My mom (89) moved into assisted living (by her choice) a few months ago. It has been really hard. After a few bad falls at her condo, she needed 24/7 care to help her get around. Staying home for almost a year during COVID had a negative affect on her mobility. She used to be able to walk several miles around the lake where she lived. It was hard for her to get to the kitchen alone. She hated moving out of the beautiful condo with a direct view to the lake where she would sit and watch the beautiful sunsets and changing of seasons.
I was the one who orchestrated (with her help) giving things away and storing others; effectively dismantling her life for the move. She was a beauty queen in her 20s and 30s and later a decorated journalist that traveled the world (often taking me with her). Newspaper and magazine articles, photos, and a lifetime of memories locked in things she loved or had loved had to be sent to different corners. I was thankful that we were able to sift through it all together: If I had had to separate the pieces of her life after she had passed, I would be inconsolable and most likely, just put everything into a storage unit until I could deal with it, potentially years later.
It has been hard watching my mom’s health decline - and sometimes, when she gets tired, her memory. I find myself getting really angry and frustrated when I'm around her and I have had to stop and question why am I doing that? What the Hell is wrong with me that I would get angry at my mother - a helpless little old lady?! But I have figured it out: she has been my best friend all of my adult life and I am angry that my energetic, vibrant, active, social buddy has gone somewhere. It is completely stupid and awful, but now that I know why I do what I do and have discussed it with her. The irony of it is that she said she has always understood why I feel the way I do - and she has just been patient with ME.
You just don't know all that happens - or how you will react - when your parents get old. I NEVER let her want for anything. I am there for her 24/7 and she knows it. I bring her flowers every week. I stock her refrigerator and make sure she has enough Ensure and snacks. My sister visits often and got her an electric wheelchair so she can get around the building freely. Mom has almost mastered it (which was difficult because she never has had the coordination enough to drive a car). Her friends visit her weekly and even though she has a hard time talking, they call her often. Mom is also cared for by some incredibly kind and loving care givers where she lives. They make her coffee in the morning and help her get into bed at night (and everything with a push of a button in-between). Some of them call her, “grandmother” and tell her that they love her.
Mom’s brother, my Uncle Doc (also in his 80’s) drove with my cousin to Virginia from their home in Florida just to see her for a day on her birthday. He is in similar shape, although his memory is failing fast. I’m glad that they got to see each other. They both worry about each other constantly. Uncle Doc asked me if she is “terminal.” I answered that we are all terminal in old age.
You always think that you have more time. You think that the dinners out and shopping and going for drives to the mountains will continue. But then, just like that, they’re not able to do it anymore.