Moving Mom: Chapter 1

Rabbi Address’s comment:

An issue that many of us face is how and when to move a loved one from their home back to where we live.

When to have that talk and how to navigate the system is a challenge. Harriet and Gil are living this now and have agreed to share some of their story.

From: Harriet Rosen <email deleted>
Sent: Tue, Jul 19, 2011 9:36 pm
Subject: Blog
Gil’s Mom, widowed a second time, moved to Century Village 21 years ago.  It
was perfect‹card games, little trolleys to the clubhouse, and 8,000 units
filled with her peers.  For years she made and remade networks of friends
and most important, played some version of poker six nights a week.  This
was her world and she was really content in it.

But things changed. Her peers are overwhelmingly being replaced by
Spanish-speaking domino players and her friendship network is sparse and
failing.  The all important card games are down to about two and filling the
seats, her job for years, is now difficult, sometimes impossible.  She has
macular degeneration and she’s got a 93-year-old body that needs lots of
pills to run.

Those card games must look like a comedy routine.  She tells us some people
can’t hear, others, like her, can’t see and the rest forget things.  How
does it work? They all shout and she folds when she confuses the cards.
Shaky or not, this game has mattered so much that she wouldn’t consider
moving no matter how we asked.

We live in Arizona, a day’s travel and three time zones away.  Nothing in
this scenario makes us comfortable; she’s clearly at risk.  So we created
Band-Aids. First we installed Life Line and increased our visits, then we
hired a daily aide and a care-monitoring service.

But long distance care giving doesn’t work well. Now we knew more,
especially about things she didn’t want us to know about, but still couldn’t
do much. It’s the same problems as kids away at school.  How much does
knowing help?

So in June, we talked, waiting until the last day of our visit, dreading
this conversation. We told her about why we were worried and said it was
time to move near us.  How, we asked her, would she feel if she got sick and
we couldn’t reach her for better than a day?  What if she couldn’t be moved?
What if we couldn¹t stay for months and months?

She would need advocates and support and how do we manage to do that for
long stretches of time? Of course, we’d come but with an extended illness or
an emergency, time, distance and cost create their own problems.

She finally admitted that she felt lonely often, missed family at holidays
and celebrations and was upset watching friends fail, die or move. So we
talked, more honestly than ever about what we all were worried about. From
my mother-in-law’s “I’d rather die” the conversation moved to “it’s changed
here and I’m willing to move.”

We know, and told her we know, that this isn’t easy to think about. She is
leery of this huge change and giving up her independence. She is afraid
she’ll be rejected because she can’t see.  She is unhappy about losing this
comfortable poker group.  The trade off means we’re here and available.
Since nothing stays the same, she needs to think beyond the sacred poker

We don’t underestimate that we’ve no idea how this will play out.
But we set the stage for the next step:  finding her the right setting here,
this year, before the High Holidays.

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