I spoke to my folks this afternoon. Speaking to them (and my sister) is a nearly daily occurrence. My mom sounded great.
For the past few years my mom’s health has deteriorated. Not only was she physically infirm, she began to check out mentally.
At her lowest point she was down to single word answers. She had retreated into her own shell.
“I love you mommy,” I’d say to end conversations. No response.
That was tough.
We are an emotional family. She’d lost all emotion. It was as if my mom had been hollowed out.
Last fall, just as the cold was settling into Milwaukee and South Florida’s humidity began to retreat, my parents moved north. My sister and her family live there. She found them an assisted living facility nearby.
It was not a happy move. They were leaving a place of comfort (and warmth) and moving to a strange land with winter!
Sometimes there are no good choices.
Moving to Milwaukee and assisted living meant they’d have to go downstairs a few times a day for meals. In Florida they seldom left their condo. That might have been the catalyst.
My mom began to communicate more. Not much, but you take what you can get.
At this weekend’s wedding my mom was as sharp and happy as I’d seen her in a very long time–maybe a few years. She smiled and laughed. She had extended conversations. I got her a glass of wine with a straw.
Today my niece Jessie stopped by to visit. She brought Judah and Gabby, their great-grandchildren.
When I called that was all my folks could talk about. The visit was short. The impact is great. Jessie understands that. She made a mitzvah¹.
On the phone my mom was stronger and happier than even this weekend! It usually doesn’t move in that direction in your mid-80s.
Don’t get me wrong, my mom is in a wheelchair. She is taking physical therapy and using her walker within the apartment–sometimes. I think she sees positive results from the PT and wants more, but she’s a long way from being mobile.
My mom is not as sharp as she once was. Sometimes she forgets things. But year-to-year the improvement is nothing less than miraculous.
None of us expected this turn. Our family is very happy. We never gave up.
This is our reward.
¹ in Hebrew, “mitzvah” means a commandment of the Jewish law or meritorious or charitable act. It’s commonly used when someone selflessly does a good deed.
12 thoughts on “About My Mom”
Geoff, you and your family have been given a blessing. Your Mom looks wonderful and so does your Dad (caps are my way of being respectful). And you do know why your Mom has improved in her health and mentally. The older we get, the more we need to push ourselves out into the world of people and activity.
I’m on a push now. Tomorrow I take a training session at a Hospice in hopes that I may become a volunteer. You see, I am 72 and I intend to keep pushing myself and if I stop, I pray that my children will step up and push me!
You are a huge inspiration ! Judith you are amazing and have such a positive outlook ! Thank you for sharing that !
Geoff: This is such a positive piece. I remember when things were not so good with your folks and in writing about that time I could imagine your heart breaking. But this, this is wonderful. And your mom looks really good. Here’s hoping you have many more opportunities to write about such good things.
It is possible that she was depressed, and now being able to have her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren visit more often has helped open her shell. I hope everything continues to go well.
Geoff… Each day is a gift… treasure as much as you can for your memory book. Sometimes stimulation will work Miracles…. Thoughts are with you,
I couldn’t be happier with this good news about your dear Mom. She looks happy and relaxed. Glad she’s doing well. I honestly believe that it is because of your wonderful, extended family. The PT is helping too, but she has “family around”. Which helps folks in her capacity. Will keep them in my prayers. You guys are awesome.<3
This is not uncommon really the older we get the more we need that interaction with others in Florida you say she didn’t leave to go out much well in the new place they have to go down for meals it gets them both out and with people your mom was probably depressed and in a state of ” give up” this move was probably the best thing for them really. Plus being able to see family and grand kids is a huge bonus.
This very thing happened to my friends parents his mom couldn’t get out of their condo easily she couldn’t walk well so they moved to an assisted living place in Farmington CT and his mom did much better talked with people made new friends Wanted to go out to the common areas. They are half way between all there family members now some in MA some in Ct was much better for them.
I’m really happy she is doing better 🙂 Sometimes all it takes is a change and a little time
Very inspiring to hear about your mom, especially her mental state. As I type this, my sisters and I are preparing to help move my parents into assisted living (mom has dementia and they’re 90 and 91). Studies show that independent/assisted living are great places for the elderly; they get so much interaction which is what they need and obviously proven with your mom. I wish my patents made the move 5 years ago. I’m glad you were able to spend time with both your parents. Wishing you and your family the best.
Cherish this extra quality time that you’ve been given…it’s truly a gift at her age. There’s nothing that I would have cherished more than extra time with my Dad as he faded away from us.
Thanks for the kind words, but my sister has been doing most of the heavy lifting here.
In a larger sense, what our family has done for our parents is no different than what most families do. None of us were taught how to deal with this. It’s just what you do.
I’m in the same relative position with my parents now. They are 85 and 80. Thankfully, other than some modest physical limitations, my mother is in decent mental health for 80. My father has Alzimers and needs a great deal of attention, though me does have his ups and downs. At times, he seems as sharp as a whip can recall things from 70 years ago, at other times he forgets (or needs to be reminded) where he is or who someone is). As I say to most people…the best we (or anyone with elderly parents) can hope for is to try to mitigate pain and suffering and offer the best quality of life that we can. I always remind myself (and are thankful) that we live in the modern era- think of what aging was like 500 years ago in Europe before we had the tools we have today.
As far as going from Florida to Wisconsin, that’s a tough move for anyone. Although younger and younger people are now moving to Florida these days, Florida always seemed to have many more options for the elderly than most areas of the country. Obviously winters in Wisconsin are in a different league than subtropical Florida – but even comparing Milwaukee to places back home in the Tri-State area it’s apparent that Milwaukee has severe winters. According to NWS mean January temps in Milwaukee are 22 F….compared to 30 F in New Haven, 32 F in NYC, and 33 F in Trenton, NJ – close to 10 F differences! Average seasonal snowfall in Milwaukee (48 inches) is almost twice as much as places like New Haven (30 inches) or NYC (27 inches). Add in the much lower amount of winter sunshine (the Great Lakes are almost as bad as the places like the Pacific Northwest in winter)…and winters are a tough sell up in the Great Lakes.
Geoff, I work as a Recreational Therapy Aide at an Assisted Living Facility and we try to engage our residents daily in conversation and in activity, but by far the ones who fare best have frequent family or friend visits! Thanks for your positive report and bless your niece!