anyway. We aren’t very exciting, you see.

The care center staff helped my mom FaceTime with my dad almost every day, so he was at least able to see her. Those conversations were always interesting as she talked the whole time and you never knew what she was going to come up with.

I know he was very appreciative of our help and even though it could be frustrating at times, I kind of miss him now. He took over my upstairs recliner and I’ve yet to sit in it since he’s been gone. It seems like he should still be in it. The night before he left, it hit me that he’d be leaving and the tears flowed.

It’s far from over

I am so worried about him because my mom can be tough to handle right now. And they have to be quarantined in their apartment for 14 days due to the virus. That’s not easy for a confused person to understand or accept. Who knows even after that when the visiting restrictions will be lifted so we can see and help them. I’m sure my dad will be past needing a break!! I hope we did the right thing and didn’t move them in too soon.

These next few weeks could be the toughest yet. At least we knew my mom was doing OK at the care center and it was easy taking care of my dad. But now they’re all alone and we can only talk and see them by phone. It’s not always easy to calm my mom down when she gets fixated on something and she’s inclined to lash out at my dad.

There’s lots more to deal with. Next, is figuring out what to do with the rest of their stuff and getting their house sold. My dad did sell one of their cars last week, so that’s done. I have to figure out which companies to notify about their change in address. It’s not easy when you only have some of the information. I’ll let them update their friends.

It’s tough getting old and I realize, I don’t know the half of it yet. I keep wondering if we’ll make better choices or will we be just the same? Are we learning from this? It’s easy to say yes, we are. We’ll see if we’re any different when we reach that point.

24 thoughts on “Move to Assisted Living”

  1. Oh my, I can so relate – and definitely feel for you. I had to put my Mother into an Assisted Living facility and she had great difficulty accepting it. She had Alzheimer’s and was very confused. My Dad had passed away a number of years before and I was her sole caregiver. At least we didn’t have to deal with Coronavirus and all the restrictions. Once she adjusted she was fine, but it was probably one of the most difficult times I can remember.
    Grace & Peace,Iris

    1. Yes, the pandemic only makes a difficult situation even more challenging. We’ve had high hopes that my mom would recover her cognitive skills but we aren’t seeing any signs of it. I’m not sure assisted living is going to work for her after all. It’s sad for all of us but I especially feel for my dad.

  2. This entry made me cry, Linda. You are all lucky to have one another and these experiences no matter how difficult. You will always remember how you worked together to live the best life possible.

    1. Thanks Rachell. It’s so tough and they’ve had a rough start but I hope they can settle in and be happy. I’m grateful that I don’t have to do this alone.

  3. This brings back so many memories of when we moved my parents into assisted living. I know exactly how you feel about leaving them there. I remember I left as they were walking into the dining room for the first time, unsure where to sit. It broke my heart.

    It sounds like you and your sister have done as much as you possibly can. Hopefully they will get through this initial period, and even come to like it there. My parents did come to like that first place, and even bragged about having the most “popular” table at meals.

    Did they ever find the afghans?

    1. Sounds like you had a very similar experience. I hope my parents adjust like yours.

      The afghans have been found!! I had to send pictures and it still took them until today. I really don’t understand why they can’t or don’t keep track of things better.

  4. It sounds like you’ve done the best possible for your parents and they are lucky to have you. Getting the house ready to sell is a challenge all its own. With my parent’s house (which was the only house I lived in before moving out after college), it seemed that everything I looked at took me for a trip down memory lane. Yes, many tears were shed.

    1. Oh boy, I agree that will be tough. There are so many things in that house that are special to them, but I don’t know that anyone will want them. We all have so much already. That will be the toughest part, I think. I don’t look forward to that part of the move but it will get done. Thanks Janis.

