The statement of getting old is not for sissies was never more apparent to my in-laws as it was this week. Also true as demonstrated by this past week is that no matter the age, children prefer to remain in that role no matter how old the parent becomes.
Two weeks ago, my father in law (FIL) became quite sick and was hospitalized. His wife, my MIL, has dementia. None of this is a new situation. He has a bad heart and kidneys and is 95 and she has been progressively getting worse.
My MIL should have been put into a facility to help care for her years ago. If nothing else, daycare would have benefitted everyone. What I mean by this is that she would have received the medical help and personal maintenance that my FIL could no longer support her with. She did not have a shower in almost three weeks. She smelled, the apartment smelled and her clothes were stinky as she did not want to change her outfit either. For my MIL, it was a sense of control in a world where nothing else made much sense. My FIL was too overwhelmed and too guilty to do anything. A few years back, my BIL had set up something and my SIL squashed it as it was too much money.
They were extremely active up until the last decade. My FIL still wanted to be, but having to take my MIL anywhere was a nightmare. They sat and watched TV. Their inactivity was the worst thing for either of them, and my FIL had a pressure ulcer from sitting. The lack of stimulation and movement exacerbated my MIL’s condition.
On Friday, my MIL was admitted to a memory care unit. My BIL and SIL had a very difficult time of leaving her there, but I think for two different reasons. My BIL was heartbroken that his parents were going to end up separated and that she was in a “home.” My SIL was upset about the money which is substantial. My husband was relieved and thrilled because he understood the ramifications and possibilities.
She is in a program called Eden Alternative http://www.edenalt.org/. The facility is a circle of houses or cottages. Each one supports about ten residents and they all become a family of sorts. In the center of the facility is a large open outdoor area where residents can garden, play outdoor games, eat and just chat. There are other recreational facilities also. The residents are free to do whatever they want and are also guided to activities that are appropriate. There is also a beauty salon on site. They are free to go and do, except out of the facility, which is good as my MIL wandered every night. As I write this, it sounds like jail. But where they lived before was actually hell.
Dr. Al Power, who is one of the founding members of this program, once spoke at my work. He is amazing. He brought a gentleman with him who if you did not know him personally, you would not think anything about him. But he has dementia. One of the guiding principles of Eden Alternative is that all people change. The gentleman spoke about how he had this young man visit him every Sunday and brought a photo book with him. He showed him pictures of people and would nod and say yes about the stories he was told of each person in the photos. The visitor was his son and they were photos of his family. When asked if he really know who they were he said no. But, he said, it made the young man visiting him so happy he went along with it.
My MIL had changed so drastically and no one in the family got it. I did, and met her where she was. She was always happy to see me and “talk.” I have little history with her. Her kids could not accept that the mother they knew was not here anymore and everyone would get frustrated. She would talk about her children and how they were never there or lived somewhere else and they would be sitting right there. She never asked about her husband when he went into the hospital. She is in a different world and they wanted her back.
Yesterday my husband got a text and photo from the lady who is in charge at Cottage Grove. It was his mother. She looks ten years younger. Her hair had been washed and styled. When she was younger, she went to the hair dresser every week. She was in a colorful top she has not worn in a long time. He face was bright and she was smiling from ear to ear. The note said she was doing extremely well, sleeping through the night and participating in activities.
Once my FIL is up and better, he will be moving in with my BIL in their house. It was the original plan many years ago except that MIL was going to be in a facility five minutes from him and they could be together as much as possible. That is no longer feasible and we have my cheap ass SIL to thank for that. On top of her incredibly hording of the money left in her charge as Power of Attorney, she refused to stay with her mother in the last weeks. That responsibility was left to the boys, who could not help with personal things. She stated she could not stand to be around her. I find that so unacceptable but the boys put up with it. I am sure she saw a mirror every time she saw her mother. I think she also resented that her care was going to eat up her future hopes of a retirement plan in the way of an inheritance. Because of her delaying the process years ago, the cost of care for MIL is much more costly and the ability for my FIL to spend his last months with his wife is going to be difficult. Hopefully, my BIL will wrangle the advanced directives out of her hands.
I am thrilled for my MIL who has a future different than others had wanted for her, but has the possibilities of a good outcome. My FIL will be taken care of in his last year of his life surrounded by my BIL’s family, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is only an hour away from us and we will come up as invited. MY BIL owns his own business, is semi-retired and his wife adores him. He will be well taken care of.