Monday, May 7, 2012
Blog 31: Mom's New Life In A Nursing Home
I have made it perfectly clear that I didn’t want my mom going into a nursing home. I wanted to take care of her. About ninety-percent of our family felt that it was too soon for my mom to be placed in a nursing home, it wasn’t just me.
Mom was brought to a nursing home on April 11, 2011. She was placed there by Renee, the sister who went against the rest of her sisters and took the legal route to get guardianship and conservatorship, so that she could make decisions on her own. She was now in control of mom and in control of how the rest of our lives would be with our mom. I, and my other three sisters, lost all of our rights as Mom’s daughters. We had no say in anything, and were left to feel helpless as we watched her do as she wished with our mom.
Not only was my mom missing her family because she was placed in a facility three hours away from them, but she was also restricted from receiving phone calls from her children and grandchildren. The only ones who were able to call and visit freely were Renee and her husband and children, who lived just minutes away. What she did was unfair to not only our mom, but to the rest of her family.
I called my mom and was able to speak to her the first week she was in the nursing home. Renee was there the first couple of times. After that week, I wasn’t allowed to call to speak to my mom anymore. I was told she was resting, and was asked if I wanted to leave a message. This happened too many times and I was getting worried. I finally asked one of the staff members why I wasn’t allowed to talk to my mom and when I left a message, nobody would call me back. They told me I have to talk to Renee. I knew she was behind it. For the next four months, our entire family was told we had to contact Renee if we wanted to speak to our mom/grandma.
Renee told all of the family to call her cell phone if we wanted to talk to Mom and she would call us back when she was with her. Her excuse was that there were too many of us and the staff can’t be bothered with a bunch of phone calls. My argument to her was that she can’t possibly call everyone back when she is with mom, and my kids can only talk at certain times that are good for them since they have busy jobs and small children to tend to. It is easier for my kids to call when they have a free moment. It should not be up to Renee to say when they, or anyone else, can talk to her. This control thing was getting so out of hand! I felt that she was using that as an excuse because I would think that someone who is paying $6,400 a month for nursing home care, should be allowed to use the phone to talk to family. Mom never spoke long and not everyone was going to call everyday. I suggested paying for a phone for mom in her room. It wasn’t allowed.
I refused to go through my sister to speak to my mom, as this was just another one of her power ploys. She wanted to be there to monitor the phone conversations. She was always so concerned about what Mom was saying and what we were saying. She needed to control every situation, control what mom said and what we said to her, and I simply did not want her to try to interfere with my own personal and intimate relationship with my own mom. Mom was very different when we spoke when she was alone. She could talk freely and she wasn’t distracted. The few times I spoke to my mom when Renee was there, Renee kept talking to Mom and telling Mom what to say. I could clearly notice the difference. Mom was more herself and calmer when she was alone. She could say what she wanted to say, without fear of reprisal. She showed her true feelings, depression, too.
I spoke with the manager of the nursing home and expressed my concern about not being allowed to talk to my own mom on the phone, when I live 1,600 miles away, and can’t just drop in like Renee can. I told him I felt it was important for my mom to know that I love her and if she doesn’t get to talk to me, or my kids, she will feel that we’ve abandoned her and we don’t love her, which will in turn make her feel sad, hurt, and scared. I also said that Mom and I are close, and I want to keep our relationship as mother and daughter close, because the time will come, sooner or later, that she won’t even remember me. Every day is critical. I told him I wouldn’t be calling everyday and that my kids will probably only call once a week because I will fill them in on what is going on with their grandma after I speak with her. He understood my concerns and said he would talk to Renee. He called me back and said she agreed that he could call me once a week to talk to my mom. I said that’s not enough. Then he said twice a week. We selected the days for him to call. The problem was, I would be waiting for the call, and he wouldn’t call. He got busy, or he forgot. I looked forward to those few minutes I could talk to my mom. That system wasn’t working out.
I reminded Renee that she was not being fair to the rest of the family. Why was she allowed all the freedom to be there for Mom while she was adjusting to her new surroundings (when she was the one who put her there) and the rest of us are kept away? She was also allowed to take mom out, whereas the rest of us were not. She said Mom was happy and safe there. I told her, "Of course she's happy when you come to see her and you're dangling your car keys and saying you are going to take her out for ice cream." She just didn’t see it from our perspective.
