My last post here was just over three years ago. Wow.
November and December of 2017 were very difficult. So much so that, even with my niece staying with us and helping, Mom’s needs increased to the point that we made the decision to move her to a memory care facility in January of 2018. I guess those 2-3 months were so very hard that I was too traumatized to revisit it, even to write about it. But today, she turned 91, and I feel like I need to start sharing our story again.
Her 88th birthday was celebrated at the Day Center at Suncoast PACE program. Her 89th birthday was at her cottage at the memory care facility. Her 90th birthday was at the same facility, and her dishevelment in that photo was indicative of the decline in care that spurred us to move her to a different facility a few weeks later, at the beginning of March. March of 2020, that is. Three days before all the care facilities were locked down due to COVID. We moved her on a Tuesday, and that Friday was the last time I was able to visit with her until last month.
I won’t name the old place, but her current home is at Angels Senior Living of Dunedin, and they are wonderful. It is only three miles from our home, so I am able to check on her regularly. Since she can’t see faces (no central vision) and she’s VERY hard of hearing, all those Zoom and through-the-window visits that many were able to make work, just didn’t work for us. I am so grateful that a few weeks ago I was able to sign up and be trained as one of their compassionate caregivers and can finally visit with Mom, again–at least on a limited basis.
And that’s how I was able to be there for cupcakes and party hats this afternoon. Yay! Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!
Suncoast PACE contracts with Wheelchair Transport to pick up and drop off Mom every day. Mom is generally ready around 7:30 am and she and the dogs watch out the picture window for the car or van to pass the front of the house before pulling into our driveway.
Mom may not always notice when her ride arrives, but Gracie and Sophie certainly do, and sound the Potential Intruder Alarm. They also sound the PIA whenever our neighbor across the street backs out of his driveway to go to work, or when the neighbor a few doors down walks his dog. Or when anyone walks, bikes, or skateboards by, with or without a dog, although I do think they bark a little more if there’s a dog. It’s hard to say.
Anyway, Mom’s ride arrives anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30, depending on the driver and his or her particular route on any given morning. Today, Walt is Mom’s morning driver. We like when Walt has Mom’s route, because he picks her up at the beginning of his circle of riders. I am especially happy when Walt is the morning driver, now that I am trying to leave for work right after she is picked up.
Mom is now a participant in the Suncoast PACE program, but for almost five years, we were very fortunate to be a part of the Neighborly Care Network. She attended their Adult Day Program from January 2011 through November 2015, and loved going every day.
Mom’s time at Dietert Center had broken the ice on her willingness to attend a day group, but after we moved to Oldsmar in late 2008, we had to start over. Oldsmar has a nice senior center, but it is more of a meeting place and clubhouse, with a calendar of activities for active retired folks. I tried taking Mom up there, but she’s always been pretty shy, and her dementia had by then robbed her of her ability to negotiate new situations and any real interest in doing so. She just sat in a chair by the door, waiting for me to get finished with whatever errand I was doing, with no curiosity about what was going on with the people around the room and no inclination to join in.
I had called Neighborly Care and talked to them about their program, but it took me awhile to find a regular job. Until I was working full-time, we didn’t have as much of a need for Mom to attend, but as soon as I had a job that kept me away from home all day, it quickly became apparent that she needed some outside source of social interaction and enrichment. And Neighborly Care was right there. A nurse and a social worker came to our home to do assessments to make sure she was right for their program. I took Mom over to visit and have lunch (she likes lunch) and meet the staff. They arranged from the van to pick her up one day a week, and then it became available for Mom to attend two and then three days each week.
We are grateful for the PACE program and all the services it offers, but I’m not sure Mom would even be here if we hadn’t had Neighborly Care all those years before.