Navigating the Caregiver’s Journey: Long Term Care Offers a Valuable Viewpoint
When my parents relocated from Memphis to Kansas City to be closer to me, they packed decades worth of clothes, souvenirs, books, and furniture. The process of helping them move overwhelmed me and I fervently wished they’d had fewer possessions. But three years later, I yearned for those stacks of boxes; my mother’s possessions had dwindled considerably since she’d progressed deeper into Alzheimer’s. Now she needed additional care and was moving from assisted living to a memory care facility.
That blustery September day, as my dad and I helped transfer my mom to her new home, Mom had only a suitcase full of clothes and toiletries.
Taking the First Steps
Once at the home, the administrator welcomed us but her cordial greeting couldn’t dispel the chill I felt. I had worried about moving Mom into this brand new facility, but the home was close to my dad, who was already having some trouble driving.
“Where is…?” my mother asked, tugging on her sweater. “What are…”
“We’re fine, Frannie,” my father said.
My stomach clenched as we walked into the shiny new unit. After we’d taken a few steps, a woman in a white nursing uniform hurried towards us.
“Frances, how lovely to see you. And you too Paul. You must be Deborah.” The woman, Pam, was the nurse in charge. Dad had met her earlier and had told me how nice she was.
“I’m so glad you’re all here,” Pam said. She turned to Mom and said, “Paul told me you were a nurse during World War II.”
“She was,” Dad said proudly. “She served in Iceland and England.”
”That was very courageous of you,” Pam said. She linked her arm through Mom’s and she and Mom strolled down the hallway together. “You must have had many adventures.”
Mom looked blank and then smiled. “We skied to hot springs.”
Some fragments of Mom’s WWII stories were still intact and Pam listened encouragingly as Mom shared phrases from the same story several more times. They settled at a table in the cozy dining room and Pam served us all coffee and cookies. She seemed relaxed and welcoming; she was getting to know a new friend.
Embracing a New Viewpoint
When I listened to my mom’s stories, I usually wrote down every word, worried I might not hear them again; I felt I was losing an old friend. But Pam wasn’t worried when Mom repeated herself or misplaced letters. She didn’t panic when Mom started a sentence and couldn’t retrieve her thought. Pam just wanted to get to know Mom. Through her actions, Pam silently invited me to appreciate my mother just as she was.
As I hung up my mother’s meager collection of clothes in her new closet, I was grateful for her pared-down possessions. Mom had let go of many material reminders of the past, just as I was letting go of the woman my mother used to be and embracing the woman she was. ##
Deborah Shouse: Bringing Words to Life
Deborah Shouse is a writer, speaker, editor and creativity catalyst.
This November, Central Recovery Press is going to publish an updated edition of her book Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. Originally, Deborah self-published and used the book as a catalyst to raise more than $80,000 for Alzheimer’s programs and research. She will continue donate a portion of her proceeds to Alzheimer’s.
Deborah and her partner Ron Zoglin have performed her writings for audiences in the United States, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, Puerto Rico, England, Ireland, Chile, Costa Rica, Italy, Turkey and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To learn more about Deborah’s work, visit her blog DeborahShouseWrites
Or follow her on Twitter: DeborahShouse@Twitter