How one daughter found peace with moving her mom.
How one daughter found peace with moving her mom into assisted living.
Since starting Elite Senior Solutions in 2012, I’ve helped so many families that have touched my heart. It’s always a difficult decision to move a loved one into assisted living and it can sometimes be accompanied by guilt, grief and even resentment.
I want to share the story about Sandy and her mom with you. It really touched me and I brought to mind how many families are going through similar experiences.
Sandy and Ida lived in Dallas for most of their lives. Ida was a very independent woman in her mid seventies and was still living in the home that she had shared with her husband for over 30 years.
Sandy, Ida’s daughter, lived about 20 minutes away and would go over weekly to check in and make sure everything was okay. This worked for quite a while. Until Sandy started to notice that mom was forgetting to take her medicine and since she was on Coumadin that was kind of alarming.
She also started to notice that the food in the refrigerator wasn’t being eaten and was going bad, which made her wonder if mom was getting adequate nutrition and hydration, so she started checking in more frequently. One afternoon, Sandy stopped by after work and found her mom on the floor in the living room. She had fallen and had been laying there for hours, and sadly, her emergency pendent was in her room on the dresser. Sandy called 911 and got mom taken to the hospital, and thankfully, Ida hadn’t broken anything this time – but this was a huge wake up call for the family that meant she couldn’t go back home without help.
After lots of heart wrenching deliberation, Sandy decided that it was best if her mom moved in with her family, and Ida reluctantly agreed. Sandy prepared a room for her mom and took some time off work to help get her get settled in.
Sandy’s brother, David, lived in California and was a very busy father who worked a lot, and supported his 2 young kids and his wife who had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He wanted to be supportive, and would call weekly – and even came to visit for a few days once – but he was so far away that Sandy felt very alone most of the time.
Her family situation wasn’t easy either at that time – she had a husband and two kids in high school and college that she was still caring for. Although she and her mother were close, tensions started to rise. After about a year of Ida living with them, it all came to a boil.
She and her husband were arguing constantly. Financially they were strapped, as she had stopped working, because mom need more help than she initially realized, and hiring someone would be more than they could afford. They were paying for college for their own, household expenses and trying to save for retirement. She was worried that their marriage was in trouble.
Her kids were no picnic either, we all know even in the best of situations, teenagers are challenging. To top it off, Sandy and her mom didn’t see eye to eye on how to raise her kids, and there were constant arguments about clothing choices, curfews and how Sandy should be raising them.
Needless to say, Sandy was worn out, tired and felt pulled in a million directions. She felt like she was trying to be there for everyone and failing miserably. She would often cry in the shower (if she actually got to take one) or at night between waking up every 2-3 hours because mom needed help or was wandering around the house. Sandy was at her breaking point, and something had to change.
She called me, and we started going over everything that was going on and what would be the ideal outcome for everyone. After a lot of thought and talking it over with her family, she decided it was time to move her mom into assisted living.
Ida’s budget wasn’t large. She had social security, an IRA and some savings, but nothing huge. Her husband had been a veteran during war time and she qualified for the spousal VA Aid and Attendance benefit which gave her access to some extra funding. Even though Sandy and her family were tight on funds themselves, they realized they would have to pitch in a little, and she got her brother to help supplement some, as well.
Ida wasn’t an extravagant woman and she felt more comfortable in a nice, clean, simple setting verses an upscale elegant setting. That just wasn’t her style or her personality. She had lived a modest life with nice home. When I think of Ida, I imagine that she is a kindred spirit with Marie Barone (from Everybody Love Raymond). A woman who loves her family deeply and would do anything for them, but can also be overly involved and not know when to take a step back.
After a few visits to various assisted living communities, Sandy felt confident that she knew which assisted living her mom would thrive in – the one that she felt had the right atmosphere, the right feel. So she arranged for her mom to have lunch and a visit there. Ida was resistant at first and didn’t want to have anything to do with it, but after some coaxing, Mom finally got into the car and they were off.
When they arrived at the assisted living they were greeted by the woman that works at the front desk, as well as, the resident greeters (the unofficial title of the sweet ladies that love to sit in the front room and get to know every visitor). The sweet resident greeters also went along with Ida on their tour and told her all about what’s going on at their community. After the tour ended, they all sat down for lunch and Ida said it was “some of the best food I’ve had in long time, since I have to eat Sandy’s food, it always seems to taste the same.”
Ida felt very comfortable and decided that she wanted to move there as soon as she could. She made the comment “It’s time for me to get on with my own life and stop worrying about you (Sandy) so much” which Sandy thought was hilarious. It took a little readjusting and time, but Ida fit in perfectly and soon was named a resident greeter, too.
It took Sandy a long time to come to grips with her decision. She was overwhelmed with the guilt of not being a “good daughter” and questioning if she had done the right thing. She had that feeling of grief that she was losing her mom and the agonizing pain of watching it happen so slowly. At the same time, she had a slight feeling of resentment, feeling that her mom had caused so much stress and difficultly in her family, needing Sandy to be there for her 24 hours a day. Then, she would feel guilty about feeling the resentment in the first place – it was an ongoing spiral.
Over the first several weeks she visited her mom almost daily. In that time she realized that she had made the right decision and this was best for everyone. Ida had her life back. She was social, she had friends again. Friends that she could laugh with, chat with and take her daily walk with. She looked forward to Sandy’s visits and would catch her up on everything that was going at the community. Ida was eating again and was no longer under weight. Plus, she was getting the right dose of medication on time, every day.
The best part of this story and the real beauty of it? Sandy told me that she felt like she had her mom and her life back. The life was back in her mom’s eyes, they argued less and spent time together as mother and daughter should. She was the daughter who laughed with and loved her mom instead of the worn out, exhausted, grumpy, guilt ridden caregiver she had become. Let me know if I can help you regain your role as daughter, son, husband or wife…you and your loved ones deserve it.
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