Her doctor’s words echoed in my brain:
Your Mother will never go home again.
I refused to believe him.
(Not go home? No way. You were right the first time; she will dance out of here.
You’ll see. She will show you!
We will show you.)
I was determined. I was defiant.
I sent an email to everyone I knew in LA; does anyone know anyone who knows anything about eldercare?
Through my all points bulletin, I found a team of geriatric social workers. They recommended a new doctor, and off she went to a new team of specialists.
Her original doctor wasn’t happy with me. I didn’t care.
The new doctors put her in special program to improve her cognitive skills. (Yes…a program… that’s what we need…)
My Mother gleefully shared reports about her commute across LA. The van driver sang her name. She looked forward to seeing him.
At the program’s conclusion, she got a certificate.
When I tried to enroll her in the next level, the hospital declined; we are sorry, but you see, we are funded by grant. Our participants have to show progress. If they don’t progress, we don’t get our funding. And well, we can’t have your Mother back. She didn’t show progress.
She didn’t show progress? But she has a certificate!
She can’t come back.
I found another program: a senior center with classes to improve memory skills. (Yes, a better program…that’s what we need…)
We are sorry; your mother doesn’t exhibit the cognitive ability…
NO. NO. NO.
You are wrong. You are all wrong.
I convinced the nursing home to move her to the “assisted living” section. The residents live in cute little rooms and occasionally need a helping hand. She would prove she could be on her own. She looks so much better than the other patients… certainly my Mother doesn’t need around-the-clock care…after all, she’s not really sick…is she?
And my Mother moved to assisted living…not once, not twice, but three times.
And each time, within a few hours, she fell. After the third attempt, the nursing home administrator referred to my Mother’s “staged falls.”
Staged falls — she “falls” gently; she’s not hurt and she knows we will find her. He explained that subconsciously she knows that she can’t be on her own, so she “stages” the fall, and back she goes to full-time care.
Do you think it was starting to sink in?
Do you think I was ready to admit defeat?
Do you think despite her plaintive pleas to go home and my willful determination to make it happen, my Mother actually knew she needed to be there…in a nursing home?
Help me, Hallie!
How do I help you, Mama?
The answer came from the nursing home’s new director/head nurse.
In fact, there was nothing new about her. She had retired from the same job–in the same facility–a few years earlier.
But retirement bored her.
She was back.
She was tough.
She looked me straight in the eyes.
Her words were direct, unequivocal, uncompromising.
Your Mother is the best of the worst, she said.
You are right. In comparison to the others you see around here, she looks good.
But your mother has dementia. She is not able to function on her own. Her falls are cries for help.
No one had used that word before.
OK. I am ready.
Tell me, please. Tell me what I need to know.
Your Mother is the best of the worst.
She will not get better.
And she will not go home.