How do I get rid of the guilt I feel for putting my Mom in AL?

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At 94 she wasn't taking good care of herself with meds and meals, etc. I live 4 hours away and couldn't check on her often. She fell and broke ribs and laid on the floor for about 6 hours before a neighbor found her. Dr. said she couldn't live alone anymore because of her dementia. I moved her to a very nice assisted living apartment complex near me where she gets wonderful care and I and my kids and grandkids visit her. She is very depressed and unhappy and wants to go back home. She will be 95 in a couple of weeks and has enough memory to make herself miserable with thoughts of her house. I visit her almost every day and try to make her happy but she keeps lamenting about her house. I feel guilty for making her so unhappy and I wonder if I made the right decision. I have a sister who lives very far away and can't visit often. But we both call her every evening. I feel bad for her because she doesn't enjoy TV anymore and she doesn't read anymore either. She works on jigsaw puzzles constantly and that is her only past time. The other residents don't do much either. They just sit around and don't converse much. Weekly there are bingo games and other activities but on the weekends there is NOTHING for those residents to do and I can't blame her for getting depressed. Your input would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Helpme1 -

I understand your frustration. What I'm finding, though, is that as my mother's situation progresses (mid-stage dementia, CHF and other medical issues), she becomes more and more depressed and withdrawn - meaning she isn't the chatterbox she once was. She used to be lively, viviacious, smiling all the time, always making others happy. Now she can't even make *herself* happy, let alone anyone else. Talking to others beyond saying, "good morning" or "hello" is just not something she can do at this point. She has made 2 trips to the NH now for therapy/rehab, and gets severely depressed every time she's in there. Soon - very soon - she will not be able to come home, because her medical needs are going to outpace what I can handle. That is *not* going to be a good day when I have to tell her that.
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How wonderful of you to take the initiative and get the clients outside for a bit. And don't worry about their not remembering when they have done something. I have found that whether they remember a particular event, they do remember the feelings of joy, peace, happiness, contentment they have had, even if they don't know why. My folks will want to return to a place or like to have a particular person come see them. Just because something about that person or place left them with a smile on their hearts~
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Since posting here and getting such a wonderful variety of answers to read, I feel better about the whole situation. Yesterday I went to visit my mother and it was a beautiful day outside. NO ONE was sitting outside. Beautiful front sitting areas and beautiful back covered patio in the back and both were empty. I almost threw a fit. Those people were just sitting in front of the TV inside watching tv! I told them, "Go outside...it is so beautiful out there!" I also told one of the aides to guide the people outside. I went and got my mother, who had just come back into her apartment from sitting outside alone, I took her outside and people started shuffling their way out to the covered patio. There were about 5 people that came out and joined us and I got the conversation going as well as I could. They were all so cute! I think elderly people are adorable. So we all visited and joked around out there until it was time for them to come in for supper. My mother actually started to enjoy herself and join in......but I honestly don't know if they will all do that again ....without prompting. I learned they had had an ice cream social that afternoon and even though my mother said she knew nothing about it, I found out she had been there! She didn't remember. Oh my! Anyway, I think that after I retire I may volunteer there a couple of times a week. I enjoy them all. I now know that my mom does indeed go to events but she will complain that she does nothing.....she doesn't remember! She also helps them fold towels and table cloths but she forgets that she does it! So I know they try to keep her involved. I wish the facility had a resident pet though. I think they would all love that. I will look into that. Thanks to all of you for your input though. It is very helpful. Each person experiences different situations and they are very helpful to one another.
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Chris, there are facilities that have resident pets and others that have gardens. The one my mother was in for rehab from a broken leg had an assistive garden - a raised bed with plants around the edge.

People could wheel their wheelchairs out and spend time in the garden. For OT, sometimes they repotted plants.

I've read in some of my gardening and herbal magazines that these are appearing more frequently - it's not a "movement" yet, but some facilities are moving closer to a patient oriented focus, with a variety of activities beyond the usual standard ones.

Sunrise Assisted Living in Michigan used to have a resident pet - I don't recall whether it was a cat or dog. It wandered freely among the floors and rooms.

Some years ago the Eden Initiative was developed; it focused on a more meaningful experience for people in facilities. It was an interesting concept and progressive for its time.

Your points are very well thought out and articulated. I don't disagree with you, and really feel that staying at home or living in a facility is an individual issue, depending on the community and its support, the individual, the family proximity, and a whole lot of other factors.

Geriatric majors have been developed for interested college students. When I think back to my college days, I doubt that field would have attracted anyone. But fortunately it does now.

