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How can I describe this week? Saying good-bye to what once was, and moving toward the future. Saying good-bye (in many ways), to that wounded, adorable little girl that I adopted almost 17 years ago, at the age of 3. Accepting that she will be spending her birthday and Christmas in England, with her birth mom. (Her first Christmas away from home.) It’s been a week of realizing where I really stand with her, and yet how much I truly love her. She couldn’t hurt me so deeply, if I didn’t love her so much. It’s also been a time of realizing that I need some space between us, for my heart to mend. She has trampled it so many times, and I am weary of the pain. She does love me, and I love her, but the drama of it all has become too much, when I’m trying to take care of my mom, am not feeling well myself, and have already been through so much hell. I need some time away from Chelsea, and I believe that time away from us at Christmas, will remind her of all the wonderful memories she has from Christmases past.  She wanted to celebrate our Christmas in January, but we said no. I think since she made her choice impulsively, without thinking of our feelings, that she should not have her cake and eat it too. She should just spend the month of December with her birth mom, as she had planned, and let us have our family Christmas without her. Perhaps it will cause her to reflect on times past, and I know that she will miss Christmas with us. It was always a very special time in our family.

She already seems to be tiring of her birth mom calling her constantly, and of some of her ways. It turns out that her birth mom made it from England to Atlanta, but had neglected to see that her visa was in order, and was promptly sent back to England. She actually wanted Chelsea, (who she’s never met), to fly to Cancun, and then to jump on a sailboat (just the two of them) and sail into the U. S. (at Miami) illegally. That was even too much for an adventurous 19 year old. Chelsea thought that was crazy. These are the kinds of things that have worried us, as her mom is still very immature (even though she is 44), and sometimes doesn’t have good judgement. So we’ll see. I think Chelsea is already missing being home for Christmas, but I am sure that it will be exciting to go to England. She’s likely to be the envy of all her friends…and there’s nothing she likes better. I’m sure that it will all work out. (If you truly love something, then set it free, and all that… yeah.)

It’s also been a time of saying good-bye to what was my mom’s life…for so many years. We began to make plans this week for her to move into assisted living, and for her to leave her home behind. For now, my brother will rent the house, and we (Rob and I) have taken out a mortgage on it, until such time as it would cause us financial difficulty. Then we will have to sell it, and try to get some of our money back. If my brother still wants to live there, perhaps he could get a mortgage on it. We are just taking it one day at a time. Even with my mom’s limited monthly income, and my brother’s rent, we will still fall short of the monthly expenses needed for assisted living. We are trusting God to provide. We only have enough for a couple of years–not sure exactly, possibly three. But somehow, I feel it will all work out, according to God’s plan. That’s what faith is, isn’t it?

So after having my mom’s care plan meeting a little over a week ago, many things changed. The social worker and the Medicare/supervisor lady, acted as though we hadn’t hugged in their office (through tears) a couple of weeks ago. They were supposed to be increasing the physical therapy for the next 2 weeks, and then giving us an assessment of whether she was a candidate for assisted living. At the time, they were doubtful.

As we headed toward the back of the dining hall, where we normally meet, they told us we would have to meet in my mom’s room instead. All the parties joined us and gave their reviews. The physical therapist said that she could benefit from a little more therapy, but that she was progressing. The occupational therapist said that she was doing better, and was more motivated in their time together. Everyone said that she was at risk for falling, because quite often she neglected to use her wheelchair, or her walker. It seems like lately, this is partly due to stubborness, but more likely because she forgets the instructions. The activity person said that she was attending more activities. (This always makes my mom mad, because she doesn’t think that her status should depend on whether she attends a Bingo game or not.) I so totally agree! (I have to add here that one day as we were headed toward the atrium, someone said over the loudspeaker, for all the residents who wanted to participate in yoga, to meet in the dining hall.) This made me laugh out loud, because if you could see the residents at the nursing home, you would be hard put to find a single one who could do yoga! So funny!

Anyway, after all the team gave their reports, we were left with the “two big wigs” as my mom refers to them. They had been kind and gracious at our last few meetinga, but something had definitely changed. Even their demeanors were different. The social worker went back to chomping on her chewing gum with a callous look, while Miss Medicare looked almost angry. Her hair was in disarray, and she looked as though she had been fighting dragons all day, and it was only 10:15 a.m. Neither had any kind words for us, it seemed.

My mom was ready to rumble. She was angry and combative, and just wanted to get out of there.

“So where do we go from here?”, I asked.

Miss Medicare abruptly answered, “The ball is in your court now.”

“So you DO think she’s a candidate for assisted living?”, I asked.

Miss Chewing Gum answered, “After what the occupational therapist said, I think she would be an excellent candidate.”

Looking at Miss Medicare, I reminded her, “Because at our last meeting, you didn’t.”

“Well, at our last meeting she was…” (She trailed off in her speech.) I felt like reminding her that our last meeting was only 2 weeks ago, but I could see that she didn’t want to discuss it any farther. (They seemed to have forgotten our last meeting. Makes you wonder who really needs help.) I think it all boiled down to dollars and cents. My mom has acquired quite a bill (about $200.00 a day) since her Medicare and supplemental insurance ran out. I think their plan when they came in the room was to release her, because of that. I don’t know what we’ll do about the bill. We are applying for Medicaid for the month of October, but the rest of it will have to wait. We simply don’t have it to give in a lump sum at this time, and still be able to pay for her assisted living also. (I got a message from them today, threatening to turn it over to creditors, if we didn’t pay in 15-20 days.) Oh well, you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, as they say.

