I'm sitting here reminiscing about the good old days, and my mind is wandering over the memory of placing mom in a nursing home.
Placement—something we never thought we would consider—was not what we feared it to be.
My mom—after years living with me while misdiagnosed, a 19 day psych ward stay and a diagnosis of dementia caused by either Alzheimer's, Picks or FTD—chose to be placed in a nursing home. This was 10 years ago, when Mom 62 years old, still very physically healthy and able to make her wishes known to us.
My sister and I protested, but mom still wanted to be placed. She wanted to spare her children of the effects of this disease. She was the one who truly knew how sick she was; we did not.
She was adamant, and so we had no choice—mom is always the boss ☺
Much to my surprise, mom was very happy and she settled in rather quickly. Since she was not as sick as many of the other men and women living there, she found purpose and satisfaction in assisting her fellow residents. Always the nurturing person I so adore, mom was so helpful that many people thought she worked there.
My sister and I visited mom almost every day. We went on shopping trips, saw movies together and went out to eat. Mom also spent many weekends in my home.
Looking back, it's interesting that my biggest fear turned out to be the best decision for all of us.
Mom was well cared for and we could see her as often as we wanted, without enduring the daily stresses of caregiving. For a time, the situation seemed mostly "normal," except mom lived somewhere else that better met her needs.
Don't get me wrong, we have had many challenges.
This disease is cruel and has no mercy. Battles with medications, doctors, financial matters, POA, medical proxy, DNR—and on and on. We rode the roller coaster of dementia with mom, dealing with hallucinations, combative behavior—the good, the bad and the ugly.
Mom was ahead of the game, though. She set herself (and us) up to make the best of a bad situation—a most unselfish act of love.
My mom is the bravest person I know; in spite of her dementia.
For those of you who are struggling with placing a loved one, please know it can be the right thing for all concerned. Your family member can receive the professional care they need, under your supervision, and live a productive and happy life after being placed in a nursing home. You'll have more control than you think. You are the advocate. You are still their daughter, son, spouse or friend. Live in the moment and enjoy what you have, not what you are losing.
Mama knows best—take it from me. Listen to your loved one; they are smarter than we give them credit for.
Thank you mom, I need to tell you that during our next visit. I know you can still understand me.
Always a Mom, I love you ♥
Editor's note: Michele's journey as a caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer's was chronicled in "Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer's," an in-depth look at the real lives of families impacted by the Alzheimer's epidemic. Her story continues on her personal blog on AgingCare.com.