Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Family Changes

For those of you who may have tried emailing me these past four weeks, I apologize if my replies were delayed. My plate has been more full than usual. . .and it's usually pretty darn full. Why? My 91 year old mother's health has been sliding more rapidly than before, forcing a lot of changes in her living situation.

I'm writing this post because I sense that a LOT of you have already dealt with the "aging parent" situation or will be in the not-too-distant future. My mom has been living comfortably in an independent living retirement facility for the past ten years. She has a lovely one-bedroom + den condo apartment on the ground level with a patio. The view looking toward Fort Collins toward the east and the foothills to the west is lovely. Over the past five years, I've had to arrange at-home caregivers to come in and assist her in order that she could continue to live in the location she loved. She'd previously sold her home in Charlottesville, VA, scaled down amount of furniture and has been quite comfortable. But after hip surgery in 2007, she began to have trouble remembering to take her meds. So, morning help was necessary.

However, as everyone ages (yes, us too, in the future), there are inevitable changes. Arthritic knees slow down walking so much that a walker was needed. No problem, indie living places allow walkers. My mom started using one after she broke her wrist in 2009. After that I also added an evening caregiver to help her get ready for bed and take evening meds, etc. We were holding steady (with small noticeable decline) until this spring when her physical situation deteriorated again. Pulled back muscles after a doctor visit led to my increasing the caregivers to three times a day to make sure there was enough help to get her to all meals in dining room plus take pain meds for back muscles. Even ibuprofen has to be taken to work. :)

In late June, we saw a further decline. She could no longer get around with her walker, so the caregivers pushed her while she sat. That worked for a couple of weeks, but leg pain had started, so three weeks ago she had to switch to a wheelchair and also a special lifting belt so that the caregivers could lift her from bed to chair, etc. By that time we (caregivers are like family) had all our fingers and toes in the dike. I knew we were only holding off the inevitable time when she'd have to leave the indie facility and move into a facility that offered "full-service care" as I call it. And that time came weekend before last. The lovely & caring director of the caregivers agency called me on a Sunday morning and said that the evening before they had to send out a second caregiver in order to safely move my mom from wheelchair to bed. Both of us recognized the time had finally come.

Last week, I called and then visited the lovely facility, Columbine Care West, that was literally right across the parking lot from her three-story independent living retirement home, the Worthington. They are both part of the larger Columbine Health Services that manage those properties plus an assisted living facility. That definitely made the shift easier. Plus the directors and managers had told me previously how wonderful the staff was at the full service Columbine Care. They don't call it a nursing home but a "convalescent care" facility. They try to make their residents better. So, I went to talk to the director personally and look around. . .and I was pleasantly surprised to see how lovely the setting is with several sunny and shady outside patios and the rooms were nicely arranged, plus there was a ton of staff bustling about everywhere. And the residents were wheeling themselves around, too, I noticed. Good energy, all in all.

So. . .this past weekend, I transferred my mom over to her new single room (which has the same beautiful view of the foothills and Ft. Collins) and got her settled. Hung family photos on the walls, brought over plants in addition to clothes, plus other belongings. Today, I bought a wall mount for her TV so the maintenance guy could fix that, too. Every time I go over, there's someone in her room---nurses, nurse aides, physical therapists, activity managers, you name it. Plus, there's someone to wheel her about to meals and activities whenever she wants it. And, I'm optimistic that the physical therapists may be able to strengthen her legs so she may actually be able to move about a little without the wheelchair. . .after a while.

All in all. . .this has been emotionally and physically draining----for my mom, for me, and for those wonderful extended family caregivers, Caring Solutions, in Fort Collins. Thank you, again.

Are any of you facing these "aging relatives" situations?
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