How do I help my mom cope with the decision of putting my father in a day care at their retirement home?
They live in the independent living section of a retirement home about 25 minutes away from me. My father's abilities have declined significantly in recent months. His latest score on the cognitive assessment test given by their doctor was 14/30. Less than a year ago it was 26/30. The doctor suspects vascular dementia in addition to Alzheimer's type dementia. My father is 78. He goes for a walk early every morning, works out on an exercise bike daily and has always been fit. He is friendly, loves to greet people, used to work in management. He and my mother have been married 55 years - an ofttimes stormy relationship but they do care for each other very much.
My mother is getting very worn down with trying to manage him herself. While she doesn't need to cook or do housekeeping, he depends heavily on her for all kinds of other things and badgers her incessantly at times. She struggles with worries and anxiety even in the best of times. Some things have happened recently that have made her acknowledge that she needs help. He needs more stimulating activities to keep him busy. And she simply does not have the energy to do all that herself. He has bad days when his frustration is difficult for her to cope with, and I am concerned that between her frailty and his strength (and temper) that he may physically harm her. It has all come to the point that she is considering the daycare program at their retirement home for him.
The problem is - today my mother and I talked together with some of the staff at their retirement home. They were very kind. Very compassionate. Very understanding of the difficult situation she is in and that she needs some help. Come to find out, the daycare program there is free. She did not know that and neither did I. That was wonderful news, because my father objects to paying for anything "extra". My mother was teary - this is a very, very hard thing for her to do. She worries about how my father will take this, etc. But in the end, I think we both felt reassured by the description of the daycare program offered.
We went on a little tour of the secure section for memory impaired residents after our meeting and had a look around. It was depressing. And this was the area for "high functioning" residents. I just can't picture my father there. He is confused at times, it is true. But he is so much more "there" than those folks were. Spending time over there on a regular basis would send him downhill even faster, I'm afraid. If I can't imagine sending him over there, my mother must be absolutely torn up over this. She already worries about abandoning him, of packing him off over there, of how he will feel. And to be truthful, after SEEING it today, I really do too.
The idea was that she would go back to their place and start talking positively about it with my father. At his next doctor visit the doctor would tell him that this would be a good thing for him (he likes his doctor very much - he protested when his driver's license was taken away last week, but he acknowledged that the doctor knows what is best) But it looks so much more institutional than the lovely place they are now. (My father knows about this section for memory impaired residents and he has no intention of going there). Lots of people were just sitting around ... and not doing a whole lot. The activities are things like singing, cooking, all sorts of things, popcorn and movie, all lined out on a monthly calendar. But he doesn't really like to do stuff like that. And most of the residents are very elderly women. The prospect of him having to go over there seems absolutely demeaning for what he is able to do now. There's no way to disguise it for what it is - a way to keep him away from my mother for awhile.
I'll call my mother tomorrow and we'll talk about this some more. She was exhausted after all the meetings today and we didn't talk much afterwards. She just sobbed as I hugged her before we went back into their room so I could say goodbye to my father. He wanted to know about the meeting - he has some idea that it is regarding him.
This decision would be difficult enough if we both felt GOOD about where my father would be spending his time. But I don't. And I'm thinking that it surely must have hit my mother the same way.
Any words of wisdom or advice? I am so torn on how to advise her. I don't want to stir up more doubt and guilt than she is already dealing with. I thought this was a very good step - finally acknowledging that she needed some help. I'm just not sure what to do right now.