My mom was my grandmother’s long term caregiver the last 10 years of her life. My grandfather passed away in 1991 and my grandmother blossomed, at least it seemed that way to me. She seemed so much happier when she came over to visit. My children were just babies at the time.
She was very happy living in her home, practicing her frugal habits which I’ve talked about before on this blog. Her home was in a quiet neighborhood with businesses across the street. My mom would bring lunch to my Grandma every day to check on her and make sure she was okay. Sometime in 1996 my Grandma’s next door neighbor called my mom to report that Grandma was walking up and down the street talking to herself, and she admitted that it had been happening for awhile, but lately more frequently. Unfortunately, Grandma was also making a nuisance of herself at the businesses across the street. My Grandma’s neighbor had been getting her back home safely, but it was starting to happen so often that she knew it was time to let my mom know something had to be done.
Then my Grandma fell and hit her head one day shortly after my mom had left. My mom always called Grandma every night but she couldn’t get hold of her. Naturally she was concerned and went over to find Grandma lying on the floor, unable to get up, bleeding from a superficial wound. Mom called the paramedics and she was taken to the emergency room for an examination and stitches.
It seems to be a common theme: When an elderly person falls, often the family starts to think Grandma or Grandpa might be better off in a nursing home.
My mom was a certified nursing assistant, and she had worked in nursing homes. She was not happy about some of the situations she ran across and years before had made up her mind that Grandma was not going to live in one.
After Grandma fell, thankfully she did not break any bones, my mom had to make some big decisions. At the same time my mom was being evicted. She lived in an old house in an ancient dilapidated neighborhood and the city had decided to renovate. Instead of moving into Grandma’s house, Mom made the decision to sell her childhood home since the neighborhood was growing less “quiet” (read: gang infestation). The house sold for ~$50,000, just enough to buy a manufactured home on a corner lot in a small town.
My mom was a stay at home mom for most of her life. She rarely held a full time job, instead working part time and living on a desperately tight budget. My Grandma had worked full time for 50 years, saving and scrimping every penny and had earned a pension for her retirement years.
At the time my Grandma began living with my mom, she was coherent most of the time, but Alzheimer’s was beginning to rob her of her life. In her lucid moments, she took steps to make my mom joint account holder, putting my mom in charge of her money. Ironically the money my Grandma earned from her pension, combined with her Social Security allowed my mother more money than she had ever had in her life. It was only about $2500 a month, but that was a lot to my mom, especially when you consider her home was paid in full.
Mom cared for Grandma night and day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It would have cost a lot more than $2500 a month to put Grandma in a home, or to hire caretakers. My mom never took a day off in ten years. I’m glad my mom was able to be there for my Grandma. I don’t want my mom to ever go into a nursing home either. I hope between the six of us children, we will be able to care for my mom if the time comes that she can no longer live alone.
What happens in your family? Did your grandparents live in a nursing home? I still think of that old television show, The Waltons and how the whole family lived together. Those were the good old days.