I was grateful that my mom was a candidate for assisted living (as they were adamant that she could not return home, without 24 hour care. They said that she already qualified as a permanent nursing home resident, due to her need for supervision of her insulin, and the cognitive issues that she is dealing with.) But neither she nor I really wanted that.

If she returned to her home, it would never really be the same. She had said that she would run away, if she was watched every minute. It would mean my brother and his teenaged son would have to move in with her, and she would need caregivers around the clock to help with her meds, and to watch over her. Knowing my mom like I do, I had a feeling that she would prefer the privacy (to some degree) that assisted living could provide, since home wouldn’t really be home, as she had known it. And I believe it would have been very difficult for my brother as well, though he was willing.

But Betty had staked out a position with Miss Medicare, and said, “I am NOT going to change my mind.” (About going to assisted living.) However, she had a few days to think about it.

After the meeting was over, I told her what my feelings were about the assited living–how at first I was so horribly sad about her leaving home, but after I saw the place, it was so very nice, that I began to think that she would like it there. She could get the help and supervision that she needed, but still have some privacy as well. (She feels that she is just too sick to try to manage a house, with others living there, knowing she would be tempted to do the laundry, cooking, and housecleaning, and yet realizing that she is no longer able. She would never be left alone for a moment, and that would be horrible.)

The first room they showed me at Benton House, had a chair just like hers in the (very) small sitting area. I could picture her in it watching TV, just like we had done at her house. I hope to get a smaller recliner, for the second chair. Then we can still sit and watch TV together. We enjoy looking at “Dancing With The Stars” and “American Idol.” We also like criminal and detective stories.

We suggested that she go with us that evening, and see Benton House. To my total surprise, she agreed. We got our tour, and the first room they showed my mom, was the one with the chair like hers. There was actually a cat in that room, that gave it a cozy feel, like a Hallmark card.

The room that my mom would actually be in was next door, but the lady who lives there is legally blind, and kind of skiddish about people coming in. However, once she went to the dining hall, Tina let us in. That lady is a bit of a pack rat, and it took a little more “vision” to see the possibilities of her room, but we looked around a few minutes, and left. The room would be available the last week of the month. The lady would be moving in with her sister, and after she moved out, the maintenance people would need to paint the apartment, and clean the carpets. The “apartment” consisted of a very small sitting area, a very tiny kitchen area (connected to the seating area) and a bedroom and bath. They have other apartments with larger floor plans, but no one but the very wealthy could afford any of the larger ones. Besides, with less room to walk in, perhaps there will be less room to fall in.

My mom had asked if we could go out to dinner, so we went to Coach and Four, an enjoyable steakhouse in our town. She loved her food, and was so happy, as the food at the nursing home is horrible! She has lost a lot of weight while she’s been there.

As we finished up, I took the initiative and said, “We really need to make a decision about this.”

To my amazement, once we explained how we planned to finance it, and reassured her, she decided to live there. (After what happened last week, I wondered if she would remember it tomorrow, but I was praying  that she would. And she did!)

This past week, Tina called and said that she had good news about the room. It turns out that a nicer room (at the same price) became available, with a window overlooking the courtyard. There are 2 courtyards there–one is for the regular residents, and one is for the memory care residents. My mom’s apartment is located in the regular residential area, but the courtyard outside her window is the memory care courtyard, and for that reason, I believe there will be far less activity and noise outside her window. The courtyard is very pleasant, and this room is far better. The only drawback is that the lady can’t catch her flight until November 4th, and therefore would not be able to vacate it until then. But the director offered to let Betty put a bed in the first room, until the nicer room became available. So even though that will be a little different than we had planned, it will allow her to get a far nicer room. This one is also a one bedroom, but it is slightly bigger. (We’ll take every little bit of extra space we can get.)

I can’t wait to decorate it. Of course, it will also need to be painted, and have the carpets cleaned, so there will be a delay of at least a day for the paint to dry, and for the room to air out, even after the lady has vacated it. Then I can decorate it for Betty, and we can move her in. There is a lot to do. Tomorrow we are going to shop for a bedroom set for her, as her bed at home is a king, and far too big. We will also need a  small recliner for any visitor, and tonight we picked out a larger compact refrigerator, and microwave. The microwave provided in the room is about the size of a sandwich, and the refrigerator is way too small. (I was surprised, but they gave us the okay to get the size we wanted.) We just got a medium microwave, and the cutest black compact refrigerator, that even had a small freezer, where she can put microwaveable dinners. (There is no stove, due to fire danger for the elderly who live there.) All her meals are provided, but if she doesn’t like something, she can fix a little snack in her room, anytime she’s still hungry. That is so great, after that horrible nursing home food. Most institutional food is not all that great, but even a slight improvement would be terrific.

Now, if we can just keep her on her feet–no more falls, then life is about to get better for her (and me.) In assisted living, they will check on her every 2 hours, give her the necessary insulin and medications, and provide laundry service (Rob will be so happy-he’s been doing all her laundry). They will also provide housekeeping services, utilities (except for cable and phone) and probably more ammenities that I’ve forgotten. We will be paying a lot for it, but it will be a better quality of life for her. I just hope we can afford it, for as long as she needs it. (That’s where the faith comes in.)

So we are all beginning new journeys. I will have some help with my mom; she will be starting a new life, and Chelsea will be meeting her birth mom, and hopefully, life will be a little less stressful…please God!

There is so much to be done, that I don’t know where to start, but I love decorating, and I can’t wait to fix it up for her. Please protect her from falling, Lord, so that she can have a better life.  And let her dance again…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

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