Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving and moving on

This summer my family was told by several doctors, in many specialties, that my mom would never recover from her hospital-caused mistaken over-drugging that led to psychosis and dementia. They said she might improve but she'd never be back to how she started, the day she was taken to the emergency room. They expected little cognitive and only partial physical rehabilitation. I'm quite happy to say they were full of shit.

These days my mom is living in a dementia oriented assisted living facility. When she was initially discharged from hospital #3 and delivered to her room she was confused, weak, slightly agitated. She spent most of her time the next couple of weeks in her own room; she had had enough of the 24 hour sitters watching her every move. When she did go into the common areas she didn't engage with the other inmates residents and in fact was frightened and creeped out by many of their behaviors (understandably). She had difficulty transitioning from sitting to standing and was assisted with many day-to-day tasks. After constant adjustment of her medications, physical therapy and time she is almost the same as she was back in June.

Almost, not quite. In some ways she's physically stronger than she was then. If she's not tired she moves well with a walker (and is actually willing to use it most of the time), she can walk stairs easier than she did, her endurance has increased. Her memory of the time when she "was someone else" is thankfully blank. When she tries to remember things from then we try to dissuade her since it was such an ugly time. Her short-term memory has suffered and her long-term memory isn't quite as sharp, but she's still improving so that may change.

All that means it's time for her to move on. When we placed her in the facility we were told something to the effect of when you move in, you don't ever move out. People don't recover from dementia, they just get worse. But when the dementia is in large part created by chemicals it can be reversed. My mom wants to get out of the "nuthouse" and away from the "crazy people." And we agree that she needs surroundings that are more stimulating and more open.

Now we're looking for a new home. She can't live on her own, she needs help with medications and meals and cleaning, and really needs someone to periodically check on her to make sure she is ok. She's willing to give up her independence to a point, but still wants to be able to come and go at her own whim. That's fine, but she can't drive again and that will be limiting (although she still has hopes that she'll improve enough that we'll return her car keys) (which won't happen). The type of place we want is an assisted living facility that also has transitional areas for nursing care and dementia care. Those places are few and far between.

My bro and I took my mom to see one such place yesterday. We had dinner in their very nicely appointed dining room (tablecloths and linen napkins and wait-staff included!), toured the spacious building, common spaces and activity rooms, watched some of the residents as they interacted and then looked at the personal rooms. They were small.

My mom moved last year from a very large crowded home, with a 1000 square foot living room, to her current 2 bedroom smaller unit. Now she's looking at something under 600 square feet total and she's freaking out. She has so much "stuff" that it'll never fit into something so small and she loves all her "stuff." Yes, her "stuff" is mostly incredible; antiques, rarities, collectibles, folk-art from around the world. But it's just "stuff." Until she's willing to part with some of it, she won't be able to move. Until we find a place that fits all of the family's criteria, and all of hers, she remains with the people she's fondly calling "crazy." Hopefully she'll get enough of crazy that she'll adjust her hopes and we can find an affordable, lovely, comfortable, stimulating and safe place that is acceptable to us all.

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