Bringing Mama home and making it work.

Started by

I've decided to bring my mother home from assisted living, although several of you here on the forum advised me against it. There are several reasons for doing it, but one is that she's bored out of her skull at the only ALF she can afford, since she functions at so much higher a level than anyone else there. I'm determined to make the return home work for her, me and the whole family. May I share my experiences, free associate, and get your reactions as we advance in this adventure? I know I'll have many questions, often about the little stuff, and I'll be so grateful for your answers.

I retired a few weeks ago and returned to the family home in Florida to get it ready for her homecoming. This is hard work---the place has deteriorated during three unoccupied years and it was already old---built in 1928. My brother, I and our children and grandchildren have vowed to make repairing it a family project, although we're scattered all over the country. My nephew is here for a month from California to help get things up and running, and he's re-doing the deck; my daughter and her husband came last week from Texas and remodeled a bathroom. My son will be here this summer to deal with the "family archive"---six filing cabinets jammed with paper, photos, old financial records, to-do lists, Christmas cards. I've had in plumbers, appliance repairmen, handymen, yard men, cleaning help, furniture movers and, next, carpet layers. Mama will come home at the end of April. My nephew and I are careful to consult her about changes that we know will be very important to her. We figure if we defer to her preferences on three or four things, we can make "executive decisions" (e.g., to send something to the dump) about one or two things without upsetting her too much.

So...off to the races! And hugs to you all.

40 Comments

glad you decided to follow your heart on this . id suggest reading a lot about end of life issues . the situation will be everchanging as your mothers health and possibly mental health decline . with no formal training you can do a better job of caregiving in your home than one could expect at a facility full of halfhearted and poorly paid " professionals " .
my mother died in her own home with her fully in control , my aunt is in nh strongly resenting the loss of her freedom and self determination .
different circumstances obviously require different solutions but the bottom line should be ( if possible ) " what does the elder want ? " .
Gosh.

Get your back-up team on board: your mother's GP, any nursing and allied professionals like PTs and OTs, your friendly local pharmacist, find a dentist who'll do domiciliary visits.

And start asking around your neighbourhood now about which caregiver agencies are professional and reliable and which less so. You may not need them, but you never know - it's not a bad plan to be on friendly terms with people you can call on in a crisis.

And ask at the ALF about respite breaks. You'll get tired, you know, and your profile says your mother did well at the ALF so she can look on it as a kind of busman's holiday. Schedule in regular, proper time off for yourself: it lengthens the tether.

And happy homecoming! May it go well for you.
Is it wrong to want to be compensated monetarily for caring for my elderly mother on a 24hr. basis?
grig67, I think you'll get more responses if you start your own post.
realtime, you sound really well organized. I wish you nothing but success! Expect some setbacks and obstacles, but just keep doing your best.

CM is absolutely right about planning for respite even before she return home. It is an essential part of successful caregiving.
Captain, Countrymouse, Jeanne -- thanks for your encouragement!

Respite is the thing that most concerned me when we were planning this. One friend said I'd feel less tied down if I carved out private space for myself in the house, a place to retreat to. I'll need to sleep downstairs in the bedroom next to Mama's, but plan to use an upstairs bedroom as dressing room/study/private sitting room when Mama's napping or out. I'd like to install some kind of alert system so that I can hear her if she needs me, but because of her good health, a nannycam seems invasive. Any ideas?

Also --- believe it or not! --- at almost 95, my mother still takes an annual vacation out West to visit grandchildren and friends. My brother and his wife take her. So I'll have about three weeks this summer to do my own thing, whatever it may be!

I can see that one key to making something like this work is family involvement. I feel so sorry for those of us on the forum whose siblings are unsupportive or even hostile!

