Mother - a belated update
Sunday, September 13, 2015
I didn't realize that it had been so long...
We did not get back up to Pennsylvania in March, though my sister (the one with power-of-attorney) was back and forth several times. We ended up setting aside most of the month of June. The sister who lives in Seattle took more leave, and we all arrived and left about the same time. We went up thinking that we were going to tie up things with the house. We made progress, but as usual nothing went as planned.
We might have been there a week when my step-dad announced that he'd had it. My mom's income had been going to paying her bills, so he was paying all of their expenses out of his income and savings, and the place they were living was just too expensive. And as usual, I need to back up and fill in... My mom spent about a month in the memory care wing. After 2 or 3 weeks the staff started telling us that she didn't need to be there. She was clearly doing much better than the other residents of the wing when she moved in, and she was improving. Plus, she spent most of her time with my step-dad anyway. So, she moved in with him, first into the studio he had been living in, and then they were able to move into a 1 bedroom. So, they were spending less than when they were in different units and she was getting much more care, but it was still too expensive. We hoped to put it off for a few more months, but he put his foot down.
We spent the next few weeks looking for and then visiting facilities. At first we thought about it in terms of our prior search. We had talked to or visited ever facility in the county in January and February, so we thought we needed to look at neighboring counties. Then we thought about that search. My mother's condition had been different then, so we needed to start over again with our own county and think about what she needed now. We evaluated again, and ended up visiting 3 facilities. After lots of discussion, all 3 were willing to take them. We didn't really want to show them 3, since choosing between 2 would be hard enough for them, but we offered. We were surprised but not disappointed when my step-dad said no to seeing the facility in his home town. Its up on a hill above town, the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill isn't bad but its not all that attractive, and being able to see the workplace he retired from every day just wasn't interesting.
While all of this was going on, we were still working on the house. Two different auction houses visited, and both said that there was not enough in the house that was saleable to make it worth their while. They recommended a clean-out service and we had one of those come by and their initial ballpark estimate of the cost to us went into thousands of dollars, and a formal estimate would have just gotten higher. This left us reevaluating another thing. We came to the decision to let the bank that holds the reverse mortgage repossess the house. We're still investigating other options, but if we haven't done anything else by December they will take the house, with everything that is still in it at that time. We took a number of things when we left in June and will go back for the rest of it in October or November, but other than the family stuff, the house will probably go as-is.
We took them to see the 2 places left on our list. We thought we knew which one my mom would like better, but we went to both and let them decide. They did pick the place we thought my mother would like better. We moved them in at the end of June. They have a nice one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen. Nothing fancy, but nice and comfortable. Dinner in the dining room is included in what they pay, and they can eat breakfast and lunch in their place, go out, or eat in the dining room and pay a very reasonable amount. They are on the second floor and have a small balcony, with a tree right next to it, and with just a few limitations my mom can have bird feeders. The view from their balcony is a small portion of a back driveway, a portion of a recreation trail, and woods. The dining room and other facilities are in another building, but there are covered walkways between the buildings. One of the local pharmacies delivers my mother's medications each week, in a box with her medications separated by day and time, and the staff stop by a few times a day to make sure she's remembered to take them. They pay a fee for the reminders, but its not very much. Housekeeping services are also included in what they pay. All of the furniture and decore is their own - we spent a lot of time helping them pick what they were taking and were able to hire a moving crew that was terrific and not horribly expensive.
As you can tell from all of this, my mother is much better. She's never going to go back to who she was before the fall. Her short-term memory is very poor. She doesn't get hungry or thirsty, and last I knew she had almost no sense of smell or taste. (that could still come back). Most of that is from her head injury. She had one scare before we realized that this was an issue - she ended up in the hospital overnight because she was dehydrated. Now my step-dad makes sure that she drinks water during the day and he reminds her when its time to eat, or that she has eaten. She also has trouble with noise being painful, which is something we're still trying to deal with, since my step-dad has the tv on most of the time and since he's hard of hearing its loud. She can't manage numbers at all - which includes not just money but also times and dates. She has a bank account with a small amount of money in it for her to spend on whatever she wants, but my sister manages the rest of her finances. So far she's still making her own doctor's appointments, but we double check them to make sure they're when she thinks they are. We are trying to arrange it so that she doesn't go to appointments alone, because she doesn't remember what the doctor says. The problem with numbers is one of the things we found out about after she fell, but it had been developing for a while. So far my step-dad still drives, but we hope to stop that before long. They have transportation available to them at the facility where they live.
For now, they can afford where they live. Once we get a few more of my mother's bills from her care in January and February taken care of, they will be living pretty much within their income. As they need more care, they will deplete their savings. There is a nursing home facility attached to the place where they are, and once they either have to go to Medicaid or they need that level of care, they are not guaranteed places there, but they will have priority. (Though Medicaid is a federal program, some elements of it- qualifying for it, what level of care it can be used for, etc. differ from one state to another, so please don't comment to correct me. Your experience could have been in a state with different rules) Its not smooth sailing from here. They both have dementia in addition to her brain injury, but they are coherent enough that there are lots of bumps in the road. She still tells us periodically that she's moving back to her house, she decides that she wasn't really prescribed the meds she's getting, she decides periodically that she's going to manage her own finances, they both have other health issues (my step-dad spent several days in the hospital last week with an infection in a toe) .... its pretty much constantly something, and always the worry about the future. Still, they're pretty good for now, and we're still very happy with where they are living, so considering all they've been through just this year, they're doing very well.