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Long Distance Caregiving

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Looking Into Assisted Living
Long Distance
By J Lang Wood

(Page 2 of 2)

Now came the interesting part-visiting the facilities. I approached this with some trepidation, but Mom was more than ready to give the idea a chance. I was lucky in that the timing had worked out perfectly. Even so, it is important to receive the specific information on each facility and have all questions answered beforehand, if possible. Other questions will arise when you visit and the director of the facility always seems happy to answer any questions asked, and will find out for you whatever he or she can’t answer immediately. But here are the things I was ‘testing’ the place for when we visited: Did the entire facility have a cheerful ‘underbeat’? Did the residents look happy and engaged? Was the place scrupulously clean? Was the staff approachable and interested in residents? Was there a sense of fun and enjoyment there? Was it run professionally? When all these questions were answered ‘yes’, and when I saw Mom chatting effortlessly with the staff, I knew I had found the right place for her. I confess, I was intimidated by all the paperwork, but the office staff was very experienced in these matters and was able to offer a great deal of help.

Preparing for the move itself required the most from both Mom and myself. Dismantling a household can be a sad experience, with regret about what is being left behind or thrown away. It can even be a time of relief with shedding the burdens of the past and anticipating new experiences. We took some time to share stories and memories. And we packed Mom’s favorite books and pictures, music and pieces of furniture all those things that make people feel more at home in new surroundings. The day of the move brought sudden panic on both our parts. But we were able to talk through our fears. Knowing I would be far away made it especially difficult. I wanted to be sure I had chosen the right place, and that I would be available to send my Mom anything she might need. But we were able to remain positive and tried to make the moving-in experience fun and reassuring. We toured the facility once again, hand in hand, to make sure Mom knew where everything could be found. We drew a little map of the place and put it under a magnet on the refrigerator door. We met a few residents and found some common interests and background. We cried a little, laughed a little and made sure we could stay in close touch and that the staff would know how to reach me.

Six months later, Mom has adjusted nicely to her new surroundings. We talk on the phone once a week. I fly to Chicago for the big holidays. Clearly, things are different for my mother. She no longer has the burden of household bills or transporting her frail body from here to there on daily errands. She has much more help with these things and medical care is just a buzzer call away. Visits with family are filled with more gifts and flowers and more time ‘catching up’ on events. It’s not the same as it was, but if you asked her, you might find things are exactly as they should be.

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