Our feisty Lady Renee, 96 now and counting, has made another big move. Not a move she designed, of course, since the time has long past when she could just move the furniture around at will every time she got restless, or move from Twin Falls to Hailey Idaho, and from there to Seattle, despite her retired husband’s protestations, and before landing in Mount Saint Vincent with him four months prior to his death — years in Seattle during which they moved four more times, each move a bit more realistic (from one town to another (to avoid freeway driving), from three stories to one (preparing for old age), then from to retirement condo in community with other retirees, you know the drill! — whew, until that day when she rose up out of her dementia to announce to sister Kristin at Mount Saint Vincent, where she had been living in a tiny studio apartment after Dad died for a full year, “My life is crazy. This life is crazy. I want to go live with a family that loves me.”
Hold that thought, “a family that loves me,” for it figures twice in the following tale. . .
Okay, right then and there, a way forward was found. Sister Kris, after consulting with sister Paula, who had expressed interest in having Mom live with her and her husband David in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, announced to the rest of us that if it’s okay with us, Mom was going to go to Baton Rouge! What? I was shocked. So sudden. And so far from six of her eight kids who have settled in the northwest.
But no. That was the plan, and Mom had agreed. The plan was carried out via a harrowing series of flights, with sister Kristin and brother John on each arm, all way from Seattle, where she was greeted inside the Baton Rouge airport by Paula and escorted to her new home.
Four months later, Mom moved again, this time with Paula and David to their long planned new home, in Covington, Louisiana, helped by sisters Marnie and Kristin who flew down to help ease that transition.
I’ve been there twice so far, and posted here. See for example, “Lady Renee” and “Louisiana” posts collected on Family Chronicles page, which also includes lots of posts about life at Mount St. Vincent, Dad’s dying process, and so on.
So that was one year and four months ago, during which Paula, with David’s help and concern, has cared for Mom 24/7, and earned her siblings undying gratitude and astonishment.
Now for the next stage in this ongoing, seemingly miraculous, or at least exceedingly fortunate, and it appears, neverending journey.
Exactly one week ago today, Paula sent this very descriptive email to her sibs. I excerpt with her permission:
When Rachel was still living at home, she had a running gag that if I behaved myself, she would put me in a group home rather than a nursing home when I was old and feeble. That is why, since Mom lost her mobility, and is now wheel chair bound, that getting her to the tub via the wheel chair into her small bathroom to bathe was nigh to impossible, and transferring her from wheel chair to lounge chair, wheel chair to potty, wheel chair to bed and wheel chair to car (which we had been able to do in the past) was always perilous…not knowing each time just how much oomph she had to stand and swivel.
This evening, in fact, at bedtime, I had made three transfers successfully with her from recliner to wheel chair to head to the bathroom, and then again from wheel chair to potty, potty back to wheel chair, but the fourth transfer from wheel chair to her bed was a bust…she ended up collapsing again on her knees, and if Dave hadn’t been home, I would have had to call the 911 number for a lift assist again, as I did a few days ago when he was out of town, and her legs gave out in the middle of the transfer to her recliner, ending up in a heap on the carpet. It has just gotten to be too much for me. I cannot lift 150 lbs of dead weight up from the floor. We have been considering what to do for a few days, and both came to the consensus that we are no longer able to give her the care that she needs. She deserves better.
Our Hospice nurse had mentioned a group home where she has attended a patient, called “Joanne’s Golden Girls” She said all the staff of hospice who have visited the home would love to end up there one day. In fact, Dr. Graves, Mom’s Hospice Doctor, has actually requested she be admitted there when the time is right(!) So, even though it is a half hour from home, we decided today to give it a look see. It is located in the country on the outskirts of the town of Pearl River.
We drove up to an impressive two story brick home, (Colonial with rockers on the front porch.) As we parked on the side in the parking lot, I noticed the back yard was filled with children’s play equipment. I immediately thought, :Hey, that’s a plus if she can be around children. Nanette, the Owner, greeted us at the front door. Joanne is her Mother, who was in charge before her, and who followed in the steps of the Grandmother…the Home has been in operation for over 40 years….needless to say, they have the experience and a good reputation. She doesn’t advertise, word of mouth brings women to her home. (Just like we had found her).
