Saturday, April 14, 2012

Moving Mom

with her grandsons in 2004 

Our retirement community visits were like an outing with Goldilocks:
"Nobody colors their hair at this place."
 "Who needs a rainforest in the atrium when it's much too humid?"  And my mom's top complaint was, "There are too many old people here." Finally, my mom agreed to narrow it down to one place, but our journey was only beginning.

My mother lived in the same house for more than forty six years. She raised her family in that house, and stayed until her grandsons carried her out. She had a spinal fusion about three years ago, and moved back home after living with us for about ten months during her recovery. The problem was that her home has several levels, and it was just too much for her to navigate the stairs with a walker. I pleaded with her to move into an apartment, but she kept saying that she was doing just fine.

Last September she suffered a fall. Fortunately, she fell on her nose and didn't have any serious injuries. Then I suggested visiting some assisted living residences, so that she could be in a safe environment and not have to worry about cooking.  After much cajoling, she agreed to move into a lovely place on beautiful grounds that was close to home.

The plan was to have a trial run during a "respite stay" for the month of December, and to officially move in at the beginning of January. We were leaving on a family vacation on December 16, so I felt relieved that she would be in a safe place while we were gone. She kept putting it off, and a few days before we left, she fell again. This happened on the day that my son and I were originally going to move her in, but she decided to postpone it until after we came back. My mother also didn't tell me about her fall until the day before our flight, because she didn't want to "ruin our trip." My brother, and my dearest friend said that they would check in on my mom, so we went as scheduled.

A few days after Christmas when my mom was finally set to move in, I got a call from Life Alert. My mom had fallen again, and this time she couldn't get up. They offered to send the fire department over, but she wouldn't hear of it. Fortunately, our boys were home for winter break so they drove over with me.

En route Life Alert called again to tell us that my mom managed to pull herself up, only to fall a second time. Now she wasn't objecting to having the fire department come out. In the meantime, we called my mom's doctor who agreed that my mom should head over to the ER.

When we arrived at her house the firefighters were just leaving. I asked why they weren't taking her to the hospital, and they told me that she didn't want to go. I pointed out that she clearly needed to go, but they said that they could not take anyone against their will. After I convinced the firefighters to take her, my mom said that she wasn't ready to leave. Since I had my two musclemen with me, I thanked them and said that we would drive her. I didn't want them to have to wait around while I tried to reason with her. BIG mistake.

My mom wanted to pack, change clothes, and freshen up before we left, but there were two problems; she couldn't move, and she was on the second level of the house. She was acting as though she were getting ready for a weekend in the country, instead of going to the hospital. The boys carried her down the stairs, and helped her into her wheelchair. In the rush, I had forgotten to bring the foot rests for the wheelchair, so the boys were holding onto her at one end, while I was walking backwards and holding onto her feet. We finally got her up into my SUV, but the staff at the ER still had a hard time getting her out. Although she's light as a feather, she has the ability to turn herself into a dead weight.

Miraculously, she didn't break anything but was severely dehydrated, which caused concern about her kidneys. My mom went from the hospital, to a nursing home, and eventually made it to the assisted living community in February. I was grateful that our sons were so helpful when we needed them the most, but I should've insisted that the firefighters had taken her instead.

If you asked my mom about her new home she would tell you that the delicious variety of food is only fair, but she would light up if you asked her about the location. Nestled in between her two favorite shopping centers, she's practically down the street from where she used to live, or as she puts it, "I'm just five minutes away from everything I love."  I live about twenty minutes away in case you were wondering.


  1. A wonderful post to read, many elderly people don't want to go into assisted living.
    In your case your mother found somewhere near to you.

    Enjoy your week-end.

  2. That puts you in your place doesn't it? I keep telling myself I won't do the same things my folks did when I get older but....the acorn doesn't fall far.

  3. 20 minutes away! That is funny. I don't want to get old. I'm going to make a pact with my family to just take me out back and shoot me. The crows will clean up the mess.

  4. What a wonderful photo of your mum and her grandsons. Gah... I can only imagine how hard it is to leave a place you've lived in for so long. I shudder at the thought of how hard it would be to let go.

  5. It is amazing how much difficult it is to recognize what is happening in our own bodies and minds as we age when the process in our parents was so clear to us . What a relief to know your mother is now in a safe place.

  6. No matter if we see it coming or not, we're never quite prepared when the time arrives for us to start parenting our parents. It's great that you're in such close proximity to the home, though. And she's so close to familiar things she cares about. When one of my cousins put his mother into a home, he bought her all new stuff, and didn't let her take any of the things with her that she loved. She was in a beautiful place, but far from the home she'd known for sixty years, and surrounded by strange things she couldn't identify with. It struck me as well-meaning, perhaps, but terribly sad. She felt so lost. I'm glad your mom isn't going through that.

  7. Wow, that was a really cool story. My grandmother refused to leave her home as well but her story did not end as well. Your kids were great in that situation. Five minutes from everything you love! Well, except my daughter. :) Cute.