    2. What an incredibly heartfelt post Linda.
      Sending our love to you all in this time of transition…

  5. Linda, this is tough love. It’s never easy watching the physical decline as parents age. My mom fell and required hospitalization 3 months prior to moving into a lodge setting 1 yr ago. The lodge provides a private room with housekeeping and meals. Personal care and med assist is provided through a visiting public health home care program. At the time of her hospitalization, it became obvious to me just how much she had declined physically and that she had dementia. It was no longer safe for her to live alone in her own home. People would scoff when I said my biggest worry was that i would find mom outside with a coyote or bear chewing on her. As harsh as that may sound, it’s a real possibility here. Now I know she’s safe, meals are provided, nursing care is readily available, meds are administered properly, socialization and activities are readily available to her. Mom agreed to move to the lodge with little opposition. I think she knew it was time to give up the good fight.

    1. I think my dad would have moved sooner but my mom didn’t want to leave her house. She wasn’t really paying attention to how challenging things were becoming for him, especially since his bathroom and clothes were all downstairs. She could pretty much stay on one floor. I think we don’t realize how bad things are until something happens, so maybe my wish that they’d done something sooner isn’t realistic. It often takes this type of push to get changes made. As I think I’ve said, I hope I’m learning from all of this, but then I’m sure my parents thought they were learning when they dealt with my grandparents. Change and giving up your independence is not easy. Thanks Mona.

  6. Teri and Linda. I sympathize with you girls having to move your parents. My sister and I went through the same thing with my mother because she kept falling and having to go to the hospital several times. Mom had dementia and became difficult to manage as she got older. The last time she fell she went from the hospital to my house and then we took her to The Gardens at Luther Park. She was not pleased and this was after Bob died and she couldn’t understand where he was. She lived until she was 96 1/2 and complained the whole time but she was safe. I pray for your mom and dad and also you girls. It is not fun to make them do things against their will. Thankfully we have these nice places to go. I am getting closer to the age where I will have to make a move unless I can die in my townhouse. If there is anything I can do to help you please call me. 964-3171

    1. Safety and keeping them together has been our top priority. They didn’t realize how stressful it was for us when they were living in that house. All that’s happened confirmed our worst fears. I hope my mom will eventually understand but I also know her brain injury could mean she never will. Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. Through this, I’ve learned about the similar experiences of so many others. It helps to know we’re not alone.

  7. Thanks for sharing! We love your mom and dad so! They and Gordon go wayyyy back. We will continue to pray for them and for you guys.. such a hard thing to have to do but we can hear the love in your words and know you’re doing what’s best for them. Let us know if we can do anything! Give them our love!

    1. Thanks so much for caring about them. They are so lucky to have friends like you.

  8. Tough stuff. Good that you got them moved. Not easy but the right thing. Thinking of you. Be sure to take care of yourself.

    1. I know you can appreciate what we’re going through. It is absolutely the right thing but tough to do. I know they’ll be safer there and once they get through the quarantine and the whole pandemic restrictions, I think they’ll actually like it there. Still not sure how my mom is going to do. BTW – I just finished my first gown. Didn’t have much time this week to work on them but hopefully I can finish up the second one early in the week. I’ll be in touch!!

  9. I am thinking of you, Linda. Such a tough time for you and your family. I hope your mom finds some peace in her new surroundings. Stay strong!

    1. We’re hoping being with my dad and with her own stuff might help her in her recovery. But I know how she can be and I worry so much about my dad. He thinks he has to take care of everything when he really needs to rely on the people at their new place. Thanks and stay safe.

  10. It’s heartbreaking.

    My dad had a fall as well, spent 2.5 days in hospital acting like a caged animal without visitors by his wife and family and we forced his release to remain home. He has Parkinsons and Dementia.

    My mom cares for him. She is 76. My dad 82. I’m the only one of their 3 kids who lives driving distance from their home.

    This pandemic makes things so much more complicated….

    All the best to you. I can’t even imagine what all of you are going through…

    1. I feel for you too. And you’re right. These things are challenging enough without the pandemic. It’s just so much tougher because of it. Stay safe.

  11. You did good, under very tough circumstances. I know you will stay in touch with your dad over next few weeks, and hopefully the staff there will be helpful to them during this transition. Lots of prayers being said for all of you. Mary

    1. Thanks Mary. You never know if you’re doing the right thing and just have to have faith it will all work out. We appreciate the prayers.

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