GrandpaHiker Asked February 2012

How do I tell my 87-year-old mother that she will not be able to go back to her home?

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She has been living with my wife & me since completing NH rehab after falling & breaking her hip. She is also in the early stages of dementia. She has recently been making comments that she is going back to her home.

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Naheaton,
Hopefully we are several years away from having to make that decision. Fortunately we are in a position that we can continue to provide for my mother at our house. My wife & I both still work ( 3 years 7 months 16 days left!!) so we found an excellent lady with a CNA license to come in 3 days per week. The other two days we take my mother to the adult day care center. All of this keeps her active & socialized. We have submitted an application to the Veterans Administration for Aid & Attendance Survivor Benefits. This will almost pay for sitter & adult day care expenses.
Thanks for the idea of adult foster care. I'll keep that in mind when the time comes.
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NancyH Feb 2012
Grandpa, before you start thinking that a nursing home is the answer, think about adult foster care first. It will be much smaller since it's someone's home, and the care is more one on one. I'm glad you thought ahead though when you bought your house. We thought seriously about adding onto our home for my mother-in-law too. Went as far as having plans drawn up etc but one of her sons pitched a fit that we'd be using his mom's money to build onto our house. Not worth the fighting about money of all things. So, instead of paying the 60k that it would've cost her, she's already gone thru that much money at her asst living in less than 2 years. It would've been more cost effective, but there was no telling that to him at the time. Oh well... when her money runs out she can go live with him. ha
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JaneB Feb 2012
I just had another flash of understanding, after something that happened with my Dad just now. I told him "You can't do that" -- and what I meant was, "You aren't up to it, and it's unsafe." What he HEARD was, "I am in charge, and I am telling you that you do not get to do that -- you CANNOT do that unless I say so." And I thought of this question, immediately. Make sure you are clear by what you mean when you say, "can't go back to her home." That this is SAFETY not permission denied, not that you are now the boss of her.
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CherylS Feb 2012
When my mother says things like this, I think it also is wanting to go back to those good times. My mother says she wants to go home when she is in her own bed. I wondered at first if she was saying she wanted to die but she would give the address of her old house. That was a good time in her life. She was in her fifites and in good shape and had a good life. I so understand it now.
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JaneB Feb 2012
I so agree that "the house" stands for a time of independence and vitality and purpose, and people misapprehend one for a return to the other. My Dad has been here six months, and still talks about it as a temporary thing. Sometimes I let it go, other times I tell him square on he isn't going back -- depends on how emotionally labile he is in the moment, and whether it's daytime (when he processes better) or near dinner time (when he doesn't).
Good luck to you.
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Thanks for both of your replies. My mom's dementia is just beginning to affect her. She sits & scratches her head because she says there is "grit" in her hair & it comes back every time she gets a bath. She is occasionally asking the same question the next day, but not on a routine basis.
We want to keep her out of a NH for as long as possible & are prepared to have her continue to live with us. Do you think I should bring up the subject or just wait for her to say something about going back home?

BTW, the doctor has just told my mother-in-law that she should no longer live alone. So as soon as she recovers from having 2 stints inserted due to 70% blockage in two arteries she will probably be with us also. Fortunately we anticipated this when we built our house 10 years ago. We have the additional space & we have wide doorways, provisions for grab bars to be added when necessary in halls, bathrooms, etc.
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jeannegibbs Feb 2012
What is her cognitive ability like at this point? If you explain that she won't be going home (and why), will she remember it? Or will you have to keep repeating it over and over? If she will be able to process the answer and retain it, then I think I'd go with naheaton's advice, explain the situation, and accept and sympathize with her disappointment and anger.

But if the question comes up again and again even after you have explained, then I think I would avoid triggering the distress over and over. I think I'd come up with plausible reasons why she can't go home this week.

Dementia really does change the situation, in my opinion, and you have to take into account her present cognitive ability.

I don't envy your task, and I wish you well. Make your decision about how to handle this in love, and then don't look back and second-guess yourself. Just do your best.
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NancyH Feb 2012
Sounds like my situation. My mother-in-law also has dementia, macular degeneration, lived at home alone after my father-in-law died, and fell and broke her hip. While she was in rehab at the nursing home, she was evaluated by a series of doctors, who all agreed that she could no longer live alone. We pussyfooted around that truth for awhile. She also started talking about 'when I get home' and we all knew that wasn't going to happen. My sister-in-law and I started looking for asst living places for her, all the while NOT telling her. Finally it was me that looked her in the eyes and spelled it out that she could NEVER go home again. Boy that was a really bad scene!! But it had to be done. What I learned in the months afterwards was, she didn't really miss her house so much as she did her life in that house with her husband and boys. It wasn't the physical house, it was the memories. She was afraid she'd lose her memories of her time in her home (not counting the dementia) and that she was somehow leaving her husband behind. What she wanted was a time machine, not that little house. I would suggest that you acknowledge how sorry you are about this whole stinkin' thing. Let her vent and tell you she's sad, and also mad. Don't squash those feelings cause they're normal. I knew if it had been me, and I had gone to have a pin put in my hip, gone through rehab, then be told that the day I fell would be the last time I ever saw my house again, I'd be mad too. Getting old stinks.
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