A special person I know is moving her mom into care in the next month. What a frightening journey that can be! She wrote to me, asking for advice. This was my reply:
I was so pleased to hear you and your family had made the difficult decision to find a place for your mom to live, and that it sounds like a great place is available to you. That’s such a major decision, but I want to assure you, it’s the right one in so many ways. For your mom, she will get the social aspect of life that it’s just not possible to give her at home. Amazingly, she will make new friends and enjoy activities. You will be blown away by the way she blossoms socially. For you and the rest of your family (but especially you), you will be able to enjoy time with her without being exhausted by the care aspects.
So here are a few things that might help:
- try to come up with two, one-page documents. It will be tempting to make them longer, but stick to one page, as that is what people will read. The first should be your mother’s routines. When does she like to get up in the morning? What does she like to wear? How does she like her coffee (or tea.) etc. All those little things, that if someone knew, it would make life and the transition easier for her. I don’t know how the staffing works where you are going, but there will be someone who is going to put together a care plan for your mother. It may be a nurse. I would give a copy to them. I would also give a copy to the full-time PSW for days and one to the full-time PSW for evenings. For the most part, these are the people who will be caring for her, and they will probably appreciate knowing these things. It makes their job easier.
- The second document (one sheet again) should be who your mother is. Her simple pleasures (what makes her eyes light up?) and some of her personal history. Interesting facts that, if someone was talking to her, they could mention these things and she would remember and participate in the conversation. We try to come up with fascinating things that someone caring for her would read and comment on. (You met Pierre Trudeau? You golfed into your 90s? Wow, you travelled a lot of places! What was France like?) Put this one sheet into a frame and put it in a conspicuous place in her room. Maybe have a brightly coloured title like WHO AM I? or something like that. The idea is that people caring for her will get to know who she is as a person and talk to her about her experiences.
- Photo albums are also good. Of course, you and others can go through them and remember things, but people caring for her can as well, and there may be things she can tell them. Even if she doesn’t remember names or even what they are about, it’s always fun to look at pictures.
- Setting the room up, you should bring her favourite things. The chair she likes to sit in, pictures for the wall that are familiar to her, and whatever else will make this seem like home. One mistake people make is trying to cram too much in a small room. Especially if there’s a wheelchair involved, space is an issue. No rugs (tripping hazard) and maybe two chairs—one for her to sit in, and one for whoever is visiting. If it is labelled, you can probably have her favourite afghan or comforter for her bed, and a few other things. Definitely her basket of knitting
- Make sure they put her with people she can talk with in the dining room. Your mom is social, and she’ll be there every day, so this is important.
Now, for you:
- Emotionally, you might be surprised by how hard it is to let go. You have been a full-time caregiver, and no one is going to do things exactly like you, or care as much as you. You might experience some separation anxiety. Even though this is what you wanted, it will be hard to see someone else care for your mom. What you want is to see your mom connect with the people who care for her. But when she does, it might also be hard. Knowing this ahead of time will be helpful.
- Get to know her full time and part time PSWs (so, 4 people) and the full and part time nurses (2 people.) Try to connect with them and let them know you appreciate them. Sincere appreciation goes a long way. That way, if there is a problem or issue you need to bring to them, you have trust and relationship as “money in the bank.”
- From my perspective, we have two kinds of family members. Well, no, maybe three, but the third doesn’t apply to you at all. The third is the absent one, and thankfully, we don’t have many of those. The other two are “the families from hell” and the ones we all love. The families from hell question every single thing that is done, take a huge amount of time discussing the same issues over and over again, and stress about everything. I have been known to duck into a bathroom when I see one of them coming! We would never let it affect their family member’s care, but it makes life unnecessarily difficult for the rest of us. The ones we all love work WITH us to provide the best of care, and we feel that we are part of a team, rather than trying to paddle against waves of disapproval all the time.
- Also get to know whoever is in charge of activities. I have worked in that department, too, for many years, and believe me, they will be delighted to know your mom and know what she would enjoy participating in. Ask for a monthly calendar, and you can either time your visits so you can be there to take her to things she would enjoy or ask them to take her when you aren’t able to. Families who participate in activities with their loved one are so great and make everything more fun.
- Get to know other families, as well. I’ve seen wonderful friendships develop between family members.
That’s all I can think of for now but talk to me anytime about anything.