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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.

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In our case, it doesn't matter. The folks at the nh are used to working with elderly, aometimes demented patients, ao they do labs and xrays and such to find out what's going on. A good geriatrics doctor can be a lot like a good vet in my experience. And i mean that as a compliment to both.
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Thanks, Babalou. Have you ever been able to get her to describe what she means by "weak"? I try to pin Mama down to figure out if she actually means weak in the body, or just listless and without energy, but she can't articulate the feeling. It's so hard to get her to describe her symptoms in a way that the doctor can react to. Is it hard to get up? walk around? or does she just not want to? (Does it matter?)
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Glad she seems to be improving. Let us know how this goes; we learn from each other.

if I seem a bit alarmist, it's because my mom, who is now 92, has had pneumonia several times, with just the symptom of feeling "weak". No fever, no cough. She'd be dead if she weren't in NH. Also, a heart block. No real symptoms. Just "not myself today ".
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Whatever is going on, it's a change in her behavior. Although today she got up, put on makeup and seemed normal. She's amazingly healthy --- no cardiac, pulmonary, etc., issues. Just gastric reflux from time to time and a touch of arthritis in one arm. I'll get her to her PCP.
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Hmmmmm. Can you get her doctor on the phone and talk to her/him about this? What are her cardiac issues? Does she have a pacemaker?

Frankly, in your shoes, I'd be inclined to call the emts to make sure her vitals are okay. If you have a bp cuff and a pulse oximeter, I'd get them out. You don't have an RN in the neighborhood, do you?
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Ah. Or, rather, AAAARRRGGHH!!! Routine follow up? Sounds as if the follow-up might have ended up not being so routine after all… Can you remake the appointment and drive her there if need be?
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Oh, yes, she recognizes it. She says she's embarrassed to spend the day in bed and not do anything. But she denies any specific ailment, and just says she feels "weak." I'm waiting for an appointment with her primary care physician. The appointment she cancelled today was a routine follow up with a cardiologist.
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What does she say about it, Realtime? Does she come up with lame excuses, or does she agree that she's feeling unwell?
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Okay, now I'm worried. My mother returned two weeks ago from her annual three-week cross-country trip with my brother and his wife to visit the grandkids. During the first week home, she was lively and engaged: we made outings to her hairdresser, the library, for dinner with old friends. Then last week she did something she had never EVER done before: she stayed in pajamas all day and failed to put on her makeup and earrings. She has put on makeup and earrings even following surgery, accidents, pneumonia... Then the next day she again stayed in pajamas, without makeup. And today she cancelled a doctor appointment, although she often seems to see them as the highlight of her week. She'll be 95 in October. She's supposedly in good health. What's happening?
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Now, if they could be encouraged to chase off my sister-in-law...
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Back to the squirrels. My problem (watering the squirrels daily) may be over. A trio of striped owls have moved into the wooded lot next door. Every evening they swoop over to our yard where they can perch in trees and get a clear line of sight on mice, lizards, frogs on our lawn --- and late-foraging squirrels. They're beautiful, impressive creatures --- wing spans of at least two feet --- and wonderful to watch. Mama is enchanted with them, seizing her binoculars when they appear. But she hasn't yet seen them hunting successfully. A few nights ago one flew past with a squirrel dangling from its talons. I don't know what she'll expect me to do if she realizes they're eating her squirrels!
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Thanks, guestshopadmin. I particularly like the suggestion about insurance --- the house is vulnerable to hurricane winds, falling trees, water, and I should do that anyway. Of course, this is part of a bigger issue --- how to interact with my SIL. The poor woman lives in a zero-sum world: anything anyone else has or gets --- things, love, recognition, a particular parking space --- is something taken from her. She seethes with anxiety and any perceived slight can send her into a sustained tantrum, usually directed at my long-suffering brother.
