My Blog

April 24, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Retirement Homes

I just posted a blog I wrote two years ago about the legacy that my then 96-year-old mother has left us. And now, at 98, she is back with me again. The two years have made a such a huge difference. I know many of you out there have gone through the same thing. You know!

As my beautiful and caring sister-in-law Cindy warned me, (Mom stayed with her last year), my mother is now feeble and forgetful. She can no longer care for herself. She knows it but refuses to admit it. Her husband has taken care of her for the last few months but now he has sent her to me.

I came home from an over-night trip to Dallas hoping she had taken care of her needs. I arrived just in time. In the microwave I found a plastic container of her beloved spaghetti propped inside a metal bowl. Fortunately, she had forgotten how to turn on the microwave. However, the oven was on. That she had not forgotten. She was preparing to move the plastic container and its metal bowl into the oven. “Just for a minute,” she said. “Just to warm it.”

Later that evening, I handed her the TV remote. She had laboriously drawn out the design of the remote and asked me to show her how to turn it on. For the last few years, either Cindy or her husband Al (now in Virginia for their annual summer separation), has turned on the TV for her.

We went through the On/Off and the numbers with the four channels that she might want to watch, in particular, her favorite, Pat Sajack and Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune. Then after supper I told her to turn on the TV and find channel 11. She stared at the remote insisting that there were no numbers on the remote. She could not remember.

Cindy is right. It’s time for the nursing home.

What is it about retirement homes that is so terrifying to the elderly? When Mom first got here last week, my sister and I talked to her about going to a retirement community. She can’t afford it but the four of us siblings can chip in and get her into the beautiful #CarriageInn here in Huntsville, Tx.

Her instant reaction was negative. She didn’t want to go. “You can all do horrible things to me now,” she said. We cajoled, persuaded, begged, insisted. Nothing. “Trust me,” she said. “Let me try for a week,” she said. She wanted to prove she could take care of herself.

I went to church Sunday and was gone for most of the day. When I got home she had not eaten, perhaps fearful of the sign I had propped on the microwave that said “NO METAL.” There was plenty of food in the refrigerator. Sandwich-making materials, containers of fruit, crackers, bowls of beans and more of her beloved spaghetti. Untouched.

Mom was sitting in the cold (she couldn’t remember how to turn the thermostat from cool to heat) staring at the silent TV. It was on but she had forgotten how to turn up the sound. I fed her a bowl of stew with rye bread and offered to show her again how to turn on the TV.  She shook her head. “I love you,” she said. And I responded, “Love you, too.” Perhaps she no longer believes that.

And perhaps I should be a better daughter and not leave her alone at all. Cancel all my trips. Stay home and take care of her. Guilt gnaws at me. But I have committed to numerous presentations around the state. So, it’s me or her.

I am giving a presentation at Carriage Inn on Tuesday. Mom is going with me. And we are going to put down a $1500 deposit for a room. Horrible things or not, she—and I—need help.


Elderly Mothers
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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