This was client’s message:
“We have been informed today by a residence in the public sector that there is presently an opening. Should we accept, the move must occur tomorrow. We have accepted. All that being said my parent is moving out of the family home tomorrow. This new environment will provide the appropriate care and supervision. Can you guide me as to what to say to my love one tomorrow?”
Here is some background information for you, the reader: We spoke, the adult child and I, a few times over a period of a few years and it was pretty clear that with the progression of Alzheimer’s’ disease in the parent being discussed that the care giving spouse, at one point, would no longer be able to provide all the care required at home. The ‘when’ a relocation would occur was discussed but pushed back as much as possible.
Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to speak with this client due to the short time delay. I wish to share with you the email response I sent. The message has been edited to take out personal information and to make it as neutral as possible.
“I will share with you my thoughts about tomorrows’ tough day, from what you mentioned in the message you left.
2 lives will change hugely tomorrow, the one that I think will be the most empty at the end of the day will be the caregivers, that person may feel lost and not know where to turn. They will need a soft place to fall and probably need support but may not know how to express it.
Two years ago I assisted a conference offered by Lisa Genova, a trained neuroscientis, author of Still Alice, a novel whose main character is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. She shared this imagery with us that still resonates with me:
When you deal with someone who has memory loss, pretend it is like an improv show. If I am the actor on stage and always saying ‘no’ or that I do not help the other actor(s) down a certain path then it gets frustrating for the actors around me as well as for the audience. In improv go with the flow, avoid putting up stop signs or dead ends and guide the scene to what seems to make sense.
Arrive with a calm and good energy tomorrow, the spouse in question and your loved one will need it from you.
Once your loved one is settling in, ask at the nursing station who the contact person is, get their phone number and extension. Ask them what are the best times of day for you to reach them. I suggest you get names of a few staff with their name, title and coordinates. Inquire if there is anything else you can do to help your loved one settle in. Don’t be shy to bring in some doughnuts (who does not love them?!).
Be as strong as you can, move forward with confidence that this is the best for your loved one at this point and do not hesitate to cry into your pillow at the end of the day if you need to.
When there is a quick and drastic change in a living situation, often the care giver does not know where to turn; they have often lost sight of themselves. Their sole focus has been the person they are caring for in turn this usually causes isolation.
On a daily basis for a long period of time the world revolved around the person in need that they were helping. When the person who is dependant relocates and the care giver’s role changes it can be devastating on many levels. Fatigue. Feeling a lack of purpose. Now what? Are my friends still there for me? I have not seen them in such a long time. Depression. Quilt. The whole daily routine changes.
If you know of a care giver facing this situation, share with them that support groups are available, different websites that can help them, sometimes hotlines are available in certain areas, and perhaps consulting a professional privately could be beneficial as well. They should be proud of how they have helped and cared for the person.
It is certainly a very hard step when relocation happens, for everyone involved. It is about knowing that the right decision was made for the present needs regarding someone with a loss of autonomy.