Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mother in Nursing Home

I don't think this is a time for rejoicing, putting your own mom in a strange place although in the same town. And I don't think mother fight it because she realized under the circumstances it is the best way out although not her way. Truthfully, no one likes to go to a nursing home. Some think it is a place to go and die. Others think the children find it a convenient way to solve a touchy family problem. And there may be gossips or misunderstandings.

Mother is approaching 88. Until 2 years ago she could still move about the house. At this age I admire her resilience. Lots of people younger are suffering health problems that only she have now. Apart from immobility, or reduced mobility caused by osteoarthritis, she doesn't have heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease although she is starting to have dementia which is normal for her age. She used to ride her bicycle to church about 2 kilometers away until July 2008 when she injured herself falling from the bicycle one day.

Her right shoulder was injured and massaging failed to give relief. I hope that through self-will mother will be able to regain much of her mobility especially in getting up from bed. Mother moves around using her rattan chair rather than a zimmer frame. The chair follows her into the bathroom and back to the bed, as well as to the patio to sit on her reclining chair to enjoy the passing sights and have her meals.

The year 2008 was like an emotional roller coaster for mother. She realized she was very vulnerable at her age. She has begun to slow down. Earlier she had asked if I can move her bed from the room into the hall. That was around 2005 I think. Since then she never failed to credit me for understanding her growing physical disability as well as for fixing up extra hall lights for her. That's mother.

People gets fearful when they realized they cannot control their lives. My mother was in that mental state and began to look for dependence in others. Living around her are her niece and god daughter who both visit and cook for her. They also run errands and paid house bills, and withdraw cash for her to hold. Mother sees power in cash and until just last year insisted on holding cash to pay bills and caregiver salary, until she began to lose track and started misplacing the cash, then we firmly took back most of the cash but still leave some pocket money for her to hold.

As would all parents, mother wants to see her children as often as they can make time. 2008 was a satisfying year for her. All her children and spouses came home to celebrate her 83rd birthday.

This picture was taken on 14th July 2008. Mother was very happy today. I guess she wanted this to be forever. But noticed that she did not sit upright, a little swayed .. sign of osteoarthritis.

Mother was already considering either an Indonesian maid or local help. She realised she cannot take care of herself.

Mother found her own caregiver. Her terms are stringent. She must be an older person to be able to talk at her level, willing to live in, look after her and be her companion. After father died in 1998 mother had lived alone independently and now she felt less confident of her ability.

The first caregiver Heong bullied mother and wasn't a caring person. Mother got rid of her and found Leng who was a real angel. She sync well and didn't cheat on mother. But some 2 years ago she asked to stop because she couldn't walk properly. Mother and us sadly released her but we kept in touch. Her replacement Ing was the oldest at 80 but like Heong, a bully and a pilferer. Due to mother's greater need to be cared she tried but couldn't find a suitable replacement so she lowered her dignity and patiently bored with Ing. In the meantime we raised other options: live with one of us (no, she doesn't want to leave home), stay in a nursing home (unthinkable, it is a place to prepare to die) or stay together with our auntie (impractical for two disabled oldies to live together without help). We did consider employing a foreign maid but bad experience and reports of maids stealing and running away made us give up the idea as there is no able adult staying in with mother to supervise the maid.

The time Ing worked for mother was filled with loud voices and quarrels. Both were unreasonable and stubborn. But as a caregiver she should carry out her basic work agreed but mother often report she was missing. She even took over a room to stay and refused to accompany mother like Leng would do. Mother missed Leng a lot but couldn't find another like her although she sounded out her needs to her church.

In recent weeks mother began to suffer more pain in her lower back due to disc compression. Taking painkillers didn't provide relief. And she couldn't get off her bed to visit the bathroom. The caregiver excused herself this isn't her job. We accepted her reason in part because of her age but being a healthy and mobile person to refuse helping a helpless person, I see that as gross insensitivity. In mother's mind she had begun to consider sacking the lady.

Over the past weekend when we visited her we convinced her to start wearing adult diapers. Some treat this as an affront to privacy as well as admission to one's state of invalidness. Mother agreed to wear her diapers. After we left we learned the caregiver didn't lift a hand to help mother change. Instead she made mother walk to the bathroom herself. I guess mother decided to rid her there and then. The following day when my god sister brought up the subject of nursing home, mother readily agreed. Inside her heart I felt she died a little but didn't showed it. I guess she knew she may not come home to sleep in her own bed and even die on it. Unlike my dad who died in hospital I think we will assure mother that we will fulfill her desire to die at home when it is time.

Mother was admitted into the nursing home on May 22 afternoon. Feedbacks I got from my god sister, brother and the head nurse there were positive. Mother liked the place. She even said it was better than home. Knowing mother she will lie a little to keep her little secrets. But she had often said this to us. It's ok if you don't come back often to visit but please call back to chat. I think that is really nice of her. As soon as she is settled we will buy her a cell phone so we can stay in touch. And most certainly we will all see her on August 3 to celebrate her 88th birthday. It has been planned since the beginning of the year. We'll discharge mother from the nursing home and bring her back to live in her own house to assure her it will be there for her to stay whenever she wants.


Grace said...

Hi Uncle, been reading your blog on and off.

I find it quite sad that you have siblings but none of you are willing to bring her home to stay with one of you. Since she's not even living in her own home anymore but is staying at a nursing home, then why not let her stay with you.

Sorry if i'm being judgmental here but I've been brought up not to put old folks in the old folks home unless you have very dire circumstances.

But you are already retired, well to do, able-bodied so I just thought it as strange that you will put your mum in a nursing home. I'm sure she won't reject, and possibly very happy, if you were to "force" her to live with you.

Just my two cents..

Peter Yew said...

Hi Grace,
Thanks for sharing. That is why my post started off with 'I don't think is is time for rejoicing ..' What you don't know is my mother doesn't want to leave her home, not to start with any of her children far away, because she wants to be in a familiar surrounding. In fact after staying there for a week now she is happier than before. Her relatives and friends are visiting. The nursing home gave her the safety and environment and the care she need and missed. We tend to misunderstand the role of nursing homes. Under today's living circumstances it is not unkind to stay in a nursing home because within one's own house you cannot provide 24 hours service. It is not the issue of how comfortable I am but rather the wishes of my mother that comes first.


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