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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Oxygen Of The Soul – Precious Memories 17

                              Freedom is the oxygen of the soul – Moshe Dayan 

In some people’s minds, assisted living and nursing homes are one in the same. However, there is a big difference, and assisted living was a blessing for my mom. Going into this, I really didn’t know much about assisted living.

According to the various statistics I have read, assisted living is the fastest growing long-term care option for seniors. Each family has to decide what is right for their loved one and their situation. Some families are able to keep their loved ones at home, during the progression of the illness.

My mom’s geriatric specialist, recommended that we seek out assisted living, rather than try and keep her at home. My mom had lived alone for many years, and being independent was vital to her mental well-being and her self esteem.

Because there were still things she could do by herself, she just needed a safe environment. She didn’t want to be treated like a baby (her exact words!), or fussed over. She needed to feel as normal as she possibly could, for as long as she could. It was critical that she maintain a sense of dignity and self-worth.

Assisted living was one way to do that, when she could no longer stay in her home alone. She had her privacy, and I had peace of mind. We visited several facilities and she chose the one she liked best. Assisted living allowed my mom to retain as much of her independence as possible, up until the very end. Since she wasn’t able to live alone, this was the next best thing for her. And because she had a “say” in it, she adapted to the change quite well. She still had her freedom, and her dignity. She had her own space, and we moved in most of her own furniture. She had a private bath, and her television. She called it her apartment.

Her “apartment” made her happy, and she had a sense of self-worth, even as her mind declined. We made decisions that were as close to her wishes as we could possibly get. She wanted to be on her own and do her own thing, just like she had always done. She spent about a year and a half in her own “apartment”, before she no longer qualified to stay there.

As her brain began to shut down, she no longer was able to walk. This was a progression. At first, she was unsteady on her feet. Then she started to fall here and there. Thankfully, she never broke a bone! Eventually, she could not stand up, and was in a lot of pain, due to severe osteoarthritis. This landed us a hospital stay, via an ambulance ride. She simply stopped walking.

Because she was such a high fall risk at this point, her care plan had to be changed. She was no longer able to remain in assisted living. We knew that a serious fall, and broken bones could be fatal. We had been fortunate so far, that her falls weren’t serious, but now the situation itself had taken a serious turn.

If she attempted to walk (and she was known to still try!), she could really hurt herself.

Dementia patients may not remember that they can’t walk anymore. And because my mom was so used to being on the go, she still attempted to get up at times, even in a wheelchair. So this presented a challenge. We wanted her to live as comfortable as she could, for as long as she could. The hospital staff told us point blank, they would not release her back to assisted living.

We had to make some tough decisions.

On the advice of her doctors, we agreed to admit her to a long-term skilled care facility that also offered rehab and memory care, specific to her diagnosis. We had a small glimmer of hope that maybe, with physical therapy, she might regain the ability to walk. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Physical therapy however, was quite entertaining for her. She was able to “exercise” and was absolutely giddy when she could use the hand bike. She would laugh and giggle, pedaling as fast as she could with her arms and hands.

She was like a young girl, taking her bicycle out, joyriding. Her arms would “pump” the pedals as fast as she could go, making up for what her legs could not do. That hand bike set her “free” on therapy day.

It made me laugh to see the joy this small piece of equipment brought to her.  It was a bright spot, in a very rocky sorrowful journey.

 *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
A Mother's Heart - Precious Memories 16

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