I think your plan is wise - you have a plan and a back-up plan. The situation you describe of your father's interaction with his community is a critical factor I think in keeping someone at home. There are neighborhoods in which that kind of consideration doesn't exist. And in those cases, the elder probabaly has more opportunity for companionship in a facitlity.

As to people being in one and not communicating, I'm wondering why also and think back to the ones I've seen, of almost catatonic people sitting in wheelchairs with emotional pain clearly expressed on their faces. I wish I knew why - I don't. But it's obviously not appropriate or acceptable in a country with as many resources as the US has.

One thing I think might help is music piped throughout the facility, ranging from patriotic and WWII songs to the popular tunes of the 40's and other eras, all geared to the age range of the population.
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My dad was unhappy living in his home alone (after mom died), he is unhappy living in my home, and I expect he will be unhappy when we move him to AL.

I sincerely *hope* that he will participate in activities and make some friends at AL, but honestly I doubt it. He rejected contact with their friends (said they were "her" friends not his) before the move, & passed on offers to socialize with the senior men in my neighborhood. Maybe the AL activity director can pull the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, but I won't think less of her if she doesn't.
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In some ways, helpme, it will get easier. We are all responsible for our own happiness. I think my folks were unhappy at times in their own home, too. And they never like change. (I am getting there,too) So now their unhappiness, is directed at those of us kids who helped them decide to go to Assisted Living. Before they moved, I finally told Mom it was her decision, to be unhappy or to be looking forward to less stress and worry for her. And it still took time for her to decide!! So......Hang in there and God Bless You for Caring Enough to want your mom to be happy!! But remember, NO Guilt, or as little as possible!
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57twin and everyone who has answered my lament.....one thread that I notice we all share is our opinion of activities for our loved ones. Even though there are music programs, games, cards, etc., it seems that every time I go to visit my mom I see so many just sitting around staring at the TV and NOT TALKING to each other. Is that normal?!?! They don't talk to each other! This is not a nursing home. There should be friendliness abound because they have a lot in common with their age and life experiences, but no one talks! This facility has a lovely front patio surrounded by beautiful tall oak trees and in the back there is a wonderful covered patio that overlooks tennis courts - which are always full of action. My mother is about the only one that goes outside to sit. She is so lonely! Tonight she lamented that no one talks to her and she sits outside all by herself. I feel so bad for her. Shouldn't the staff encourage people to go outdoors in such beautiful weather? And while I am at it, why are weekends so dead at AL's? There are minimal fun activities on Saturday and Sunday. My daughter brings her daughter's American Heritage Girls to the facility to host Bingo and rosary twice a month. And my husband and I gifted a Washer Toss game to give the residents something fun to do. It just kills me that there is such inadequate entertainment for these people. And at the price we pay monthly, there should be more attention paid to them. There. That is my frustration coming out. Thanks everyone for letting me have my say. 😠
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My Dad has been at his assisted living just a week shy of one year.
His assisted living place is great and the activities director awesome.
His place does let residents help. One man helps a bit in the kitchen, they have container plants outside to water. They have preschoolers and therapy dog visits and a piano playing every Friday happy hour. While not as many activities on weekends they still have some on the schedule.
While mom was alive she did everything for dad up until the last several months when I did the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. Dad did live with my husband and I for 4 months while the AL place was being built. He did go a couple times a week to adult daycare which was a way to see if assisted living would work for him.
He is about 7-8 minutes away and I visit several times a week mainly short visits.
So far so good but that will change.
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Yes, Babalou, very insightful points you made. If nothing else, once I move my dad back to his condo and it doesn't work out (thus the backup room on hold at the ALF), I will at least comfort myself knowing that we tried different options and if ALF is what he needs, then that is what he needs. I will definitely take a look at the book you suggested, Babalou, it sounds interesting.
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Chris12, reading your post attentively I am impressed by your balanced and responsible approach, and I too would like to wish you all the best with your father's continuing at home.

The points you make about the dearth of enrichment at some ALFs and similar are valid; and although I wouldn't go as far as outrage, not quite, I certainly share your reservations about priorities when it comes to elders' quality of life. I just wanted to put in a word for those professional care organisations which have already taken them on board and are doing something about it, because they do exist and their work deserves recognition. In this country, the UK, I'd single out Nightingale Hammerson, MHA and ExtraCare as models, and I'd be interested to hear what US organisations forum members rate highly. Then there are fascinating lessons to be learned from Japan, which is right in the demographic front line and going about solving the country's massive elder care problem in a characteristically dauntless way.

At the moment, our parents are the customers in this market but before too long it will be us. If we're not going to lumber our children, we can't afford to shun the industry: we need to get involved in developing better practice.
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