It's official... my grandmother is moving to an assisted living facility. I put down the non-refundable deposit yesterday. For over a month now, my grandmother has been telling other people that she was going to move into the assisted living facility. But there were two obstacles: 1) there was no room available for which she qualified financially, and 2) every time I mentioned it, she would say, "I'm not a goin'!" She also reminded me lately that... "your momma said I had a home to live in as long as I wanted."
My husband and I tread lightly as others began to tell us that my grandmother was reporting to them that she was moving to the assisted living facility... "as soon as they have a room for me." And on Christmas Eve, she sat down on our hearth beside a cousin who lives in a condo on the same campus... collectively known as Southridge Village... and told him, "I'm ready. I'm just waiting on a room."
I debated whether to phone the administrator and check on the availability of a room. She had told me in late October that she would see what could be done and get back to me, and I had not heard anything. But with the end of the year approaching, my husband and I decided a casual phone inquiry to ask if things had changed might be in order. I didn't want to be the "spark" that lit this fire, but at the same time, I didn't want us to get deeply into the cold, dreary winter months and miss an opportunity for Mam-ma to spend those days in the company of others whom she would enjoy.
I phoned the administrator, and she said that nothing had changed... however, some things were about to change for 2011, and she just happened to be headed to a staff meeting to discuss the new adjustments. She would see what could be done and call me. The next morning, she phoned to say that a room was available. I told her I would bring my grandmother to look it over the next day.
This process is not quick or simple. There is a large amount of paper work to complete... physical evaluations to administer by a nurse and my grandmother's family physician, and more. In total, all of this will take four to six weeks to complete. There was also a non-refundable deposit to the ALF ($500 at this particular facility, depending upon the resident's circumstances and level of admission). And there will be additional monthly expenses... toiletries, personal items such as stamps, stationery, telephone service, candy and cookies, the hairdresser, and other "extras" are not included.
We never dreamed that an ALF would be an option for my grandmother... it seemed too far out of reach financially. So we have done all we could to keep her safe and happy in her own home. But the day has come when she is needing more attention and services - and she is lonely. Home Health nurses, friends and family members can come through her door all day long, but she needs the continual companionship of people her own age, and this is where we think the ALF experience will shine.
We toured the room and the facility, and Mam-ma liked it. I've completed all of the forms, and I've set up appointments for her exams and reviews. We will begin to look at her clothing and personal items and determine what she should take with her... and what needs to be left behind. I've assured her that all she has to do on moving day is get her purse and coat and go... my husband and I will handle the rest - along with my mom.
Already, I've seen a marked difference in my grandmother. I think this decision has weighed on her for months. Once she made up her mind to go, she has been like a new person. (I'm knocking on wood here!) When I picked her up for her beauty shop appointment, she had no complaints. She was forgetful... but pleasant and accommodating. She asked me to purchase a new quilt top for her at Wal-Mart, so that she could make a baby quilt for her church's youth leader... a decision she would never have allowed someone else to make for her in the past. I was concerned that what I chose would not suit her... she declared it "just fine." She told me "I didn't know what to put on the grocery list... I don't know what I want." I reminded her that soon, she won't have to worry about that, and she agreed.
At Southridge, there will be three meals a day, with a "daily special" plus options from a menu. Snacks and coffee/tea, etc., are offered throughout the day. This will be more food than my little grandmother can ever hope to eat. And she has a mini-fridge in her room, so she can keep Ensure and Cokes (and her Three Musketeers and Chips Ahoy cookies) for midnight cravings and extra sustenance. She can take her bird feeder... the maintenance person will keep it filled if she provides the seed. She can take her sewing machine and place it in the activities/crafts room. She can take her gardening tools and help in the spring/summer with a common garden. Newspapers are provided - both the daily state paper and the semi-weekly local editions. Each room comes with Directv... more channels than she presently gets at home with her extended cable package. She has her own heat/AC unit, which thrills her... the room can be as hot or cold as she desires!
Beyond that, for my peace of mind, she will have medical and CNA attention... as much as needed. There will be help with bathing, daily administration of her medications, and an alert button she carries with her at all times. There are safety measures in place should there be a power failure or other emergency. No more worrying that she is out in a rain storm trying to tell the neighbors her power is out... or dashing to her storm cellar. No more concern about her slipping on an icy driveway as she walks to her mailbox - or that she will be trying to shovel snow and ice from said driveway "so people can get to me." No more concern over her falling or having a heat stroke while watering her summer flowers and garden - the maintenance staff will water them for her!
There will be no more concern about Mam-ma's cooking. And once these papers are completed, there will be fewer forms to complete over the year. For the first time in years, I will be able to enjoy my grandmother rather than manage her care.
On Christmas Eve, my grandmother seemed so frail and confused... restless and miserable. I looked at her and thought... "we may not have her with us next year." After we toured Southridge, I asked my husband how much longer he supposed we will have Mam-ma. He replied, "I'd give her about another eight years." And truly, if she does as well as we think she will at Southridge, she very well might make it to 106! But even if she only lives another few weeks or months, I know this is the right decision... and I think she does, too.
As we begin a new year, change is on the horizon. Mam-ma told the administrator, "This is the biggest change I've ever made in my life." I thought about her changes... losing her home of nearly 30 years to a fire, becoming a widow, losing her only grandson, son, and a long-term companion within the course of 2 years just a little over a decade ago, moving from her farm to a house in town, and more... all big changes. But she knows that this change is probably more significant. She realizes that admitting you can no longer live alone in your own home is a big step... and one that has a myriad of ramifications.
I have no doubt that this will not go as smoothly as I would like... there will be dark days and hard times as we near the move-in day. But everyone who knows my Mam-ma will tell you, she is one tough bird... and she will rise to the occasion. I'll let you know how it goes!