I figure my mother deserves our effort. Here's some "classic Mama." As a teenager I lived in the shadow of my blonde, busty, blue eyed next door neighbor, one year older than I. Her sixteenth birthday approached and she invited me and a third neighbor to her party. "It's informal," she told us, "just wear any old thing." "Kathy" and I innocently recounted the conversation to my mother and speculated about what to wear --- bermudas? My mother briefly looked thoughtful, then bundled us both into the car, headed for the town's lone girls' clothing store
and bought each of us a crisp, pretty, feminine summer cotton dress. (This was the 1950s, folks.) On the night of the birthday we walked together up the steps at our friend's house. She threw the door open --- a blonde, busty, blue-eyed vision in pink taffeta, heels and a corsage of roses --- and exclaimed when she saw us looking pretty, "Oh, but I told you not to dress up!" As icing on the cake, the birthday girl's boyfriend paid a LOT of attention to "Kathy" that evening.

So, Mama deserves something for that, right?
Your mother is a deeply cynical woman, realtime! Correct and wise to the way of the world, but deeply cynical - thank goodness :)

Use a baby monitor for night times. You can keep half an ear open without waking her by switching on the light, and you'd be surprised how alert you are even in your sleep to small unfamiliar sounds that might indicate a problem (you might also find that when she's away you keep waking up because it's "too quiet").

Her regular progress to the West sounds like a lovely routine, but do have a Plan B in case of illness or accident. Suppose for example that your brother couldn't manage to have her for some reason: you'd still feel let down even if you didn't blame him, and that's where things can begin to unravel. Belt, braces and a couple of padlocks...
Countrymouse: you nailed her.

Today I'm face to face with a challenge I knew was coming: dealing with "stuff."

We moved everything out of her bedroom to put down new carpet and the heap of things (in the living room) is mountainous! The carpet is going in right now. Even after the bedroom set goes back in, we'll have to deal with heaps of odds and ends that were jammed into the closet, hundreds of knickknacks and souvenirs, five assorted mismatched chests and tables.... Almost everything should rightly go to a charity --- or even to the dump --- but of course I can't do that to her.

My strategy is to move only the new, smaller bedroom set in, leave the rest of the old stuff where it is, in the living room, and suggest that she decide how to arrange her things in there. I'm hoping that when she sees it all heaped up where it is now, and realizes how it will detract from her new carpet, drapes and bedroom set, she'll suggest "putting it somewhere else." ("Somewhere else" is fine with me, since once it's out of sight, I figure it's on its way to Goodwill.) You know, I "get" the souvenirs and gifts from great-grandkids and such; it's the drawer full of empty gift boxes---the sacks of old Christmas cards---the ancient briefcases and purses all dried out and going to dust! Any suggestions about prying someone loose from the accumulations of so many years?
Aging involves loss. Loss of stuff. Of things we care about. Of friends who die. Of strengths, abilities and freedom. The sooner someone can accept that as part of the process, the better the process will go. So, although I applaud your deeply caring and sensitive methods with "executive decisions" it needs to be quite clear from "day ONE" that YOU are the one making the decisions which keep the whole boat afloat, financially and physically, and she needs to respect you for that, support you in that, and yes, defer to your judgement. So quickly get her used to a reversed equation -- 1-2 things she can decide on, versus the 100 things that you need to decide on, without sabotage or complaining. Also, I made myself crazy, running every time my mother called. In her brief stay at the nursing home, I realized that they didn't answer for 20 minutes or an hour. Don't get her used to calling you every time a thought pops into her head. It only gets worse after that. I suggest setting up a routine right away. A favorite show she gets to watch at the same time every day. An hour to go through and dispose of one bag of old stuff, per day. A hospital bed is a great help in caring for another person. Get her a little dorm refrigerator for her room. That will cut down on snack requests, and provide more independence. I also got a water dispenser from the local bottled water company, for my mother's bedroom, with hot and cold water. She could make tea or instant soup herself, without using the kitchen appliances (dangerous!) Get child's DVD player and child's boom box. As she declines, even the tv remote controls become impossible. Sign up with the local library for in-home delivery. (Called "outreach" usually.) Audiobooks, DVD's, and Large Type books and magazines, they deliver and pick them up. Bless you!
realtime, that is fantastic that your family is all jumping in to help and to update your Mom's home. Oh my gosh that was so good to read :)

Homes built almost 100 years ago tend to have smaller doorways for closets, if your Mom uses a walker, double check to see that it will be easy for her to use... if not, take the door off the closet to get her that extra inch.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support