Just put my Mom in assisted living. How can I continue to connect with Mom?

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My Mom lives on the West Coast and I am on the East Coast - My Dad died two years ago when my husband was deployed to Iraq. He then came home and retired after 40 years. Because my husband was gone for so long, our marriage can't take another separation with me being in California. My brother took care of my Dad and now just recently put Mom in a beautiful assisted living center, but she is fighting it tooth and nail. She has been diagnosed with dementia but is able to take care of herself, however it just became too much and my brother felt it would be better if she was around other people. The guilt I feel is unreal, and because she doesn't keep her cell phone on, I cannot connect with her. I send her a goody package a week and let her know how much I love her but I still feel horrible.

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Guilt is for when you've done something wrong. You've done nothing to feel guilty about.
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Hbednarek, I understand the guilt. Your brother did the right thing as with dementia it is only going to get worse, and it is so much better for your Mom to be around Staff who have seen all levels of dementia and know exactly what to do. Last year my Dad use to do things for himself, but now he needs help with so many little things.

My case was different as my Dad was the driving force behind moving from his home and going into someplace where he wouldn't need to worry about keeping up maintenance on his house, and having to pay for around the clock caregivers. For my Dad, it was $$$ he was saving by doing this. Dad is now in Memory Care and he likes his studio apartment.

But it is hard, here my parents had been fugal their whole lives, [Mom has passed] and now Dad is in this little apartment. The Staff helped me understand that when someone has dementia, that person prefers a smaller apartment where they can see all their things by sitting in one chair. It gives them a sense of security. For my Dad, when we recently moved him from Independent Living to Memory Care, I told him it would be like he was back in college and moving into a dorm room.

Personally, I don't think cellphones are a good choice for someone who has dementia. Heck, even I am all thumbs using one. My Dad has a landline and he has no trouble using it.... this is one thing that is ingrained in their memory because they have used landlines for way over a half a century.
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Some ideas to consider: There was a recent thread on sending notes to family members in AL , check it out for ideas. Can your brother b ring his cell and call you when he is visiting and give mom the phone? It will give him time to do the many tasks (still left for family ) while you have a short conversation with Mom. Can he bring a lap top and so a skype call for you and Mom? In my Mom's memory care you could call the front desk and they would track down your family member and have an aide set them up with the phone for a visit. At some point can you and your husband vacation on the west coast so you can see Mom in person? Finally, give your brother lots of credit and support. If you are financially able, send HIM occasional restaurant gift certificates for him and his wife. Ask how you can help. Things you can do from afar: Order supplies to be delivered to the AL --- incontinence products, shampoos, hand creams, dental care items, health adn beauty aids, appropriate clothing replacement items. Any tasks you can assume will make it easier for your brother. (I was my Mom's POA and health care proxy). I had 2 out of state sibs and one in state that would only do a visit on her schedule. I found myself visiting every day, buying the supplies mentioned above, doing mending on clothes --- buttons hems etc, replacing clothing, paying bills etc. Sometimes I was running in circles. At least offer, your brother will love you for it!
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This is not a rebuke, so please don't take it that way. But even when an older person is in a facility, the land lines are still the best way to communicate. They don't need to be recharged, don't have to be activated by pushing buttons (just pick up the phone) and unless there are problems with the lines, are always available. I would think she has a land line phone in her room, so contacting her that way is the better option.

One of the reasons some of us caregivers don't rely on cell phones as primary communication for our parents is that a few seconds can be critical if an injury occurs and immediate help is needed. Picking up an "always on" land line phone is quicker than opening a cell phone, pushing the on button, waiting for it to activate, etc.

Seguing off CWillie's suggestion, cards and letters are in some ways just as good as phone calls. Your mother can keep them, post them on a card board (there are specially designed boards for this), and reread them.

I think I've written this somewhere on another post but don't recall which one. When a family member was ill, I collected about a few dozen cards from my stash, used rubber stamps and added funny comments, then wrote on the outside what the cards were for - i.e., to be opened when feeling blue, or tired, or feeling great, or thinking about a season change, thinking about family, etc.

You can add photos; I'm thinking your mother might find it interesting to see photos of the places you've lived and seen during your husband's military career.

You can also ask your brother if the facility has Skype capability. If so, you could use that as a communication method as well, but perhaps it would be better if your brother or a staff member would be there so your mother doesn't have to figure out to Skype.

Does your mother have a CD player (not an iPod - those can be too complicated for someone with dementia to use)? If so, get some CDs of her favorite music and include them in the goody packages.

Send flowers on special occasions as well.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of multiple separations and deployments over the years, do you think you could visit occasionally, perhaps for the holidays - or both of you could visit so you're not separated from your husband?

I do think the goody packages are wonderful ideas.

Oh, and please thank him for his service and sacrifices.
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She doesn't have a land line you could call at a scheduled time?
I guess you will just have to rely on old fashioned snail mail and send cards and letters, this may actually be better as she can save and reread them and show them off to friends and staff, and it saves you from hearing rants about things you have no control over.
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When my mom was in AL, one of the resident had a phone (on a landline) that had a photo next to each button. She had vision issues and this allowed her to call family by selecting their photo.

If your mom would be interested in/able to watering plants, my mom loved the basket of bulbs (tulips, hyacinths, whatever was in season) that she just kept watered and watched them grow.
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Thank you everyone. I have asked my brother about a land line phone and he is looking into it. The memory box sounds like a great idea. My brother (who is divorced with no children), actually has a moment to breathe now and is working on Mom's house so that we can rent it to help pay for her care. My parents never made any plans, so this has been a wake up call for my husband and myself. Again, thank you all.
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I had to put my cousin in an assisted living home and found Straight Talk has a "home phone" setup that works great because she doesn't have to learn how to use a cell phone and it's only $15.00 a month, nation wide service with none of the add ons. You need to buy the base and a regular house/landline phone. Plug them in and buy a card. My cousin loves it! She doesn't have to figure it out and it sits by her bedside. A great thing about it is, when we had to move her room, all we had to do is unplug the base from the wall and move it. We didn't have to call any phone company and get it changed.
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My mother's IL, AL and NH all had ( have) a landline. It was paart of the " package".
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Hbednarek: Don't think you're alone because, most, if not all, elders fight it tooth and nail! And who can blame them really? But it is unrealistic to think things can remain the same. They cannot.
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