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?


kissablysweet1 said...

I empathize and sympathize with your Mom and yourself. We went through similar situations with my mother. It started about 5 yrs ago after my step father passed away.

Mom was afraid to stay alone, even though she was capable. Then she found a rental home in the neighborhood where she and my father lived over 47 yrs ago. She felt safe there and with my sisters living a stones throw away, it was doable. Next came the emergency alert system (the one they wear around their neck) then oxygen tanks, more medications.

Last year my mother passed away just the way she wanted. At home, no fuss, and no one around. It seems odd that she's been gone a year. I always thought she'd be around well into her 90's. She was 71.

Please know you have "friends" here who are willing to listen and help in any way we can without intrusion. May God hold you both in his arms and protect you.

Sue said...

Getting old is never fun for either the elderly or the people who love them. It's hard knowing that sooner or later we will have to say that final goodbye. Sounds like your mom has had a wonderful life and still has much more to go. My F-I-L is 86 and just lost his wife about a month ago. He refuses to move out of his house. Thankfully he has wonderful neighbors and family who check in on him. He still mows the 1/2 acre of lawn and takes care of himself. His main problem other than age is his eye sight is going. He knows the lay out of the house so he can get around just fine. I know if we were ever to move him from there, he would give up and be gone. Be sure to take care of yourself while you continue to take care of your mom. Know also that if you ever need to yell, scream, or cry, there are ears and shoulders here on which you can do just that. God bless

sosarahsew said...

Your story is so similar to mine but substitute the setting to Rapid City. I have the care decisions for my mother-in-law since my husband, her only child, passed away a year ago - and I live in Illinois. I got home Friday evening from visiting her for her 88th birthday and then Sunday she went to the ER. After numerous tests and an overnight stay, she is back at her assisted living room, so I may not have to book a flight immediately. With my parents gone for several years now and my sons college and older, I am thankful I have the flexibility to make numerous trips to see her. And like you, I am comforted that there are wonderful caregivers. Sarah

Kate Collins said...

I empathize, Maggie. Hang in there, girl. I'm sending you good energy.

~ Babs ~ said...

Oh Maggie I feel for you. I dread the day as I am an only child and with no siblings to help I know it will be tough. This is one reason why I like living across the street from my parents. My dad is 68 and is slowing down I have noticed the past 2 weeks and my mom is 63 she has had a lot of issues from her diabetes to broken hip and falling a few times here lately. The sad part was she was diagnosed with Dementia she has her good days and bad days and it's hard as I miss my mom time. These are the times I wish I did have a sister or brother.

Aurian said...

I emphatize with you Maggie. I hope your mother will get better a little bit again, enough to enjoy life. My own parents are fairly young at the moment, so I hope not to face the same situation in the near future.

Liz said...

I do remember how difficult this time in my parents and mother-in-law's lives was but, as you are finding out, there are so many people to help. And many who will keep you in their prayers.

Vickie said...


Diana James said...

You are such a tough lady, Maggie. Sending hugs and prayers your way.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Sounds like you've had your hands full, Maggie. My mom is 92 and lives in Illinois, still in her own apartment. I tried to get her to move to Colorado a few years ago, but it didn't work out. Now my brother is doing all the care giving and chauffeuring, even shopping and cooking for Mom. I still worry, and go visit twice a year, but I do wish she was here.

ev said...

Although my dad has been gone 6 years, mom is 72 and still going strong, working full time and living in the family home. She has health problems but nothing to keep her down for long.

I see it more in my next door neighbor who I am a care giver for. He's 89, now in an independent facility, although I am not sure how much longer that will last. His daughter lives in WV and he has no desire to move there- his wife is buried here. So I do his meds and drs appts and take him shopping and out. When it was time for him to move from his home to where he is now, I'm the one who told him he couldn't stay alone anymore (after a fall, with one of those alert buttons that didn't work). He's lost most of his sight and really, I didn't want him cooking!

On my other side is my 91 year old neighbor who is still going and going. She drives her friends around because they can't drive anymore. I wanna be here when I grow up.

I see it in my husband who is 26 years older than I and although he is still working full time (I told him if he hung around the house all the time, I'd kill him) I really need to limit his driving. He scares me. Could just be me though!

So yes, we are all seeing it. And I hate it. People we love are supposed to be around forever.

I'm so glad you found a place that treats your mom with the respect she deserves.

Care givers are such an under-appreciated group of people sometimes. And they have one of the hardest, but most rewarding jobs, going.

Maggie Sefton said...

kissablesweet1---Thank you for your caring comments. I am hoping my mom will be with us for a few more years. Now that she's there in the midst of lots of people and activity, plus lots of help. I've heard that lots of elderly start to improve once they're in the midst of other people. More stimulation.

Maggie Sefton said...

Sue---Thank you. I hope your dad continues to do well alone. My mom didn't start to show a slowdown until 86. Not bad. :)

sosarahsew----Good for you, visiting frequently. That's harder, out of state. Hope your m-i-l continues to do well.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thanks, Kate. You're a sweetie.

babs---Take care of yourself, girl. Thanks for your good wishes.

Aurian---My mom is lucky, plus very healthy. None of the big three diseases or cancer. None of that. She's just slowing down because of age. But she didn't even start to slow down till 86. Not bad.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thanks, Liz & Vickie.

Diana---Thanks so much, my dear. You don't know how muh I appreciate it.

Maggie Sefton said...

Patricia----Thank goodness your brother is close by. She may not have liked moving to Colorado. My mom adjusted really well when she came here at 81 yrs. Plus she was still very active in all the activities at the independent living.

ev---Bless you, for being the caregiver for your elderly neighbor. It does sound, though, that he should be in a facility that can oversee his care all the time.

Yes, I'm with you. Your other neighbor is what I plan to be. I'm far to busy to slow down. Too many novels left to write.

And---I have to say----you should listen to your instinct about your husband's driving. Something is giving you a warning. Take care.

Jody said...

I was so lucky with my mother. She was able to live in her home, 4 hours from where I live. She stayed active with church and local organizations. She had caring neighbors who would drive her places: church, senior center, library, doctor when she could not. She was still driving legally (test with examiner on a yearly basis) at age 90 with macular degeneration. She was allowed to drive in her small town daylight hours only. She lived to celebrate her 90th birthday and died in her home, still independent, 6 weeks later.
On the other hand, we have my mother-in-law. She's only 81, but in far worse shape than my mother was. She refuses to move back into the assisted living place she stayed after a nasty fall broke her back. She won't listen to the doctor & walks up and down her stairs (she has everything she needs on the main floor). We just pray that she eventually agrees to move. In the meantime, two grandchildren drive her for shopping and doctor's appointments and clean the house for her.
We're an hour away from her so we're not instantly available. At least my husband is retired and able to go if he is needed.

ev said...

I'm hoping Maggie that his daughter sees the need soon too. She is here this week and he ended up in the hospital overnight. Unfortunately, I can't shove it down her throat. They are going to have to see the need, or the facility he is in is going to have to step in and tell them that he is no longer safe there alone.

It's hard.