Adventures in Moving Mom to a "Retirement Home"


I received wonderful advice from some of you a few weeks ago when I was trying to decide whether to move my mother out of her home and into a senior community that has IL, AL and MC. My mom has dementia and had isolated herself in her home except for her visits with me. I knew it was the right thing to do but my brother, who lives a plane ride away, thought she was fine where she was. (Please fill in a rant of expletives of your choice here if you can relate.) If you haven't been in my shoes, let me just say that knowing that this is the right thing and doing it are two very different things. Before, during and even after the fact.

The staff at the place that Mom has now been at for one week encouraged me to put her in IL. They didn't want her to be "dumbed down" by being the highest functioning member of AL. I thought this was awesome and still do. But I'd be lying if I said this whole thing was easy. And when you're going through it it feels like you're the only one EVER who has done this. Because you're the one who has to tell them that "Um, no, Mom, today isn't the day that I'm moving you home.". Again. And again. And again.

I'm not here looking for advice but want to share my experience for anyone who is looking for another caregiver who has been through this. But I won't turn down any advice, either :) The first day Mom was absolutely furious that I would do this to her. My husband had taken her out for breakfast and a movie while I met the movers to bring her stuff to her new home and unpack it. Sounds so easy. Not so much, though. I busted my behind and she hated me on top of it. Then other residents started welcoming her and telling her how much they liked it there and she came around a little. I listened in the wings while she commiserated with others about her terrible daughter that stuck her there. (The blessing...a man who said that his kids had done that too and it too him a couple of months to get settled and now he loves it. Sir, the check is in the mail!) That lasted for 3 days. Then she started calling far-away-son multiple times overnight and telling him that she was in California (we're in NC) or that she'd been kidnapped or that I'd stolen her car or all of her money. Brother, of course, called me and told me that Mom was in a terrible state (which was true) and that she needed to be evaluated by a medical professional and maybe put on meds. (Hey, Bro, you've been so very helpful to this point. Please feel free to hop on that plane and pitch in.) I went to see her as I do every day and she was much calmer than during brother's or my conversations with her earlier in the day. But by the end of my visit she wanted to know if she had to go back to "camp" because there's a dining room and activities at her new place and she must have thought it felt like a summer camp would. She didn't want to do that. And then a couple of hours later she called to tell me that someone had stolen her purse and she was going to call the police. Thanks goodness she's close by...I headed over and found her "stolen" purse on the floor in her pantry. Yikes. Anyway, you get the gist. Instead of being better from the interaction with others she was distraught at the change in environment. Which made me distraught too. Have I made the worst decision ever?

Day 4. Mom is still a bit confused and disoriented which, frankly, isn't something new and is the reason why I moved her...but she sees the new apartment as home (depending on the moment) and talks about the happy moments of this new place like having people sit with her at dinner and listening to a musical performance. Yay! Exactly what I was going for. Days 5 and 6 are calm. Mom says she's tired but this new place isn't foreign to her although she still wants to leave.

But I'm still "stealing her car and her money" based on the notes she's writing to herself that are scattered around her apartment. Again, blows my mind but nothing new. As I'm clearing out her old house I've found notes to herself that she'd come to my house and found it empty and with a For Sale sign. And she called me late last night to see if today is the day I'm moving her out. I just keep saying "No, Mom, a few more days." It kills me every time. But I know it's for the best. Right?! Damn, this is hard. This whole process from inception to now is the absolutely hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I think I'm going to put it on my resume'. If I can do this I can do anything!

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Thanks for all the comments and support. freqflyer, I wanted to answer your question about my mom's move into IL rather than AL or MC. My mother is very forgetful and somewhat confused on a regular basis. But she has still been taking care of herself (cooking, cleaning, self-care). I've seen a bit of decline in her cooking with some veggies going bad before she used them and her staple dinner food being ground beef. Other than that she has been ok. I just know that it's a matter of time before the stove could be left on, etc. In a nutshell, she's not a danger to herself or others at this time. The AL and MC units/apartments of this place mirror IL so, when the day comes where she needs to be moved, she will hopefully not register too much of a difference.

HollyW, thank you so much for sharing. My dad will soon be moving to AL from SNF where he has been for 6 weeks now after a 10 hospital stay due to C-diff. He became very ill and wasn't telling me. He fell one day and laid there for more than 12 hours, even though he had a Life Alert call button on him. I decided when I found him that he couldn't stay home alone anymore. He wasn't feeding himself well, but refused food my husband and i would bring. He would think he was doing OK, but he wasn't. At this point he seems to have accepted that he is not going home, but also I am worried that he has acclimated to the SNF and staff that it might be hard to acclimate to a new place again so soon. I appreciate your perspective and willingness to share.

Holly, since you are cleaning out your Mom's house this link might be helpful, lot of interesting stories :)

Holly, it was good to read your experience with moving your Mom to a retirement home and the trials and tribulations of that move. And how clueless your brother was regarding the whole thing... Monday morning armchair quarterback. I hope your Mom will eventually settle in :) It is great you found a community that has Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care.

I am just curious why your Mom was moved into Independent Living instead of Assisted Living/Memory Care? Or did the Staff think the transition from house to IL would be easier since the apartments are usually larger in IL? If so, that would make sense.

My Dad went from house to IL, which was his idea to do so. He had a really nice large apartment. Dad stayed in IL for 8 months then Staff recommended he move to Memory Care which was the size of a studio apartment. Dad's dementia was ok, but he had sundowning where he thought he was still at work back in the 1940's and lived in a boarding house. Dad liked his "dorm" room at Memory Care :)

Oh you are right, that it was so hard with the move, and with our parent not thinking very clearly. I know my Dad had some interesting things to say, like he wanted to buy a new car [hadn't driven in 7 years]... move to a house that had one level.... wanted to fly out to the midwest to see his old home town [nope, no flying at 95 years old].

wow you found an incredible place to have all three in one place!
Sounds like you are doing a fantastic job.
Boy dont you wish you could take away the darn phone :P
For me, the less I visited the more my mom acclimated, but it took six months for adaption to be complete.
People who havent done this have no idea how hard this is !!!!!
You did it YAY! she is safe and on her new road.
Brother needs some gentle education.

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