Falling Off the Alzheimer’s Cliff: The Decision to Move My Mom Into Assisted Living

by Nancy Wurtzel on December 4, 2012

Deep down, we knew it would happen, but we didn’t really have any other choice.  It was just not safe for my mother to continue to live in her senior apartment.  She needed more care, more activities, more everything.

My sister and I were exhausted and we’d reached that tipping point, where if you don’t take action, life could spiral out of control very quickly.

Even though we understood moving Mummy — as we affectionately call her — would take its toll, we knew it was the only decision that made sense.  After months of angst, we finally packed up her belongings and moved Mummy across town into an assisted living facility.

Now, for the first time in a very long time, my sister and I do not shoulder all the responsibility.

Mummy enjoys three meals a day in the cozy dining room with the 24 other residents.  The staff does her laundry once-a-week, checks on her during the night and does a light cleaning of her new abode, which is almost as spacious as her previous apartment.

We still pay her bills, do some light grocery shopping, clean her living space, take her to the doctor, get her out for lunch, take her for car rides in the country and handle countless personal care issues.  We also try to make sure one of us sees Mummy daily.  However, if necessary, we can both be gone for a handful of days, something we couldn’t have done before.  We no longer have that constant gnawing worry.  Mummy is safe.  The staff is competent, cheerful and,most importantly, kind.

Mummy has also benefited because her new home offers many activities — from musical performances to crafts and card games to bingo.

The downside — the very deep downside — is how Mummy was affected by relocating.

Within days, we started to see the toll of uprooting an almost 92-year-old woman with moderate dementia from familiar routine into uncharted waters.  She could barely stay afloat.

At first, we thought Mom might have had a stroke as her behavior changed significantly and her confusion seemed so much worse.  Her doctor says there probably was no stroke, but the trauma of moving had simply made her dementia much more pronounced.

And, her condition continues to slide downhill.

It is difficult to watch this decline, and hard not to feel guilty about the decision we made.  A decision that was right but not without its consequences.

Dementia always seems to exact a traumatic toll — no matter what you decide.


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