Stories and thoughts about family and life

The second move

on November 27, 2013

My in-laws were moved into a nursing home the second week of November. We moved Helen on Wednesday, and transferred Paul from the rehab facility where he had been recovering into the nursing home on Thursday. He would be able to continue his rehab services and be with my mother-in-law, so it was the best of both worlds. My husband and I live in the same town as them, so it naturally falls to us when they have immediate needs. Louis and I had moved Helen’s lift chair, TV and three days of clothes, medicines, and anything else she managed to chunk into a trash bag that evening. I was amused when I was settling in her items that night at the choices she had made, from empty jewelry boxes to multiple boxes of Kleenex. Ultimately, though, the move-in went pretty smoothly and we reassured her several times that we would be back over the weekend with the remainder of her clothes and items.

We went by Thursday night to be sure Paul had settled in, and I took his clothes (which no one thought to pack Wednesday night), so he would have them when he was ready. He was bed-bound at that point, and wasn’t feeling well when we arrived. We were a little unnerved, but reminded ourselves that he had been through a lot, and the move that day was probably not helping. He seemed grateful to be with Helen, and as he drifted in and out of sleep, we told him we would be back over the weekend.

Kathryn, my sister-in-law, has made trips down every weekend to help us complete the move. Kathryn is only able to come after she gets off work on Saturday, so that really only left us Sunday morning to do anything we needed and get Kathryn back home in time for work on Monday. After we made a pass through the apartment, we decided the most logical approach was to divide the clothes into piles we knew we would/should take, things we would/should donate, and things we needed to take and ask about, knowing we were likely taking them back home with us. In addition, we had to label everything in the room, except their clothes. We were fortunate to have the laundry worker at the nursing home willing to do that for us. Regardless, there was a TON of other stuff to label, all the way down to their toothbrushes. Helen, being incapacitated somewhat (we haven’t officially diagnosed her, but suspect some onset of Alzheimer’s/Dementia, etc.), wants to know everything we’re doing. She asks us 50 questions about everything. She grows annoyed if she sees Kathryn and me talking and she can’t hear. She is obsessed with knowing every little detail, and wants to have input into every conversation. Then she gets irritated if you’re discussing something she doesn’t understand, and she huffs about not understanding.

Needless to say, conversations like that are long and very frustrating. It’s hard to make someone understand you’re not talking about them. It’s hard to make them understand that you’re following the rules and it has to be one way or another. It’s hard to sit and listen to remarks about how much they miss their home and how they wish they were still there. It’s hardest to remember that these people don’t mean to hurt your feelings (usually, anyway), and that it doesn’t occur to them all the effort you’ve put into placing them here and how hard you’ve worked to get them in the best facility which meets all their wishes.

As Kathryn and I exchange glances with each one of these comments, we set about trying to make it a little more entertaining. From remarks about what needed to go into the closet: “Here, let ME do that. I know you’re not even tall enough to see the shelf, let alone get anything up there.” to the shoe rack when I said “my shoes won’t both fit in each of those little slots–I have to put one shoe in each” to which my sister-in-law remarked “well, that’s because you’re a Sasquatch!” as we roared with laughter at our cleverness, we gradually lightened the mood in the room and were able to accomplish our task. By the end of the afternoon, Louis had set up both (yes, both) TVs for both of them and programmed everything electronic we had brought. Kathryn and I had everything put away and had even labeled the drawers to make it easier to follow when searching for clothes. We were pretty proud of ourselves.

As I watched Kathryn drive away that afternoon and prepared to head back to the facility to finish the last few items, I thought about how far we’ve come in this whole thing. We’ve gone from nearly losing Paul the first few days of November, to now having him at a facility where he could receive rehab and have them together. I’d started conversations with an Eldercare lawyer and trying to figure out what to do next, and we were preparing to move their things out of their apartment. A lot was finished. We still had several things to do, but I could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, the move out of the apartment was going to be an adventure all its own.

One of the nurses suggested that I write a book about this and the lessons learned and the stories. I watch her in complete amazement as she handles the elderly people in her charge. The compassion and patience she displays is truly inspiring. Nothing rocks her and she moves from issue to issue without irritation. She pats on a person’s arm and says sweetly but firmly what she needs. She says that someday soon we will be the same way–it just takes time. I have a hard time seeing that right now, but I sure hope she’s right.


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