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I have recently become totally responsible for my Aunt. My Uncle passed away. They have one son who is mentally ill and now has a restraining order against him on behalf of my Aunt. I have placed her in a wonderful assisted living facility in California close to her home of 42 years. I have tried to get her to come home with me in Montana. Although her memory is gone (like swiss cheese) she doesn't want to leave her son. Do I just move her closer to me or do I try to take care of her from over 1,000 miles away?
I want her to be happy, but she just wants to go home. Her home has been sold and she just doesn't remember. I need some serious advice!

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Firstly, when a dementia sufferer says they 'want to go home', they are not saying they want to go back to a brick & mortar residence; they are asking for comfort of some type, just not able to identify WHAT sort of comfort they are in need of. It's normally a fear/anxiety based statement rather than anything else. She may need a hug or a look at an old photo album to calm down. If all else fails, a baby doll often does the trick...........many women LOVE to have a baby doll to take care of and to swaddle in a blanket; it calms them tremendously.

Secondly, I would find it impossible to care for my mother who lives in Memory Care Assisted Living from 1000 miles away! There are a ton of things I have to do for her so visiting there once a week is imperative. Not to mention trips to the ER, the hospital, specialists, rehab........the list is endless. Unless you don't mind traveling back & forth as all the issues crop up, it's important to get her living closer to you.

Thirdly, her son is not allowed to see her ANYWAY. So living near him is irrelevant. Furthermore, her home has been sold! There's nowhere to go back to; that life is in the past. Focus on the present & the future now.

It's time to think about what's best for ALL concerned, not just your Aunt. You're doing a noble thing here to begin with, so don't make it into something unmanageable for you!!

Good luck!
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Reply to lealonnie1
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xrayjodib, kudos to you for accepting responsibility for your aunt. I can tell you what my wife and I did for my dad and her aunt, but everyone has unique situations, so it's hard to give sound advice. My wife was her aunt's guardian while she was living in a memory care facility 165 miles away from us. It would have been easier for my wife to move her aunt closer to us, but even with late-stage dementia, her aunt still had visitors from her church, so my wife let her stay in her home town. We visited her often and she frequently said she wanted to go home, so we would drive her by her house and she never recognized it. (She may have been remembering her childhood home in the same town, but we're not sure -- this was our first experience with dementia.)

My dad with late-stage dementia was in Utah where he had lived for the last 40 years and where some of my siblings lived, but there were problems, so I was asked if I would move him to my home in Idaho, which my wife and I did for 3.5 years before we moved him to a memory care facility just a 20-minute bike ride from our home. It was easier for me to be his guardian with him close by than it was for my wife whose aunt had been 2.5 hours away. And, fortunately, my dad adjusted to his two moves much better than I had expected he would. Within two weeks of moving him to our home, he completely forgot that he had ever lived in Utah and could only remember his childhood and college-day homes from 70+ years ago. Easily within the first 24 hours of moving him to a memory care facility, he didn't remember ever living with us. I visited him daily and he usually thought I was his dad, but sometimes I was one of his brothers, and only rarely did he recognize me as his son. 

During almost all of those visits, my dad would ask me to take him home, but "home" was his childhood home where he thought his mom was waiting for him (or waiting for us, since he often thought I was his dad). I always told him it was too late today since all I had was a bike, but that we could go "home" in the morning after a good night's sleep and a hot breakfast. That usually satisfied him, but when it didn't, then we would walk the halls together looking for an exit and a ride "home." Sometimes other residents overheard us and wanted us to take them to their homes and I'd tell them the same things I told my dad (which makes me wonder if your aunt had been there if she also would have asked us to take her home).

Like I said, everyone's situation is unique, so do what you think is best. Best wishes in navigating this difficult decision.
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Reply to bicycler
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I kept my mother for seven months in a nursing home that wasn't really serving her needs simply because I didn't want to take her away from her community. However, the constant driving back and forth was taking its toll on me and my family, so in July I moved her 50 miles and closer to me.

For all she knows (dementia), she could be five minutes away from home. She still talks about wanting to be at her own house, but it simply isn't doable. The main reason I wanted to keep her at closer to her house was so her friends could visit, but the staff at the nursing home finally told me it had been months since anyone had visited other than me. Well, duh -- her friends are all 90 years old, too, and can't get around. What was I thinking??

Now she's 10 minutes from me, and I see her every other day rather than twice a week. It's better for everyone concerned, and she's doing much better than she was.

It sounds (and feels) selfish, but truly, you need to do what works best for you and your family. She won't know if she's far from her son or not. Having her closer to you is what's best for all involved, so move her to Montana.
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Reply to anonymous982826
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Because she is single and has an adult son who is a danger to her in some way (hence the restraining order you mentioned) I would move her for her own safety. If the son figures out where she is there is no telling what he may do. Or manipulate her into making him her PoA. Or worse. I am sympathetic to the sadness of removing her from her familiar surroundings and people, but not sure if being inside an AL/LTC will matter in that regard. Wishing you peace in your heart whatever you decide.
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Reply to Geaton777
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You could take you aunt next door to her home and at some stage she is not going to recognise it, although she may well constantly say she wants to go home. Likewise, she will want to be with her son yet she will eventually not know her son even if he visited her. Given those two probabilities, it would not matter where your aunt is located. She can ask to go home just as fruitlessly from near you as well as being a long distance from you.
What to my mind is more important is that, given you have total responsibility for your aunt, it will be an unnecessary challenge to be her advocate from afar. It is possible, I did it for my aunt some years ago. I resolved many issues for her, but had to rely on her to tell me if problems were fixed. She was a 5 hour drive away from me, a trip I could only handle a few times a year.
As for the distance to be travelled by a dementia patient: my friends mother was in permanent care in one state, my friend in the next state, and my friend's daughter, who has POA over her grandmother, in the next state again. My friend's mother had dementia, would not/could not walk, was wasting away, did not know my friend, did not take in activities, was non compliant in so many areas.
The home was shut down overnight with patients being sent to various places, she was not happy where she was plonked. My friend and her daughter collected the mother and drove her for 16 hours to the third state to be near her POA. She has settled in extremely well, made new friends already, wants to learn to walk again, is gaining weight, knows my friend again, is really verbal again, has really good telephone conversations several times a week. The medical records are not forthcoming from the original home, the new home and the new medical team are thinking that the mother was drugged. The mother has a much better quality of life now.
The point I am trying to make is that even though things might seem fine and in order on the occasions you can travel 1000 miles, one cannot see everything. I really feel it is in both yours and your aunt's interests to live with her. By the way, the mother thoroughly enjoyed the road trip, especially the fast food they ate along the way!
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Reply to anonymous275216
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You know this is a situation where there is no perfect answer. For you, it might be easier if she were in Montana. I suspect her heart will always be in California. Especially while she has memory and some cognition of where she is. There is culturally a large diff between the two states and acclimating to the weather is a consideration. Since you already have her placed, I think I would try leaving her in California for awhile. You might be able to hire an agency to look in on her in your absence. There might be a point where it would make less difference for her to move.
Also if perchance she is on Medicaid or will need Medicaid in her future that will have to be dealt with. It’s very difficult on seniors to move them but if necessary, it can be done.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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