  8. I worry about my mom as well especially as we're so far away from one another (Maine and Florida) and she's already fallen and broken her hip. Glad your mom is happy where she is - and safe!

  9. Sorry you went through so much to get her there! Sure it's a big relief knowing she's not alone and someone is there to help.

  10. Why won't they just go in an ambulance?! My stepdad had a stroke and wouldn't go in an ambulance so my mom drove and they waited in the waiting room for hours instead of getting immediate treatment. What's so scary about an ambulance?

  11. Great post. I'm trying to convince my husband presently that we need to seriously think about assisted living now. He's not buying it yet.

  12. Oh my dear God. This post could have been written by me - word for word. The names of the people may be different, but the path taken to get them into care that is absolutely necessary was almost the same.

    I did a series of posts about my experiences with my mom ... called Through My Caregivers Eyes ... on my own blog. If you ever feel alone - or why is this happening to us - check me out. We are "sister caregivers."

    Thanks for your post.

    Retired Knitter

  13. Oh, my gosh, I can identify so much with this! In fact my A-Z is on this very subject, except that my mom has demential. I love this line: "There are too many old people here." That's my mother exactly! It started for her with a bad fall, too, while she was still living in her house. She wasn't seriously hurt in that fall but was found to have a UTI, which made her even more confused, and we were told she couldn't live alone anymore. We tried a regular assisted living for a couple of weeks but she was so miserable I had to take her out. Eventually my husband and I bought a multifamily house and moved her in with us. Last year she fell again and broke her hip. She had successful surgery but wouldn't or couldn't do the physical therapy afterward. She's in a wheelchair now. She couldn't come back to live with us, so we found an assisted living with a dementia unit for her. This time she couldn't protest, and she's doing well now, is safe and well cared for. It's a real struggle when our parents get to this stage, but we can only do our best and do what we know is best for them. My blog is at I'd love to have you visit.

  14. Going through this same period in life, hearing the same objections from my mom, having the same heart-racing trips to find out if this fall was serious. Glad your mom is safe now and that she's happy with her new place. I still have more convincing to do, so wish me luck.

  15. I love the pic of your mom with your sons, what a sweet picture.

    I had to laugh at the ending of the story! But I'm sorry for all you went through to get your mom where she is now. My parents are elderly and it can definitely be a draining situation. I'm glad your mom is in a safe place now.

  16. I have my mom living in the house next door. Because we have a very large piece of land we could build her house right on our property when she was younger and more mobile.

    Now she's in her mid 80's but doing well. Like your mom her walking and balance are becoming a problem but so far thank the Lord not falls.

    We have a plan in place however for her to move in with us if need be. We would just have do do a bathroom renovation and split our gigantic downstairs bathroom into a private handicap bath for her since it connects to her room, and make the front of that bathroom a powder room with access for the main part of the house.

    Mom and I have an agreement that she'd stay with us,and as much as assisted living is such a good option for safety and socialization I frankly see so many positives in it but sadly my mother would never go.

    Glad things worked out with your mom! Her and the boys look great in the picture btw!

    1. Sorry I didn't see this before. It was so nice of you to build your mom a house next door! It's also great that you have already thought about the next step just in case. You are an amazing daughter with a fabulous support system! It sounds like your mom is in good hands, and hopefully she'll continue to enjoy her independence next door for years to come. Thanks so much Jen!

  17. Yvonne - It wasn't easy for either one of us, but I'm glad she won't have to worry about the stairs anymore. Thanks Yvonne!

    Thanks Youmna!

    Delores - Hopefully, we'll be able to make things a little easier for our children. Just keep up with your healthy eating, and you'll stay strong for many years to come.

    Bushman - Wouldn't you rather they stuffed you and kept you propped up in your favorite chair in front of the TV?

    Talli - It is still hard for her, but there are so many advantages to being in her new environment. Thanks Talli and I'll tell my mom another hip redhead said so!

    Yvonne S. - So true Yvonne and thank you!

    Susan - We moved some of her favorite things over and added just a few new pieces that she needed. I was so worried that her old bedroom set wouldn't fit, but she assured me that it would, and she was right! Thanks Susan!

    Libby - Sorry things didn't turn out well for your grandmother. I was very proud of my boys, but I probably shouldn't have put them in that situation. Thanks, I thought it was pretty funny when she said it too!

    Mshatch - Sorry that your mom broke her hip. My mom was extremely lucky that she didn't break anything after her falls. Hope your mom is doing well now.

    Thanks Alex and it is a huge relief!

    Tonja - It's a combination of pride and ambulances are expensive too. It could also be that he just didn't want to wait. In my mom's case, she was still in her robe and wanted to make a good impression. In both situations, it would've been better to have taken an ambulance or gone with the fire dept.

