March 25, 2021 – A light at the end of the tunnel.

I got the best news today! My brother Clover forwarded me an announcement from the assisted living center where my mom resides. After I read it, I was so excited that I nearly started jumping up and down! I chose to refrain, however, as I had a full bladder at the time and didn’t want to have to change my outfit. What is this fantastic news, you ask? They are finally allowing the residents at the center to have visitors INSIDE. Initially, I thought it said only people who were vaccinated were allowed, but I was mistaken. Anyone can come inside! Oh my gosh, I never thought this day would come. It’s going to make a huge difference in my mom’s outlook. Complaining is the norm for her, but at least she won’t be able to complain any longer about not being able to have guests. She can also go and visit people (and even stay overnight) but I’m a bit hesitant to have her out because I’m concerned it’s going to confuse her even further. Because of her dementia, I think it’s important to stick to a routine and not start having a bunch of sleep-overs at different people’s houses.

Thinking about these recent changes with the visitation policy has made me nearly giddy. The only options before were to meet her out in the courtyard or sit in a chair outside her room and talk to her through her window. Neither was optimal. Where she lives, it rains for the better part of the year and most days the temperature is between the low 40s and the upper 50s. I’ve tried to spend time with her but I cannot handle being outside very long when it’s cold, so I usually don’t stick around for more than a few minutes. Plastic and metal chairs as seating options don’t exactly help matters. To now be able to sit in a nice, heated room on a cushioned/upholstered couch or chair, what a welcome change! My intent is to make more frequent trips to see her as a result of these policy revisions. I hope others do the same. The two people most negatively impacted by the earlier restrictions were my mom (of course) and my brother Clover. Because my brother took care of dispensing her pills (and other needs), he was considered ‘essential personnel’ and could come inside whenever he wanted to.

It was a nice ‘bonus’ because many people weren’t allowed to have any family members come inside and could only visit with staff members. When the staff members enter the rooms of the residents, they only stay long enough to get their ‘duties’ taken care of. These duties involve taking temperatures, dropping off meals, or performing light chores. None of these duties allow for much chit-chat. As a result, most of the residents suffer from terrible loneliness and isolation. My mom likes to refer to her apartment as her ‘cell’. Because my brother was allowed in the center (and in her room), she didn’t have it as bad as the others. The flip side of that is my brother did. He’s been shouldering the burden of taking care of my mom for years. He’s the one tasked with finding her a place to live, cleaning out her house, selling her house, and settling all of her affairs. Prior to that, if there was anything she ever needed, he was the one she would call.

My mom lived alone for just over 10 years (after my stepdad passed away) and my brother Clover and his family were the ones that stepped up and took care of maintenance on her home and yard and vehicle and anything else that needed attention. They also chipped in immensely by hosting many of the holiday meals (in order to give my mom a break) and by swinging by the store and shopping for her when her groceries were getting low, or accompanying her to doctor’s appointments, or helping her with her bills. She has no recollection of all of the things my brother and his family have done for her (or continue to do). She still insists that she always paid her bills on time even though (before she moved) there were several collections notices on her countertop to indicate otherwise. The last few months that she lived in her ‘little yellow house’, their daughter moved in with my mom to help out with meals, housekeeping, yard work, and running her to/from appointments.

This morning, my mom’s memory was really squirrelly. She was convinced she was still working in real estate and was talking about meeting up with a client. Just before she moved out of her home, the situation wasn’t as bad as it is now, but the signs were clearly there. The multiple falls were bad enough but she had become extremely forgetful and had also lost all sense of time, so simple tasks like operating a microwave became hazardous. You wouldn’t think operating a microwave could cause a fire but if you put an item in it for 30 minutes (when it only requires 3), there’s a good chance the fire department could get involved. She also destroyed her toaster oven doing something very similar. Moving her out of her home was so difficult in every possible way (mentally, emotionally, and physically). My sister Diabolical Debbie and her daughter did everything in their power to shut the whole production down because they wanted the house for themselves.

I’ve never fought so hard for anything in my life. I started to think moving my mom from her home to the assisted living center was an impossibility but with enough people pushing back against my sister and her daughter, we made it happen. It’s tough because my mom doesn’t understand that there’s something wrong with her brain and that she wasn’t functioning (and isn’t functioning) like she did 5+ years ago. Damn dementia! On the bright side? The worst of this nightmarish experience is over! Not just for my mom, but for my brother Clover, too. He hasn’t had ‘a life’ for nearly a year and a half. When my mom was still living in her home, she depended heavily on him for help. He generally stopped by her place at least twice a week. Now? He physically checks in on her nearly every day. ‘Checking in’ includes dispensing her pills, washing and drying her clothes, cleaning up the toilet and floor when she clogs the toilet, bringing her supplies (toilet paper, paper towels, pads, etc.), and assisting her with video calls on ‘Signal’.

When he isn’t physically in the building, he still has much to do on her behalf (paying her rent and all of her assorted bills, running to the store for her supplies, scheduling her appointments). The fact that others can now come into the building means my brother can finally step aside. It’s time for some of the other siblings to step up and shoulder some of the burden for once. He and his wife had their 35th anniversary last year and because of everything going on with my mom (and Covid), it was a pretty lackluster affair. They want to take a month-long road trip and see some sights and ‘escape’ for a while for their 36th wedding anniversary. I cannot say I blame them! He wasn’t sure whether he could actually take the trip because of the previous restrictions. It would have made leaving next to impossible. Since others can now assist my mom with her laundry and supplies and appointments, my brother and his wife should be able to take their long overdue vacation and get some much needed and deserved rest and relaxation.

I am so happy for them both. When I talked to my brother today, he said it felt like a dream. He’s been through a lot in his life but all of these matters involving my mom nearly broke him. I honestly didn’t think his marriage would survive and neither did he. He and his wife had a pretty solid union up until this past year. I sensed the tension whenever I walked into their home. Neither one was sleeping well and they constantly fought. These recent changes (with the visitation policy) have given him hope again. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel, one he’s been desperately searching for. He (and his wife) need it now more than ever! I do hope that some peace is restored as a result, not only for my brother and sister-in-law, but for all of my family members. Our family has never been more divided. Time will tell, right? I’m just so relieved that this day has finally come! I can only see good things coming from these positive changes. Anyway, just had to share the great news! Thanks so much for stopping by. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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