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Real, take pictures of each of your items that you care about. If you can, label them with avery labelmaker unless it will damage the piece (great investment if you don't have one - you can even order online and they will ship one to you). Write down a description of what it is, where it is located in home, when you purchased it or it was given to you (in art circles, this is called a provenance). Locate receipts if you have them. Put together a notebook with these listed. You would need to have them if you had an insurance claim anyway - and if these items are valuable, you might need to have a separate policy to insure them (frequently art or jewelry or collections are limited by homeowner's insurance). A separate insurance policy on your items that has your name on it would also support a claim that these are your items, currently residing in your Mama's home with you. A great comment back when settling my mother's estate was that items that we each gave Mom were returned to giver, items that had family history were taken in turns with equal value per turn, and common items were liquidated and split. Pictures, list of what you brought, receipts, and a separate policy (as if you were a renter, your insurance agent should be able to help you) will support your ownership. Good luck!
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More than a month later and I see a problem peeking over the horizon. It's my sister-in-law. My brother is a sweetie, married to a termagant who screeches and scolds when she's angry, pinches pennies and just plain despises me. When I moved in I brought many of my own household items (others are in storage) including some nice antiques, pricy paintings, antique china and silver. I'm imagining a future, when we're liquidating Mama's estate, when SIL lays claim to half the value of my things on behalf of my brother. He'll stand up for me, but she'll make life miserable for him. Any suggestions on how to clarify/document what things in the house belong to me?
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Real, you are NOT being a brat! You were being a rational human being who realises that the squirrels will cope perfectly well and there are drawbacks to having stagnant water near the house… But I really like Linda's perspective :) Humour her on the squirrels, secure in the knowledge that they will spurn your water because as every four-footed creature knows muddy puddles are much much tastier.
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real, you weren't being a brat - you're juggling so many things, trying not to upset your mom with the changes, you've put in the extra effort to enable her to keep gardening and you're coordinating a lot of wonderful family in their efforts. Sometimes that last little "to do" just looks exhausting. It's wonderful to see what you all are doing as a family.
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Frequent Flyer, You and Linda have given me the perspective I needed. I was being a brat. Mama has lost so much --- agility, strength, beauty, my father --- she's entitled to a little silliness over her squirrels. And I can water the damned squirrels when I go out to get the newspaper.
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I have a ground level birdbath that needs a cleaning and fresh water. Love watching the robins splash about and the squirrels drinking. My sig other said he would clean it two weeks ago.... even with reminders he still hasn't taken care of it. Guess I will need to go out there and do it myself broken shoulder and all. One of life's simple pleasures that cost very little :)
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Thanks, Linda. What a lovely comment. You're so right. She actually said that she wanted some things at least to be the way they used to be. I've been moving so, so slowly on getting the place in shape, but I guess any change at all is unsettling. I probably shouldn't talk as much about the things still to be done---maybe it sets up uneasy thoughts about whether she'll like it or not---but just quietly let them happen.
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My FIL is thrilled the peonies are blooming despite the frost, and that the apricot tree is loaded. We'll get the apricots picked and made into jam for him, and I'll take photos of the peonies. Why is this noteworthy? Because it's familiar joys in the midst of all the flux of aging and unwanted but inevitable changes. You're a good sport to have done it.

