Since the last entry we’ve had a great visit from J’s sons, one for the whole week and the other with his wife for two days during that same week – a chance for them to see each other (they live far away from each other and from us), to see how their mother is getting along, and for me to talk directly with them – all rare opportunities. It all worked out very well, and both J and I were heartened by, and so grateful for, the warmth they brought with them.
J was willing to let one son take her to her Respite group and stay to see how it went. And he was willing to do this, as well as spend time with her on his own most days, so I was free for that period. Her other son and wife tackled a really long day’s drive in awful weather in order to be there for an overnight visit. Both sons were taking time from work to do this.
I realize how amazing our families have been – not all people are blessed with family members that make themselves as available as reasonably possible, and are well informed about the dementia, gracious and all-around kind. When things are as awkward and difficult as they are with dementia, the opportunity to be critical or short-tempered is always present. No one has succumbed to that temptation.
On my side, my sisters have worked out a plan to visit for an overnight or two, each once a month or so, in order that we’ll have regular weekly overnight visitors on most Tuesdays, which are the longest days for me without regular activities. It may be that a few months from now we will increase the formal Respite group time, to more days a week, or to a full day instead of a half day – but this is a good solution right now.
And now to the research – it took me about a year and a half of encouragement from people in my support group and my counselor to actually make the appointment with Respite Care and go see it. From there it was a pretty smooth road to bringing J to see the group and actually signing her up.
Taking a lesson from that, I realized it is not too soon to begin to go see for myself, and meet the management of, some of the residential programs in the area. I promised myself that once J was reliably attending some afternoon sessions at Respite I would start to make appointments to visit these programs. The emotional impact of deciding this has been intense. It’s a lot easier to write than to actually do.
So, today I made my first visit, to the program closest to our home – realizing that distance is a big factor at times, being able to easily visit in all kinds of weather. Of course there are many other factors, but you have to start somewhere. I met with the admissions person who was very warm, well informed, relaxed and who made it as easy as possible to have these difficult discussions. I explained I was just starting to research this level of care, and might never need it – we might be able to manage well with home-based care for a long time. But I wanted to take a look and become familiar with all the options, in case it looked like the right step to take at some point. I didn’t want to be starting this research in the teeth of a crisis.
She showed me the physical facility, I met some of the staff, and was very satisfied with what I saw. Good start. The next few weeks I hope to arrange similar meetings at a number of other places in town and in nearby towns. On the way back to the house I realized I was trembling inside, and near tears. Not surprising, and fortunately my sister was at the house while J was at her group, and I could relax and talk about it and just unwind.
Neither J nor I come from the never-put-me-in-a-home perspective, and have talked in the past about how retirement homes and care facilities have their places. J has stories about her grandfather who came to live with them when she was a little girl, but when he went to a boarding home nearby for a respite week, he liked it so much he ended up staying there, to everyone’s eventual relief. Well, I do hold on to this story, in hopes that if we need to proceed with residential care that it will work out somehow.