Saturday, August 24, 2013

Never Mind

There's nothing funny about this last week. In fact, there were many moments of heart-wrenching grief and anxiety. Now that it is over, though, the first thing that comes to mind is ... never mind.

If you watched Saturday Night Live in the late 70's, you would have seen the skits with Gilda Radner playing Emily Litella, going on and on about some melaproprism (I got that word from Wikipedia) until someone pointed out her error. My favorites were her diatribes on "violins on television," and "endangered feces." When she was corrected, she would turn to the camera and say, very meekly, "Never mind."

So, remember all that stuff I talked about in the last post? Never mind.

You see, we couldn't do it.

From the very first minutes of admitting Mima to the nursing home (let's call it what it really is), it felt wrong.

Her room was not ready. The only item of furniture was the hospital bed. The light in the bathroom did not work, and the door handle had to be turned a specific way to open, or it would feel as if you were locked in the bathroom.

All of the little things that would have made a difference in keeping her anxiety levels to a minimum were missing. None of the nurses or aids spoke Spanish, did not even attempt an "Hola!"

The first thing they wanted her to do was strip for a body check (and they sent a male nurse to do it). I insisted they find a female nurse, and asked for her to be introduced to a Spanish-speaking staff person. The nurse they sent was very kind, and abashed at the condition of the room. The staff person they found spent two minutes in the room and when she realized we did not need a translator (we just wanted someone to make Mima feel welcome) she asked to get back to her station.

Call us naïve, but somehow we thought there would be a smoother, softer admission process. We were not prepared for the fact that in this kind of facility Mima would be treated more like a patient than a resident.

We stayed through lunch, and were able to seat Mima with the only other Spanish-speaking resident, a very nice gentleman recovering from a stroke. Mima perked up and we decided we could leave for a couple of hours to go pick up more items from home, to make her room more welcoming. Also for a sanity break.

When we called to see how she was doing, they said she was crying in her room. One of the nurses did walk her around a bit when they found her crying, but she was now back in the room.

We came back as soon as we could, and prettied up the room. Dinner was not as pleasant as lunch. Our nice gentleman was nowhere to be found, and Mima was already anxious and sad.

Thanks to a not-so-happy coincidence, some dear friends stopped by. The husband's mother had fallen and was being checked for injuries (she was OK, thank God). Our friends suggested I spend the night to get a feel for the place, and to give Mima some comfort. They moved a recliner from his mom's room, and stayed with Mima while I went home to gather some clothes to sleep in. They also brought me down from my high-level anxiety. They have had very good experiences with the facility, but their parents are English speakers, and until the father's death two months ago they had each other.

The night was awful. No one prepared us for the 3-day admission process which involves assessment of the individual's physical condition. That meant the door opening and light turned on at 2:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 6:00, for various blood-lettings and blood-pressure checks. Once again, all in English, and although no one was mean there was little attempt at communication with Mima. This assessment was done even though Mima's primary care physician had examined her the week before and sent in all the required reports.

I did not sleep. I cried. I imagined what it would be like for Mima to be here all day, every day, with only the visits of friends and family to break the communication wall. We knew the language would be an issue, but it did not become REAL until I put myself in her place, and saw how limited the facility was in being able to bridge the gap. By morning I knew we could not leave her there.

I felt very foolish, even embarrassed at first. I should have known they could not provide the kind of care she needs. I should have researched more facilities. I should have ...

Now that we are home and she is happy, I don't care. I had to bring my mommy home.

I've learned a lot from the experience, and in spite of how painful it was I was reminded of something very important. I love this woman very much, and she is incredibly precious to me. Some days I fail to treat her that way; I look at her as a burden. Those 24 hours at the nursing home reminded me that being able to care for her is a blessing.

Mima at her 75th Birthday Party

Your prayers and God's love saw us through this terrible day. Please continue to pray that we can find the right balance for our family. We will look more purposely into home-based care for Mima so that I can get on with my work, and so that we can have more flexibility for travel and respite.

So, never mind. God's got something else in store for us.

Monday, August 19, 2013


This post has been a long time in the making!

The past few months have gone by so quickly, it's hard to believe my last post was in April. Since then I've been to a couple of quilt retreats (yay), celebrated 29 years of marriage to the greatest guy ever (more yay!) and started thinking about long-term placement for Mima (not so yay).

Mima has been living with us since October of 2010. The first few months were really rough. We had to adapt to the new living arrangements while coping with the loss of loved ones (my brother and a dear friend) who both died much too young and much too quickly.

Things did go more smoothly in the second year. The biggest challenges came when my husband and I wanted to travel. Since we have no family living nearby, they had to fly in from Florida or Pennsylvania to care for Mima while we were away. Lots of scheduling details and dealing with the confusion that any change in routine causes for those with dementia. It got more difficult as Mima began forgetting family members.

By the end of 2012 I was pretty exhausted from juggling Mima's care, trying to build up a home business (since I gave up a full-time job to be home with Mima), and nurturing my personal relationships (hubby, kids, friends). We considered placing Mima in a care center at that point, but she was still so alert and the places I looked at were quite depressing - I kept putting it off. Then, out of the blue, one of my nieces called to ask if she could come stay with us. It would be an opportunity for her to do some body-and-spirit healing, and to help out with Mima. A perfect solution! We agreed to try it for six months and re-evaluate at that point.

My niece has been a godsend in many ways; now she too needs to move on with her life. She began a full-time job last week, so it's back to me being on Mima-duty for most of the day. While Mima is still in really good physical shape, her confusion is growing daily. We have made the difficult decision to place her in a center where she will be cared for 24 hours a day, and where there are plenty of activities to keep her engaged. We found a place where the residents are alert, the staff friendly and caring, the facilities clean and homey.

Move-in day is this Thursday, and I've been experiencing a myriad of emotions, ranging from dread of the transition and what anxiety it will cause Mima, to giddiness thinking about being FREE (and guilt for that last one). I will still be her caregiver; we plan to visit most days, and we will be taking her to church on Sundays. We have several friends who will also visit her, and I pray she will quickly feel at home in her new surroundings.

If any of you have suggestions on how to make this transition as smooth as possible for Mima (and us!) please let me know.

In the next couple of weeks I will post photos of quilts that Mima and I created as joint ventures. I found ways to take her not-so-well-pieced blocks and turn them into pretty quilts.

In the meantime, here are a couple of photos of Mima from mother's day. Both my sisters were able to come for a visit. As you can see, she's still got attitude. :-)