Mama April 7, 2015
Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

We had a family discussion last night. The upshot was that the time has come to consider putting Mama in a nursing home.

That’s what the family members I love told me. Their verdict was simple: You will kill yourself, taking care of her.

I, being Ms Reasonable, let them talk me down. I insisted on a delay, but agreed that, by the end of summer, I would find a place for her.

Then, last night, I sat up and googled nursing homes. I read the laws that I helped write, perused the regs that came from them. I plowed through the patient responses and the details of the inspections of these places.

There is a good place just around the corner from my house. It specializes in caring for people with dementia. It has a great patient-staff ratio. There are only four patients in each unit and a staff of 8 to care for them. The people there are happy.

And I could go get her and take her out every day. We could bring her home for dinner and keep her as part of the family.

I would put her there in a heartbeat. She would be happy there, and that’s what matters.

But it costs over $80,000 a year, out of pocket. My pocket.

Mama’s grandfather lived to be 101. Her family is full of people who lived into their high nineties. I may have her for a long while yet. I don’t have the money to put her in this good place where she would be happy. I just can’t do it.

The Church runs a nursing home that everyone, including the residents, says is a good place. But it is, pardon my language, to hell and gone from where I live. I couldn’t go get her and take her out every day. Or, if I did — which I would — it would involve driving almost 40 miles each way, right across the heart of the most densely populated area in the state. A daily visit would take half a day. Every day.

There is no other place that I can afford that I would consider for my mama.

So, I decided I would call and get her a place in the Catholic nursing home and spend the rest of her life — which I hope is long — driving for half a day, every day.

Then, even as I made this decision, I undecided it. I thought of her fearful reaction, her heartbreak at being put in a strange environment. I thought of how far away from me this place is. I thought of her, of who she is.

And I undecided to make that call.

“If it kills me, taking care of her, then I guess it will kill me,” I said aloud to the empty room. Then I prayed and handed the whole thing over to God and went to bed.

My husband went to early mass Sunday. I stayed home with Mama. He came back with a big bag of donuts. She loves donuts.

She was eating what I think was her third of fourth donut while I sat at the table with her, listening to her prattle.

“Are you any relation to me?” she asked, and took another bite.

“I’m your daughter,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, and reached for another donut.

Her daughter. That’s what I am.

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24 responses to “Mama”

  1. Good for you, Rebecca. I went through this with 2 parents and completely alone, as I have never been married. I had no relatives nearer than 2000 miles and zero help. It can be done, and at least you are not alone – you do have family with you. I decided that long ago when Mom was in and out of rehab due to several fractures. The people in the homes tried, but they are woefully underpaid and overworked. They simply do not have the time to care for each patient, especially one that is unable to able to feed themselves or articulate their needs. Dad (when he was alive) and I spent hours of each day with Mom in the nursing facility until she was released. I realized rather quickly that unless a patient has someone who is actively involved in their care, being there at unpredictable times to see what is really going on and getting to personally know the staff, care can be haphazard at best. Dad was in respite care at one place (which was later sued when a patient died) and unable to eat by himself. I was there daily and constantly telling them that he needed to be fed and kept by the nursing station instead of lying in his dirty diapers. Most days, I was the one feeding him as they had one aide caring for 20 patients. Some respite care. Needless to say, I complained to everyone – hospice and others – about his care for that one week. The sad truth is that good care is simply not there, as many boomers will find out, unless one has tons of money. And if they do have money, they would still be better off at home with a livein caregiver. God bless you and help you. It’s hard, but I have never regretted it. They both died with me being there and telling them I loved them until the end. Something that would never have happened if they weren’t at home.

  2. Have you considered having someone come to care for her at home part of the day? It is the model of elder care preferred by the advocates I know.

    • I’ve looked into it, and the cost is prohibitive. I am going to try selling some property to raise money for this, but that’s easier said than done.

  3. Someday in the not to far future, I will be facing that decision. There are many places here too, with fine reputations but just as you said–very expensive. It is truly sad that in order to find a memory care facility that actually can take good care of the person you love as they should be cared for, that the cost is prohibitive. Will be thinking about you. Wish I could help. BTW, how are you feeling? Is the cold gone finally? I hope so.

    • I’m feeling better, but I can’t seem to get fully well. I’m guessing that lack of sleep plays a part in that. You’re in my prayers, mi amiga.

      • “You’re in my prayers, mi amiga”. Thank you, Rebecca. I appreciate that. I suspect that the lack of sleep is at least part of the culprit that is keeping you from full recovery. Positive thoughts heading your way.

  4. You are an honorable, and honoring, daughter.
    Get some more sleep, yes. 🙂
    In-home respite, or day-centers, either part or full day; weekly or a few days a week?
    Would the relatives involved contribute financially?

    • No. I’ve got the only operating pocket book. My sons help enormously. One of their girlfriends has also volunteered to Mama-sit for me. Bless them.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear this latest news about your much-loved Mom. What a beautiful attitude you have about it! I wondered if you’ve thought about moving close to the affordable place? It would be absolutely terrific to be able to be there for her every day!!! I know it would be very hard to move, but in the end, maybe easier all things considered? Anyway…many, many prayers for you and the other caregivers out there. God will help you find a way!

  6. ADAPT is a handicapper organization that supports in home care. You might want to contact them to see what kind of in home care at a reasonable cost they would suggest.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll check and see if they have an organization here. That’s why I’m trying to sell some property; to raise money to hire help for me.

  7. Been there. My Dad died a couple years ago at home surrounded by family. Then things happened to Mom…. She’d always wanted to stay at the house they’d lived in and raised a family in, but even with hired caregivers coming in to provide company and help, – and their reports to us showed she wasn’t REALLY capable of being on her own anymore – eventually she realized it was too big for her, and that she’d be better off in an assisted living place Fortunately for everyone’s pocketbook they’d bought the house in what was at the time an affordable place which is now highly desirable. So when we sold the house we got enough to cover the expense. Not everyone lucks out.

    I mostly want to say that not everyone really is better off staying where they are. She felt more comfortable and happier in the small, manageable one room apartment than she did in the huge house where Dad wasn’t alive anymore.

    Then she had a stroke and went to the memory care part, where they take good care of her. FWIW, my two cents.

    Whatever way it’s hard, and we were lucky she realized on her own what she needed. I’m including you in my prayers.

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