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Friday, July 16, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

New Jersey was enduring a record heat wave when we packed up for our annual road trip to Florida to see hubby’s parents. We did not know what to expect this year. Hubby had flown down a few times by himself this past year to help his parents. His father had broken his hip last September and needed constant nursing care. By February, hubby had arranged for his parents to move into an assisted living facility. His mother resisted the idea of leaving her house, but hubby insisted and she grudgingly went. Once his parents were both safely installed in their new apartment, we assumed life would be easier.

However, Mom was not happy. While she admitted that the food provided at the facility was good, that was the only thing she seemed to appreciate. With every phone call, she reminded us to get out our black suits. If hubby called the head nurse to ask about his parents, his mother became very angry with us for going behind her back.

Still, we knew the staff handled many tasks that had become difficult for Mom. They bathed Dad and gave him his medicine, they made doctor’s appointments and, of course, transportation to the doctor was provided.

The facility also provides many excursions along with entertainment programs, but Mom told us she did not participate in those. She and Dad ate in the dining room, but spent the rest of the day in their room watching television.

When we told Mom we would be staying for a week, she was angry. She thought we would be staying for three weeks. When we told her we would be staying at a nearby hotel, which had a pool and wi-fi, she was angry. “What do you think this is, a vacation?”

She expected us to stay in her old house. But there isn’t any wi-fi there—or television. Besides, the hotel was closer to the assisted care facility where Mom and Dad are now.

We were relieved when we arrived and saw Mom and Dad looking good, well-fed, clean and well-dressed. Though Dad can barely hear, his vision isn’t good, and he’s not really attentive most of the time—there are those moments when he is much like he’s always been—a big tease.:^)

Hubby talked with the head nurse. I drove Mom to the mall so she could buy new shoes.

Hubby discovered that his father is simply very aged. I found out that Mom still has plenty of energy but she frequently contradicts herself.

Our biggest mistake was to agree to take Mom to the house. She wanted us to look it over and see if it is in need of a new paint job before it is put on the market.

Also, we were supposed to be the cleaning crew.

Okay. No problem.


I expected emotion. Mom cried. I got choked up, too. After all, we brought our daughters down every summer and we had some good times in that house.

But then Mom opened the door to air out the house. In Florida--in July--airing out the house means letting in all the humidity and heat. I vacuumed all the rugs as sweat ran down my face. Hubby helped Mom clean all the mirrors.

Hubby and I do not think the house needs to be repainted. However, when hubby turned the water on, I heard the toilet running. The valve needed to be replaced.

Meanwhile, Mom’s emotions went from tears to anger. She wants to move back into her house.

No amount of logic could do anything to change her mind. When we returned to the apartment, I offered to hang up some of the paintings that had been taken from the house. Hubby said he had left a small hammer and picture hooks in a drawer in the apartment. Mom claimed one of the staff had stolen the hammer and hooks.

Hubby and I searched the apartment. I found the hammer and hooks in a cardboard box in the closet.

Mom exploded. She did not want the pictures hung on the walls. She was not staying in the apartment. She was moving back home!

Hubby and I left the apartment. We went to a Mexican restaurant and had very large Margaritas.

We decided not to take Mom to the house again. We stopped at Home Depot and bought the toilet valve replacement. Hubby put it in while I cleaned up some disgusting moldy gunk on the floor in the old family room. Yuck.

The next day, we ate in the dining room with Mom and Dad. I tried to suggest that Mom should go on some of the excursions offered by the facility. She said she won’t because then the staff will find out how bad Dad is and they’ll put it in his report and soon he’ll be locked away in Memory Lane and she’ll never see him again.

Again, logic did not help the matter. She only got more worked up.

We decided to take Mom and Dad on an excursion to the beach. That turned out to be a good idea. For a few hours, all was calm, but when we said we were taking them back to the apartment, Mom got angry again. She wanted us to spend every minute of the day with her.

The next day, we took them to another beach. Again, all was pleasant for a while. Dad and Mom sang songs together and I captured those precious moments with my camera.

Then we took them back to the apartment in time for their dinner. Again, Mom was angry, but we promised to be back immediately after dinner.

Hubby had retrieved his old accordion from the house. He brought music along and so as everyone in the dining hall was finishing their supper, we provided an impromptu concert.

The residents loved it. I sang, hubby played. We kept it up for over and hour. Mom was all smiles as all the residents learned that the musician was her son.

The concert ended. We went upstairs to Mom and Dad’s apartment. We thought we could leave the accordion there so that it would be available for the next time we visit.

Mom complained. “What am I going to do with it when I move back to the house?”


Again, hubby reiterated that it would be nice so that the next time he visits he could play for everyone.

“Do you think we’ll be here next time you visit?” Mom asked.

Hubby picked up the accordion. We gave Mom and Dad a hug, said goodbye and left quickly.

It was difficult to endure Mom’s anger directly solely at us.

Otherwise, from all we could see, she is very sweet to the staff and to the other residents. In fact, the women that sit at the table in the dining room with Mom and Dad for every meal told me how much they enjoy all the stories Mom tells.

And Mom does go on at least one excursion on a regular basis. Every two weeks, the facility provides a bus trip to the library less than half a block from Mom’s old home. She hops on the bus and visits her house every two weeks.

For years, we’ve asked Mom and Dad to move near us. They’ve always refused.

I don’t expect the gloom and doom phone calls to change, but we do know Mom and Dad are in good hands.

Hubby plans to fly down for Mom and Dad’s 70th Wedding Anniversary. They are so fortunate.

But don’t try telling that to Mom.


Unknown said...

She might be angry because she is not happy being put in the facility and she probably thinks that if she keeps getting angry, the two of you will be forced to put her back in her home. She seems to love her house very much. Thankfully, my mother was nothing like that while she was in a Charlotte retirement community. She met a good friend there and seems to be enjoying the company of other retirees.

It's very comforting to know that there are active adult communities, Charlotte, NC area, where our aging parents can enjoy and meet new friends rather than stay at home and be alone.

I admire you for your huge patience. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Beautifull!!! you look lovely
I'm in the middle of a travel in Argentina, and I'm waiting for the next fly, from Salta to BA. I've been waiting for 5 hours!! tired of waiting, so.. thanks for entertaining me with your blog