    Elaine LK - I'm sorry that you had to go through all that. Dementia is a horrible illness, and it sounds like your mom is in the right place now. I will definitely come over to your site over the weekend. Thanks so much Elaine!

    Mary - I highly recommend doing your research now. There are couples living at my mom's place who come and go as they please, yet they still have all of the added benefits of meals, and a nurse and pharmacy on staff if they need it. I would like to live there myself! Thanks Mary!

    Elaine (Retired Knitter) - Let me thank you for the tremendous compliment of calling me a "sister caregiver." Throughout the years, you and your husband have done more for your mother than most children do in a lifetime. I remember that your mom lived with you for years, and you went back and forth between hospitals and nursing homes, before she recently moved in an assisted living community. I also remember how difficult it was for you emotionally, and you never complained. It also came down to your mom's safety, and you were concerned about the stairs in your home. Anyone reading this should go back and read your wonderful series. I hope your mom is doing well, and once again I will say how lucky she is to have you. Thanks Again, Elaine!

    Lee - I remember you mentioning before that you were going through a similar experience. Maybe your mom could also try a "respite stay" somewhere for a month or so to ease her into a retirement community. That way she could move into a furnished place with housekeeping to test the waters. Good luck to you and your mother Lee!

    Julie - I'll tell my mom that you liked her picture, and my younger son has caught up to my older one in height. They were 13 and 16 at the time. Thanks so much Julie, and it's quite a relief that she is in a safe place now. Hopefully, your parents will continue to thrive for many years to come, and they're lucky to have you and each other! Julie

  18. We went through this stage with my grandparents, and I'm sure my own parents won't be too far behind. All part of our life cycle, right?

  19. Oh your wonderful mother! What a most feisty woman! And what a beautiful family!! I love that you are all banding together to give mum the best care! All the best! x

  20. We're getting very near to this point with my mother. She has fallen twice, both times hitting her head. Her memory and reasoning are like Swiss cheese now, full of holes. She's lost thirty pounds but still thinks nothing is wrong and Dad is in denial about the whole thing. Sigh.

    Glad your mother is happy with her location. It really does make a difference, doesn't it?

  21. You treat your Mother well and of course you would. She took care of you and kept you out of harms way when you were little. Marvelous women......both of you. I wish your mother a speed recovery

  22. I wonder sometimes if it's just so hard to accept they're getting older. But I loved this post, shows what a beautiful relationship you have with your mother. I hope she's happy now, living close to all the things she loves even if you're not one of the lucky 'five minutes away'. :-p

  23. Hi Julie, I'm so glad that your mom was not seriously hurt, or worse. What a blessing it was that your sons were there to help out. Thankfully your mother is now in a safer place and close to you and the things she enjoys.
    : )

  24. Your post was indeed bittersweet, Julie. It seems very clear to me that you have a strong, loving bond with your mom and your sons. That certainly makes a difficult time and situation a lot easier.

    And then there are the positive attitudes--yours and your stubborn (in a good way) mom's.

    It sounds like all is going well and your mom is in a nice environment. You're a good daughter, Julie. :)

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  26. Milo - It must've been hard going through this with your grandparents. I hope it makes it a little easier with your own parents, but it's still a difficult time. Thanks for stopping by!

    Kitty - Yes she is feisty! Thanks so much and I'm lucky to have them all!

    L.G. - I'm sure that you've already taken your mom to the doctor, but it may help if you also bring your dad along with you for a discussion. My mom loves her doctor, and it's a lot easier when we're on the same page. Best of luck with your mom L.G.

    Thanks so much Manzie, and my mom really is a "marvelous woman!"

    Valerie - We do for the most part have a "beautiful relationship!" Thanks Valerie, and I forgot to mention that her beauty shop is also only 5 - 10 minutes away!

    Susanne - Yes I'm so grateful that my sons were so helpful, and still are! My mom is definitely in a much safer place. Thanks Susanne!

    Super E. - Thanks for the kind words Super Earthling! Julie

  27. Wonderful post. I found my parents to be incredibly stubborn about going to the hospital at times when they really needed to. My mother especially. :D Visiting from the A-Z challenge. Good luck with the rest of the alphabet.


  28. I wonder how it's going to be for me and my family when I eventually go that route. I won't be a bit surprised if it's like your mom's experience.
    Bittersweet has already been said, but that's appropriate.
    Because this is a bitterswet story.

  29. Kathy - It is frustrating when they put themselves at risk by not going to the hospital. Thanks for visiting and good luck to you!

    Al - You may never go that route, and by planning ahead we can try to make things easier for our children. Our hope is that we'll move into an apartment building within the next five years. That way we won't have to worry about stairs, and we'll cut down on clutter. My mom's story is bittersweet, but the plan was to ease her into it, on her own terms. On the bright side, she's in a lovely place that I honestly wouldn't mind living in myself. Thanks Al! Julie

  30. Times may get rough and we may grow old..but never will our concern for our folks vanish. I admire and commend you for having a very good and solid sense of family.