Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cautiously optimistic (and relieved)

In our last episode, we were barreling at full speed down the Road to Assisted Living, hoping a Jersey barrier wouldn't suddenly pop into view. So I swung by Target Thursday evening, bagged some undies for G. and arranged to take Friday off to help Ben and his mom make The Transition. On Friday morning, G. kept muttering that she was sure she would hate the place, but we kept reassuring her it was just a trial visit and she could leave if she didn't like it, all the while of course hoping that she WOULD like it, or else simply forget about the "trial" part and accept her new living situation at some point. And so we arrived in the rain and sat down to lunch with the co-directors, both of whom were incredibly competent, understanding and just plain nice.

The tricky part started when the directors took Ben to the office to fill out several reams of paperwork, leaving me and G. to hang out in the small private dining room where we'd eaten. The room was adjacent to the main dining area, though G. was seated facing away from the door during lunch, but afterwards she was able to look out and scope out the other residents. We were also introduced to a woman who was a retired college professor. She was finishing her lunch and responded quite adequately to questions, though she wasn't exactly full of piss and vinegar, and the other woman at the table looked pretty out of it, to be frank. Some of the others were walking with canes or walkers, although since it's a facility catering only to memory-impaired folks, no one is bedridden, wheelchair-bound or unable to take care of their basic needs. But needless to say, their relative frailty didn't make a great impression on G., and as we strolled back to the original dining room, she said matter-of-factly to me several times, "I am not staying here." Her preference was "aging in place," which of course was no longer an option since all the 911 business began.

Ben and the directors returned and G. said again that she wasn't staying, eventually becoming tearful ("I don't want to stay here!"). The directors did sort of a "good cop, bad cop" thing but she wasn't buying. At one point she stood up and walked out, and one director simply said, "I'll walk with you." But for some reason, G. stopped at the door to the private dining room, came back and sat down. The other director called Ben away "to ask him a question" (i.e., get him out of the room) while the other director saved the day by bringing in a male resident who immediately charmed the pants off G. He was a big poetry fan and quite chatty and charismatic as well as being pretty spry. In fact, I couldn't immediately figure out why he was a resident, though a director later told me he was "in and out" and had done some 911 dialing of his own at one time. Anyway, he was "in" that afternoon, and engaged G. in conversation while I too was called out to answer a fictitious question. And that was it. Ben and I basically left from the office. But first, I went to the local pharmacy and filled a Trazadone prescription for G. to "take the edge off" if she became agitated. They snuck it into a peanut butter cracker with Ben's blessing before we left.

Ben was a nervous wreck all weekend, worrying about his mother and what she would say to him when they spoke again. The director called him several times with updates and G. seems to be doing OK, actually, though she packed her bag on Saturday morning to leave. But some combination of the staff's skill and G.'s memory loss averted any sort of showdown. When Ben talked to her Sunday afternoon, she was actually laughing, though she still expected to leave "in a few days and I really want to see you and the girls." However, we're realizing that "in a few days" can mean almost anything when said by a woman who, in the next breath, reproached Ben for not visiting her even though she had been there for two weeks. Ben tried to correct her by saying it had been less than two days, but she replied in her best mother-knows-best voice, "No, Benjamin, it has been two weeks." So I guess the next hurdle is an in-person visit.

Meanwhile, G's friends and extended family are shocked at the suddenness of the move to varying degrees, understandably, even though everyone agreed that this needed to happen. One neighbor was sorry she hadn't had the chance to say goodbye to G., though of course if there HAD been any kind of farewell scene implying G. knew she wouldn't be coming back, she never would have gone. But it was indeed sudden. When the person is unwilling to move, I guess there isn't any other way. There has to be a precipitating event like wandering, a car accident... or calling 911 repeatedly and risking getting yourself committed to the care of Adult Protective Services. So there she is, admitted to assisted living just four days after her crazy-calling, with one suitcase of clothes. Ben had to scramble afterwards to forward the mail, stop the paper delivery, etc. He's taking one day at a time and trying not to think of making the move permanent by getting more of her stuff to her, cleaning out and eventually selling her house, etc.

In a strange coincidence, I have to go to England and deal with my own mother's effects in two weeks. She died in 2002 and her second husband stayed in their house with most of her stuff, but now he plans to sell the house and move closer to his new ladyfriend, so the time has come for me and my brother to go to her house and figure out what to ship to the U.S. and what to sell. Then we're supposed to move into our new house a couple of weeks after I get back on May 20. Sheesh, what a ride.

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