A few weeks ago, my family had a moving party for my grandmother, Jane, because we decided it was finally time to move her to an assisted living facility. She moved in my my parents a year ago after a debacle in which there were thieves living in her house, coming and going as they pleased, stealing her jewelry and convincing her to write them checks. It was a bad situation, and it was the first time it became clear that she was no longer able to safely live on her own, hundreds of miles from family. Packing up and selling the house she raised my mother and aunts in, the house I spent my summers in, was sad. But it paled in comparison, for me, to moving her to the Wildflower House.

We invited the family over for a dinner of Grandma’s favorite food – fried Church’s chicken and a Texas sheet cake, which we call “Grandma Cake.” She’d been told over and over that she was moving, but she didn’t comprehend it.

The next morning, my parents, aunt, uncle and I set out early and drove to Temple, TX, where the middle aunt lives, along with her sons and their families. One of those sons, my cousin, Stephen, is a paramedic and the director of an assisted living facility there. She read signs all the way there, and commented on the beautiful fields and scenery along the highway.

When we got there, she sat on the porch while we moved the U-Haul contents into her room. A woman we met weeks before, when we had come to check it out, sat with her and chatted. She said, “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been waiting for you.” Grandma said, “Really? I didn’t even know I was coming!” The woman was very nice, and hopefully, she’ll be a friend for Grandma. She took it pretty hard when her best friend, Cornelia, died a few years ago in Harlingen. I’m so glad she’ll have people her age to talk to, even if neither of them will remember it ten minutes later.

The facility is a large square, with the cafeteria and common rooms in the front. The room has a window out onto the courtyard in the middle, and it has a climate-control unit so that she can make it as WARM as she wants – she’s always freezing. My dad set up the TV once we got all the furniture in, and we decorated with family photos, albums, and her stuffed animals.

Steven’s wife, Janice, taught Grandma how to use her rolling walker. It has a seat on it, so she can sit down when she gets tired. I don’t know that she’ll remember to lock the brakes, but hopefully with enough repetition, it might actually register on her radar.

Grandma has had several Yorkie dogs over the years, and someone put a cross-stitched Yorkie thing on her door, so hopefully, she’ll figure out which room is hers. It didn’t work while we were there, but you know, eventually she may figure it out. Those metal birds were in her house for as long as I can remember, perched in the corner of the living room. I think it’s good for her to have reminders of her home, to make her feel at home.

We took her around the the cafeteria for dinner at 5 p.m. One of the major problems with her living with my parents was the schedule. My mom goes to work early, and my dad works at home. Although he’s there, which is what made it feasible, there’s only so much overseeing he can do while he’s working. She would sleep very late, and she didn’t really know to go find breakfast and coffee, which was already made. She would just putter in her room for hours, and as there was no one to really interact with, she would just sleep a lot. There wasn’t really anything to be done about it, as living with them was the only feasible option the family had. So her sleep and food schedules had no consistency. Now, she’ll have a schedule, which started with dinner that day at 5. She’s a good eater, a trait which she passed down to me. Steven said a lot of the residents don’t eat much, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem for Grandma! I sat with her while she ate. I watched the others around the dining room. Some sat alone, and others sat together. No one talked much. My cousin’s son, below, spends time there during the summer when he’s out of school, and he took her around and introduced her to everyone. He’s a really good-natured kid, and it’ll be so good for her to still have family around, even if she’s not in a home. I know being the director’s grandmother will assure she’s taken care of by the staff, who were all great. At one point during her dinner, she was rambling on about something, and she ended with telling Garrett that if he did something, I don’t remember what, he’d go to hell. I’ve never heard her say anything of the sort, so I know she was just rambling on in a brain-shrinkage-stream-of-consciousness. In any case, the chef walking by looked at Garrett and said in passing, “Never a dull moment, huh?”

Leaving her there was pretty terrible. I know that home is wherever you make it, but it’s still kind of heartbreaking to think of her whole life being reduced to that tiny little room. I know the fact that she doesn’t know what’s happening from one moment to the next is a blessing, in this case. I’m trying to remember that. This situation is better for everyone, especially her. I just miss her.


One Response

  1. hugs. i’m sorry. that’s one aspect of aging i haven’t had to deal with. my dad’s mom lived in a nursing home for a while, but it was her choice, based on physical issues, rather than mental. she was always “with it” except for the VERY end when she was in a real hospital.

    i’ve heard many stories where the mental issues get better in this kind of situation. the schedule thing really does help a lot of people, and they get clearer as they get into the swing of it.

    i know you miss her, but try to remember how much closer she is now than she was in harlingen. i realize i’m telling you things you already know, but i just wanted to repeat them for emphasis. sometimes it helps to hear someone outside your head confirm it.

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