But I Promised, “NO NURSING HOME!” By Lori La Bey
This is a common statement by many. Faye one of our readers is struggling with this same question.
I too made the promise of never putting my parents in a nursing home. In the end they both ended up in one. My Father’s move was medically necessary at the end stage of his cancer. He took a tumble down the steps in the senior building they were living at. My Mother, God bless her soul made the decision to move into the nursing home with my Father, knowing she had the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I’ll never forget that day.
It was about a week or two after Dad was admitted to the nursing home and Mom realized he would not be coming home. The plan then was for her to come live with me, with my family. But one morning she came to me very matter of a fact and she said,” Lori, I’ve made a decision. Dad and I have been together 49 1/2 years and I’m not going go to leave him now. I want to move into the nursing home.” After a long family discussion, Mom moved into the nursing home.
Little did I know what a gift this decision would be.
The care and social interaction she received from the nursing home over the years cannot be ignored. Compared to what she would have actually received from me, there was no competition. Not that I would not have taken good care of Mom. I would have.
I know, it sounds like living with family would be the best possible solution right? The truth is, most often it is not. As a loving daughter even with great intentions, in the scheme of things, it often just doesn’t work. The roles we play in life take away from the care we can truly give them. For me it was the roles of, Mother, Wife, Business Owner, Volunteer, Speaker, Caregiver, Daughter, Friend… and the list goes on.
I realized I could not give her what the nursing home had to offer, no matter how good my intentions were. I had to admit it. Someone else could do a better job caring for her than me. That was a huge realization and one that hurt. OUCH! Then add in, I now I had to deal with what others would think of me – That I had abandoned my Mother. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. So long story short, I do understand the frustrations of promising something before you have the facts and the situation that might cause you to consider a different option. Add to that most of our parents have a very negative imagine of a nursing home or assisted living community, and that is why they are so adamant about never having to go to one!
Here’s an example of service and care I never would have thought to try with my Mother at home. I walked into the nursing home to visit my Mother and found her sitting in a half circle with a bunch of her friends. In the middle was Bobbi one of the activities staff. There Bobbi sat holding up a magazine with a beautiful picture full of color. As she held the magazine she asked questions, pulling responses from each resident. It was incredible. They were all so engaged. They were telling stories of what the picture reminded them of. They were yelling out colors and actions of the characters in the picture. Some even started singing as the picture reminded them of a song! Everyone had smiles on the face and beamed with confidence.
I thought to myself, I never would have thought to try to generate a conversation from a magazine photo. Let alone, sit still long enough to try it. Over time it was many small things that made me realize how staff, understand patient needs. How they do things to engage them and build confidence. How they offer peer interaction, which is something difficult for families to do. It was those little things that brought a smile to their faces and a giggle or chuckle slip from their lips. It was about belonging to a group of friends and not being judged. It was a gift to the patients, and something I never would have thought of, because I was not an expert in that area.
I didn’t understand the importance of socialization. How important that piece is to all of us, even those with Alzheimer’s disease. It was about feeling accepted. It was about feeling normal. It is something I so clearly understand now.
For us caregivers, typically one of the hardest things to do is to go back on our word. We don’t give ourselves permission to admit, how much things have changed since we made that statement, or under what circumstances in which the statement was made, or how the options for assistance have changed. We must give ourselves permission to explore the big “new” picture before us, in order to make the best possible decision for our loved ones.