|Our pastor's wife sent this meme to encourage me the week we sent Mom to nursing home care.|
We have survived nearly two weeks of transitioning my mother to nursing home care.
This has all been more difficult than I anticipated. Mom's room is empty for the first time in 12 years, and the house feels unfamiliar and silent. I have had to be stern against emotions that tell me I have abandoned her; the inaccurate emotion that attacks is that of a mother who has abandoned her needy child. All of this, together with the inevitable challenges of helping Mom's new caregivers to understand her needs, has been overwhelming. I've had to spend more time at the nursing home than I would have predicted would be necessary. If I had not prayed through to peace regarding this decision ahead of time, I would have given way to emotions that told me we had made a terrible mistake.
I compiled a list of directives from myself, to myself during this time as I struggled to think clearly despite regular onslaughts of grief-driven emotion. I've shared the list below, and hope others will be helped:
First Week of Nursing Home Care
--Show up every day, at different times of day. If your loved one's hair is uncombed, comb it; if his/her clothing is mussed, straighten and freshen. If you have been the primary caregiver and have the skills to do so safely, toilet your loved one and check his/her cleanliness.
--Don't apologize for your loved one's behaviors. Acknowledge the caregiving challenges, but don't make it seem as though you endorse shortcuts or omissions in caregiving practices just because your loved one protests or is difficult. As my cousin-the-social-worker said, "Don't put this on your mom, Linda. They are the professionals. She is the one who has sustained brain damage from Alzheimer's. They deal with things like this on a daily basis."
--If you notice some serious lapses in caregiving, don't respond with anger or righteous indignation. The staff is learning to know your loved one's needs and capabilities. Be patient and kind, but also be persistent. Pray, and don't leave until you feel confident the issue has been addressed.
--Make an attempt to learn the names of every person who provides care to your loved one. Visit with the night staff. Make it a point to meet everyone who interacts with your loved one.
--While you are at it, learn the names of residents and greet them warmly as you walk down the hallway or stop by the fellowship room. This takes next to no time and your acknowledgment brightens their days.
--Be open about your grieving process in releasing your loved one to the care of others, but balance this with supportive words and actions toward the nursing home administration and staff (a thank you note and home-baked treats are always appreciated).
--Pray for wisdom about which issues are important. It isn't necessary that my mother's new caregivers comb Mom's hair in the same style that I did, but it is important that they don't ask her to sit upright for long periods because she has a compression fracture in her spine from osteoporosis.
--If your loved one has a personality change, or exhibits behaviors you've not seen before, get to the bottom of the issue. Check to be certain there have been no errors in administration of medication.
--There are two errors to make in advocating for your loved one: the first is to be too willing to give in when you sense something is wrong, the second is to jut your jaw and determine to examine every caregiving procedure to be certain they meet your specifications. Strive for a happy medium. Better yet, pray for wisdom.