A tour of the home revealed a bedroom wing with four bedrooms, both a private and a double were available for the same price – all hospital type beds with rails…just like the one we had gotten from Hospice for Mom a few days ago. The bath was built especially to code for a group home….very spacious, for wheelchairs. A huge shower room with a special shower chair in the middle…where you could wheel someone right in and transfer them to the special chair. The residents all are bathed, one at a time, every morning, their hair washed, and styled by Nanette, who is a pretty middle aged woman with a warm smile and joyful attitude. She can accommodate up to 8 women, but at present, there are three. Mom will make it four. The home has an open kitchen, great room with fireplace and leather seating, a sunroom with more seating and a view of the backyard patio and playground area. She ushered us into another room, where the three residents were all in recliners enjoying an afternoon quiet time with Nanette’s one year old grandchild and the baby’s mother, who also works there,(Nanette’s) daughter, keeping them company. The room has a fireplace that turns on with a switch…simulated…but with or without heat option…depending on the season. Dave and I simultaneously thought: Mom will love this little bit of toddler sunshine and the fireplace! . (The other grandchild is age four, but we didn’t meet her.)
We returned to the living room, where we sat with Nanette as she explained the routine…she is a short order cook for the women, whatever they want, usually, for Breakfast…so I gave her mom’s preference for Raisin toast and smashed Avocado with a sprinkle of Lemon Pepper, coffee, biscotti, fruit, and TWO PIECES OF BACON! She also wrote down other dishes that were Mom;s favorites…salads with Ranch dressing, homemade Tacos, Turkey Gumbo, Ministroni soup, egg salad on crackers, Red Grapes, cantaloupe, Watermelon, applesauce….because, by now, Dave and I were both convinced this was oh so much better being in a family setting, than in a nursing home. They have a physical therapist come weekly for activities to keep them moving, a juke box with big band sounds, Communion every other Wednesday brought by a local priest, and special events like Red Hat luncheons, to which families are invited, etc. I honestly couldn’t find one negative thing about the place, and Dave and I truly felt like this was the solution to our dilemma. A Nurse is on call 24/7, they have monitors in every bedroom and living area, and have worked with Cannon Hospice, Mom’s Hospice …which would continue coming there to see her.
I asked about Mom’s toenails…Nanette takes care of that on a regular basis as well. Visiting hours are between 1 and 5 every day of the week. She also said she believes the dying process is a spiritual event, and would have no problem with us if we wanted to keep vigil beyond visiting hours.
There is more that I could tell you, but I feel that when you come to visit Mom, you will agree with us, that this truly is a wonderful place, and that it would come to feel like home to her….with a few ladies for friendship and fellowship, and a really caring staff….all family members…Nanette’s husband is also on board for heavy lifting if needed and brings treats and surprises for them every afternoon…Oh, Nanette also said, if one resident gets a card in the mail, she makes sure the others get one that day as well….(she personally writes them) Just a little thing…but so thoughtful.
The big move was Sunday, after Mass and lunch out. Of course everybody was worried. Would she take to the place? Would they take to her?
Well, we needn’t have worried. Here’s a picture that Paula took yesterday, two days after the big move, on the day that Nanette, Mom’s new Mom in her new loving family home, decided that Mom was settled in enough for a visit. Truly, this photo IS one worth a thousand words.
Do I detect a look of triumph on Lady Renee’s face? If not, at least a blessed relief. Or am I projecting? Certainly we are all feeling an enormous relief. On the day Paula and David took her over to Nanette’s, a dozen red roses with chocolates arrived at Paula’s home, sent by brother John from the eight of us, in gratitude.
Paula has now decided that given the level of love and stimulation she is receiving as one of the Golden Girls, Mom won’t need Paula there every day, that several times a week will be enough.