Life brings changes, and my mother’s dementia challenges were not the only one we faced. In addition to that responsibility, and our respective professions, my husband and I had other obligations, too. The current living and care arrangement was not working well, and our other work and responsibilities also needed attention. After a lot of thinking, we realized that we needed to move into an arrangement that was more amenable to care for my mother as well as for our other roles.
Now for a person with dementia, any disruption is traumatic, yet my mother had to be part of the relocation. But by this time, I was more sensitive to her concerns, and every day I’d spend an hour describing how we would make sure the relocation was comfortable in the new home, surrounded by people she knew and liked. What I told her every day was repetitive, but she’d listen to it as if hearing it the first time, and ask the same questions. I understood how difficult this was for her, and I found it easy to be gentle and patient and friendly.
We spent a lot of time planning the move. The new place would have adjacent apartments where we would be using one unit set up specifically for effective care, and live in the other. And we would minimize any sense of disorientation the move involved. We took with us every object that my mother needed to feel comfortable. Her sofa. Her favorite crockery. Her table-lamp. Her curtains. We coordinated the move so that she would have a familiar environment as soon as we reached the new apartment. Disruption had to be minimized.
The new place also had some plus points from her perspective. My mother has always wanted space and privacy, and not liked people watching her. In the apartment we prepared for her, she could sit undisturbed in one room while the attendant could move to the other room (but remain alert to sounds) when my mother wanted to be alone.
Most important, the new apartment contained all she needed, and nothing more. There was nothing in the apartment that could be stolen. So my mother didn’t need to worry about any theft. Even if she accused the attendant of theft, there was not much of a problem, because everyone knew the apartment had no objects that could be stolen. No cash. No jewelry. No curios or gadgets. Only a TV, a gas stove, a washing machine and a fridge. Beds, sofas. None of these could be stolen. My mother’s clothes were there, of course, but nothing precious. The attendant had no reason to get tense even if my mother accused her of theft. And, just as important, my mother was not tense that things could get stolen. I’d told her (and I kept reminding her) that the money and everything was safely in lockers. I’d even kept her watch in a locker, I told her. I installed a whole bunch of big, readable clocks on every wall.
It was, in a way, the best possible setting for her, and the move made it possible.
Being in a new apartment complex had another big plus point: my mother no longer had to live up to the image of an intelligent, well-informed woman, except for a few people. Most neighbors did not know her, and accepted her as an old lady who rested most of the day. For most casual interactions, this reduced the pressure on my mother.
With my focus now more clearly on caregiving, I also equipped myself better for supporting the care.
Unfortunately, things did not go smoothly for the initial years after the move, partly because of attendants who just would not understand dementia, and because some frequent visitors refused to understand my mother’s problems and limitations and said hurtful things.My mother is happy and stable now, but it took many more adjustments to reach where we are today.
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