Not quite the plan

on finding my groove as a 30 something single girl and caregiver for mom with dementia


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Home sweet home.

Today was the assisted living move in day so of course, between work, regular mom care, and never ending paperwork for the facility, I found myself fixing up her new room at 11pm last night. 

It was a strange project to fix up Mom’s small new room.  I put together a couple of photo displays and did my best to channel her interior design genes– which I lack! 

And yet after my best efforts it felt small and a bit bare.  I am sure that I will bring more items over time as I get a sense of what works well. 

Do people have suggestions for how to make a room like this cozier? 

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I follow her.

So Mom and I had her admissions interview at the facility this morning.  Is this how parents feel at their children’s school assessments?  It was a weird anxiety to present her well, make sure they saw how lovely she is. 

Happily, Mom did great.  She failed miserably to answer lots of the questions to test her cognitive skills– but her personality came through. She was pleasant, happy, connected with the admissions person and even made a joke.  I sat feeling like a proud momma. 

But my favorite moment was when Mom was asked who I was.  What was my name, or our relationship?  She struggled.  She knew it was an important question.  Finally, she figured out the answer:  “I follow her.”

Somehow I loved that response.  It was not that I am her daughter or sister or friend, all terms that she has used.  Not my name though she knows it most of the time.  But a real description of our relationship these days. 

Once I followed Mom.  Now Mom follows me. 


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A shopping trip with weight.

So, I had a list of errands to do yesterday.  Target.  Bed Bath and Beyond.  Michael’s.  Staples.  A relatively normal list of stores to run through on a Sunday afternoon.

And yet, halfway through the third store, the heaviness started to sink in.  The shopping trip was to pick up items to make Mom’s room at the new facility a little nicer or more organized.  On my list: a label maker to mark her belongings.  A couple more pairs of pants that fit to be sure she has enough clothes between laundry loads.  A cheap wall hanging picture frame that will hold several family photos on her wall.  A set of pretty sheets to fit a twin bed.

If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you will know that I have procrastinated this day.  But it’s arriving and I am trying to be prepared.

Buying the stuff of course is the easy part of the preparation.  Accepting that I will henceforth see Mom in a small locked facility and that she will likely end her life in such a place is a whole other thing to prepare for.  I know I am not ready.  This feels too much to be the beginning of the end. And who among us are ready to accept the end?  Who is ready to drop off the person who loved you and supported you, and say, these strangers will care for you now?

I do not regret the decision, but I regret the circumstances that bring me here.  It saddens me that we don’t know how to do better.  And that my life circumstances are such that I cannot do more.  

So, I buy soft new sheets and fake flowers to decorate Mom’s new room.  At least my once upon a time an interior designer mother will see some beauty in this increasing isolation.


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Not necessary

In the midst of a recent conversation that did not make sense, Mom reached over to my bowl at the dinner table, pointed at it and said, this says, I am not necessary.

Once, Mom was quite necessary.  She was a mother of two, a small business owner, a friend, a wife, a sister, the member of her family who knew what was happening with every cousin and great aunt.  She organized events at our church and once upon a very long time ago, at my schools.  She threw great parties.  She maintained a beautiful home.

The productive version of Mom though has faded away.  When we first started living together, she would iron and do dishes for our house.  She felt that she contributed.  Gradually this has become harder until now when she simply feels unnecessary.

I know that when I go running out the door after a two minute morning talk, that Mom probably does not feel how much value I put on our exchanges.  But, I still need Mom.  Sure, she is no longer actually doing anything for me.  But being can be more important than doing– though it is perhaps less valued in our frenetically busy culture.

But I look forward to seeing Mom and knowing that she is safe and well.  We still laugh together.  She is still my mother and my friend.  I still need whatever part of her that remains with us, as long as possible.