I flew back to Chicago to visit my mom the week of Mother’s Day. This was only a month after she went to live in the nursing home. All of my kids and grandkids flew in, too. One of my kids actually lives in Chicago, only an hour away from my mom, which is good, because when I go back to visit I have a place to stay. While we were there, we weren’t allowed to take my mom out for a drive or for ice cream. She would see me come into her room and she would immediately say, “Let’s get out of here.” But we couldn’t. Renee wouldn’t allow it.
Those first few visits were tough. I went to visit her five times during that week. My kids were there for the first visit, and that went well. She seems happy when there are a lot of people, because she likes to see everyone. But going there alone is a different story. Mom is at her most revealing self. Almost every visit I would find Mom laying sideways in her bed, with her coat and shoes on. She would wake up immediately and jump out of bed and say, “Let’s get out of here.” But I wasn’t allowed to take her anywhere.
Mom was asking about her car. Apparently they told her that her car was in the parking lot, so we went along with it. She went on and on about her car. My boyfriend was with me and he was able to help calm her about her car. She wanted to go home and she asked who put her there and why. She wanted to know who was paying for it and she said she better not be. She said the longer she sat there the older she gets and she said she didn’t want to die there. She said this is the place where people go to die. She said she worked hard to save her money and she didn’t want it going to the nursing home. She pleaded with me to help her. The last time we walked out, before I flew back home, she followed us to the locked door. I had to shut the door behind me and leave her there. When only moments before that, she said, “When you leave, take me with you. Don’t leave me here.” I went out to the car and cried.
I understand there comes a time when someone may need to go to a nursing home. When there’s no other options available, no one to care for them, when they can’t feed themselves, dress themselves, go to the bathroom, walk, etc. But my mom was not like that. And she had me and another sister who offered to take care of her in her home, or an apartment, or wherever Renee would allow it. She just refused to let us.
Renee had texted me as we arrived in town and she said she wanted all of us to go through Mom’s house because she was putting it up for sale. Nobody was allowed to go into the house except her. She had already been there and gone through everything and packed up and brought home what she wanted to keep, and threw out a lot of things that were of no value to her. I always said that I should have been the one to do it because I am more sentimental and I would have made sure everyone got what they wanted. Nothing would have been disposed of. I offered to come back and do it, but she ignored my offer. She picked a date to go through Mom’s belongings, but it was the day I was flying back home. I told her I couldn’t that day. We texted back and forth and finally she said she can’t drive the three hours to Mom’s house on the days that I was available to do it, which was just about any day except the day I was flying home. She didn’t come up with a workable date, and she just let it go. I didn’t know if my sisters went ahead and went through Mom’s house without me because she didn’t let me know the rest of the week. I thought they all should have made themselves available for when I was in town because I was the only one who didn’t live there, and they knew for a month when I was coming home.
Renee was going to have a Mother’s Day party at a park instead of her house, because Annie said she wouldn’t go if it was at Renee’s house. Annie was also very upset with Renee for how she was handling things. Renee changed her mind and said the party was now at her house, and she didn’t bother to invite Annie. My kids and grandchildren, and two of my sisters went to Renee’s house for Mother’s Day. It was very uncomfortable, as I couldn’t even talk to my sisters. I thought they went through Mom’s house without me. They didn’t communicate with me, and it was a very sad and hurtful time. I wanted all of us to have a meeting, to talk about things and try to come to an understanding and put some of the hurtful feelings to rest, but Renee ended up leaving the party after an hour and a half, to go pick up her daughter. We needed her there for the meeting because she was the one in charge of everything. Another failed attempt at having a family meeting, just like it’s always been.
I found out later that they all went through Mom’s house the day I flew back home. Annie was not notified, so she wasn’t there either. That was another promise Renee made, that she would not go through Mom’s belongings unless all of us girls were there. Lynda also said she would not be a part of such a thing unless we were all there. Well, two of us weren’t there. That hurt pretty bad. They took what they wanted and Renee threw out the rest. Mom’s favorite rocker was put in the trash, her dining room table that I gave her disappeared, and most of the furniture was given away or thrown out. I don’t know what happened to all of mom’s jewelry and personal effects, but I didn’t get any of it.
