Here’s a Good Nursing Home Story

The following is a guest blog by Linda Dickey.

After 15 years of widowhood, at 89, my mom sold her condo in Lake Worth, FL, and moved to a rental apartment in a nearby retirement facility. For a few months, everything seemed to be fine. Then she had a sudden onset physical problem that meant she needed full-time help with walking, bathing, and so on. Because she had excellent long-term care insurance, she was able to have a caregiver with her 12 hours a day. But it soon seemed that there was more than a physical problem: Her mind was going, too.
A few months after moving, Mom was diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer‰Ûªs Disease. My sister and I were soon aware that she‰Ûªd been hiding the symptoms for a while (one glance at her checkbook told the tale). Now we knew why she‰Ûªd sold her condo. We had to take action. Her mental condition was deteriorating rapidly, way faster than her physical condition. Her doctor advised us to line up a skilled nursing facility and move her quickly; she‰Ûªd need 24-hour care soon, and change becomes progressively harder for AD patients.
My guilt over not having Mom come live with me was pretty bad, but I worked full time and had other responsibilities as well; my sister‰Ûªs situation was similar. So we decided that Mom would come to live in a highly recommended nursing home near where I live in New York City, and with her caregiver‰Ûªs help, explaining as much to Mom as she could reasonably understand, we managed to move her north.
At this point, from the way she acted, we thought she was close to death. The nursing home told us the average stay was about two years, but the nurse who evaluated her for admission thought she‰Ûªd never make it that long.
The actual move was a challenge in itself, but we did it. Then the amazing thing happened: Mom got better. She still had AD, but, because the nursing home provided a variety of social interactions‰ÛÓwith CNAs, doctors, nurses, recreation pros, physical therapists, and most of all, other residents, her symptoms receded. She couldn‰Ûªt play bridge as she once did, but she became a Bingo star (winning nickels made her giddy). She did artwork. She enjoyed concerts and religious services. She made friends.
We got better, too: Our worries about Mom‰Ûªs physical safety were over, and she was back in our lives again. I visited daily after work and the rest of the family came very often. With all the attention, she‰Ûªd become her extroverted self once again. She remembered things she‰Ûªd so long forgotten I had never heard about them: stories from her childhood more than 85 years earlier. The narrative of her wedding day. The names of her childhood neighbors.
She lived five years in the nursing home, long enough to meet and enjoy her great granddaughter‰ÛÓand those years were among the best of our relationship. I really enjoyed visiting her; she was so glad to see me. She‰Ûªd lost her critical side. She was truly grateful for all the care she got‰ÛÓso the staff loved her. In her case, AD was a blessing in a beastly disguise.
I hope I‰Ûªm as lucky.