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August 4, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Keeping it Personal in Assisted Living

“You really should have someone else doing all the daily care,” one of my mother’s table mates suggested yesterday. “Nursing homes have people who can care for your mother all the time. You shouldn’t have to come for every meal.”

She is right, of course. A nursing home does provide daily care and often very good care, better than I can give as I found out, much to my surprise. Several of the other residents ratted Mom out. It turns out that when I get her to the dining room she sometimes doesn’t stay to eat. As soon as I leave to go walk the dogs, like a naughty child, she calls for her walker and books it back to her room.

The staff are well trained and would be with her to make sure she eats. Or perhaps they would. There are often far more patients than there are caregivers. I don’t know how insistent they are with someone like my Mom. She just opens one eye then rolls back over and goes back to sleep. As I well know, she can be pretty darn stubborn.

There is insurance for this end-of-life care. A dear friend and her husband had paid for that insurance for years. What they had not known at the time was the difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living. They found out that the Assisted Living insurance they had paid for didn’t kick in until one or both of the couple had met five criteria. If I remember correctly, the list included not being able to dress, wash, eat, take medication and move around. My problem is that Mom can still technically do all of those things.

Mom should, however, be in “Assisted Living.” We had a fire drill and the staff did their best to hurry us out of the building. According to the rules, to live in the Independent Living section, Mom must be able to get out of the building on her own in 10 minutes. Never happening.

Mom was sound asleep. When the staff came knocking on her door, it took me several minutes to get her up. Thank goodness, the staff had come by to alert us before the horrible, noisy screeching alarm went off. If that thing had gone off while Mom was asleep, I have no idea what she would have done.

She didn’t want to roust out of her warm bed. Fortunately, I had already dressed her for breakfast and she was sleeping in her clothes. I had to get her shoes on her feet. That took an additional several minutes since her feet are swollen and her ankle still painful. Finally, I got her up and walking down the long hall toward the exit. We made it within the ten-minute margin but just barely.

Being stubborn is just part of her character. I suspect that staff who work with the elderly are used to that. I remember years and years ago, when I was attending the University of Miami, I worked as a Nurse’s Aide at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital to put myself through school.

Those old codgers could con me into doing just about anything. When one insisted he wanted some vegetable, I think it was something weird like broccoli or brussel sprouts, I tried to get it for him. The older nurses just shook their heads and laughed. “He’ll forget about it in five minutes,” they said. And they were right but I was naïve enough to try.

I have to remember that Mom is very much like those old codgers. She will con me into thinking she’s staying in the dining room to eat. Or that she has taken her pills. Or that she is watching TV when I leave her in her chair.  A wise staff person would know better.

But I can learn. And the other residents will let me know when she misbehaves. So she will stay in the Independent Living and I will be the Assisted Living staff.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!

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