Four months after Mom was placed, and after another trip up there to visit my mom, I was finally able to successfully change the rule Renee set about having to go through her to talk to our Mom. They changed the rule after a lengthy discussion I had with the manager. I told him it was ridiculous that my mom is not allowed to talk to her grandchildren. I said they are all good kids and she loves all of them. I told him this is hurting everybody. He said he would talk to the team and talk to Renee to see about allowing Mom’s family to call her freely. So, my kids and my other sisters and their families were finally able to call mom whenever they wished, without having to go through Renee.
I got to know the staff and I developed a relationship with them. The manager and I got to know each other through our phone conversations and meetings at the nursing home, and we developed a friendly relationship as well. My boyfriend was able to explain some things that have been going on, from his perspective. They understood the family dynamics that were going on. They felt bad, but they had to follow the rules set by the power of attorney, whether they agreed with them or not. Unfortunately, and I think some of the staff agreed with me, things should have been handled differently.
The manager told me the nursing home staff all like me and they enjoy my visits as well. He said they can see how happy my mom is when I come to visit her and they believe that I am a loving and caring person who only wants what’s best for my mom. They all knew that I still wanted to take care of my mom, and it had nothing to do with them or the care they provided for my Mom. I told them that I appreciate what they do for my mom, it’s just that I felt that Mom should be with her family in her final years of her life. They understood.
On that second visit back, I was able to take my mom out of the nursing home to go for drives and out to lunch. We went shopping a couple of times, and we just sat in the car numerous times, just to be alone to talk. It was nice to have that freedom to do that. Mom often told me she wanted to go home. She confided in me about a lot of things. I told Mom not to worry about anything. I told her everything will be ok. At that time I was still trying to get Renee to let me take care of mom before her house was sold.
I went back to my hometown during this trip back, and I met with my sisters Kathy and Lynda about my wanting to care for Mom before her house gets sold. They told me they were not understanding Renee’s decision to have Mom go to a nursing home when I offered to care for her, and they were on board with me. I told them I need their support because Renee won’t let Mom go if it’s just me that wants to do this. They promised me they would back me up and tell her to let me care for mom. Originally they went along with Renee in what she was doing, but they were finding out that things were not as they thought they would be.
Before I flew back home my sister Kathy met me at my Mom’s house. She had a key and let me go inside mom’s house to look around and see if there was anything I wanted. It was listed for sale and almost everything was gone, so Renee told Kathy she could let me go inside the house. She wouldn’t let me when the house was still intact, with everything still there. She only had a few minutes so we walked quickly from room to room. It was so sad and almost hard to imagine that our family home was gone. To me it was gone already because Mom was no longer living there and all of the things that made it a home were gone. The rooms were bare. The only items left were what was left behind in the closets and kitchen cupboards. The garage had a few boxes and items placed in there, along with Christmas boxes. I took a wrought iron mirror that I bought my mom for Christmas when I was 18 years old, and a wooden wind chime that was still hanging on the back patio. Mom had about five of them, and I wanted to have one to listen to on my own back patio, to remind me of my mom. I wrapped these two items in plastic and I hand carried them on the airplane to make sure they got home safely with me.
I still had hopes that I could come back home and get Mom out of the nursing home. My boyfriend was totally onboard with this idea. Mom likes him a lot and they get along very well with each other. I talked it over with all of my sisters and said that I thought this would be the best thing for Mom. She wants her family, she needs us and we still needed her. I said that we could have a family meal every Sunday, and whoever was able to could come over and be together with Mom. I told my sisters I wouldn’t be asking them to pitch in. I would hire someone to help care for Mom. I had a wonderful plan. I knew it would be hard to carry it out with having to deal with a difficult sister, and the problems we would most likely have. I knew that it could cause a strain on my relationship with my boyfriend. I also knew what it would be like caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. I knew what I was in store for…I cared for Mom for six months. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I love my mom, and I truly felt that this was the best thing for her.