Your mom fussing about the squirrels' well being gives her purpose and joy and a smidgen of familiar in a sea of changes.
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We just had our first dust-up --- and Mama won.

We live in a semi-rural area, on a heavily wooded acre with lots of birds and squirrels. Mama has always worried about the squirrels --- did they have enough to eat? Every winter she bought several gallons of pecans and had my father climb a ladder to hang pails of nuts in the trees. And, I learned today, she provided water for them, in a pan next to the birdbath in the back yard.

Last week, I had the yard cleaned up, including the dense thicket around the old birdbath. She looked at the recovered flower bed for awhile this afternoon and then asked me to go out and fill the birdbath with water for the birds and a pan with water for the squirrels. I protested: the mosquitoes, already bad enough, would breed there. Not if I changed the water every day, she said. Mama, I said, I'm just not going to go out every day and water the squirrels. But they'll be thirsty! she said. They managed before, I said. All right, she said, she would do it. She would enjoy doing it. She would water them daily. This is a woman who trundles around on a walker or a cane and has fallen punctually at least once a month for years.

So I went out and filled the birdbath and found a pan for the squirrels. I want to scream, but I'm not sure whether to scream at the plain silliness of her worrying about the damned squirrels or at the way she manipulated me. I wish somebody would talk me down.
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It's such a challenge to clear the decks in this house. It's jammed, cluttered, dusty....Does anyone have any suggestions about how to convince my mother to prune out her wardrobe? She has clothes going back 30 or 40 years, none of exceptionally good quality, and almost all of them WAY TOO BIG. She's a size 6 --- maybe a few 8s fit because she has broad shoulders---but most of the clothes she owns are 10 and 12s. It would be wonderful if all the closets, chests, etc., jammed with clothes were available to store other things! (Like the 50-odd pillow cases, 7 vacuum cleaners, 6 cubic feet of party favors and fast food giveaways, etc.) (Yes, I'm working on getting rid of those, too.) My present plan is to wait until she goes on vacation this summer with my brother's family and power through the house bagging stuff for Goodwill or the dump, hope she never notices, and play dumb if she does. Any better suggestions?
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Glasshalffull, thanks for the suggestions. I'll keep trying until I hit on what works with her. I can tell she's getting bored, because yesterday all of a sudden she started to obsess over a pain in her elbow. Obsessions over minor ailments were a real problem a few years ago. Yesterday I invited a neighbor to drop by --- bad idea. The neighbor simply assumed Mama was unhappy (she isn't) and started pitching her special brand of religion as a solution. Mama finds such situations embarrassing and invasive, but hates to offend anyone or hurt their feelings. I can see I'll have to deal with this. My bad.
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Perhaps one of the neighbors would care to play cards? My mom has several friends that still get together once a week to play UNO. ( They are all 90 or older. ) The cards gives them something to do together and look forward too. UNO is easy and no one really cares who wins.

Perhaps there is a local garden club that might drop in on your mom and talk flowers or a local 4H group that could use some pointers on planting and flower gardens.

We have found that the area senior center is a good place to connect to others. Often they have activities and crafts etc to do.

Perhaps your local faith community can suggest some volunteers to visit and cheer your mom.

Glad you are trying this and giving your mom a chance.
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Thanks for the update. I'm glad things are going well.
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Our deck garden is a success. I wanted Mama to have a reason to get out of bed. Before she came home on the 30th, my nephew repaired and re-stained the deck. A dear neighbor who had cared for Mama's house plants for three years brought them back, so we had ready-made landscaping. And I planted some annuals to brighten things up. My mother has been champing at the bit to get out there and start repotting. Today we're going to buy more potting soil and more flowering begonias and she's planning to get to work! I'm so pleased that this idea got her moving.
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My nephew has been here for three weeks helping so much. I'll miss him when he leaves today. Bless him: he has been visiting the neighbors, reminding them who he is, that he lived here as a child, that he played with their children --- and telling them that Mama is coming home next week, and inviting them to visit her. I do hope they come! It will make such a difference to her if she can look forward to drop-ins. My folks used to spend most of the day at the kitchen table, which faces the road; they opened the curtains when they were "receiving" and people dropped in for coffee. This is a tiny community --- maybe 1000 people altogether, and only a couple of dozen in our corner of the settlement --- so he has certainly got the word out.
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I went to an huge estate sale yesterday to get a feeling for what sells, what doesn't, for what price. It was the end of a three-week sale so the items there were probably the least demanded. And they were so pretty! Lovely vintage glassware, meticulously cut framed sillouettes, so many pretties, so much like my mother's, obviously collected and treasured --- and left to the last in the estate sale, probably to be sold in bulk for almost nothing or sent to Goodwill. Estate sales break my heart. Things that mattered to someone, now mattering to no one. I look around Mama's house and imagine all her pretty things abandoned, their histories lost. My kids collect sixties kitsch. Their kids like nineties kitsch. Fashions in kitsch change.
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realtime, it will be a challenge on getting rid of stuff.... for my Mom, "downsizing" is donating one knickknack every year to the hospital rummage sale.... [rolling eyes].
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Singingway, thanks for the suggestions. Thankfully, Mama has interests --- she reads all the latest thrillers and she adores tending to her potted plants. The challenge will be to get people in to see her. The one thing she enjoys at the ALF is the staff: the CNAs give her a lot of attention. I think a few of the neighbors will probably drop in from time to time, but I'd like to see more constant social activity. Any thoughts on how to encourage a social environment in the home? I guess I just need to invite, invite, invite.

Frequent flyer, yes, getting through doors will be an issue. She mostly walks with a cane, but uses a walker when she's tired. And yes, I'm lucky, and especially, so is Mama, that the family wants to help. Maybe we won't be able to sustain it forever, but if we can work together for even a couple of years, that's a good percentage of the rest of her life.

But my big thing right now is HOW TO GET RID OF STUFF. Singingway, I don't have a lot of leverage with her. I moved into her home, not she into mine. And both of us contribute financially to its upkeep, not just me. So she definitely has a major say in what gets done or doesn't. And it is her stuff.
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