My ninety-one year old mother lives in a nursing home.
Fifteen years ago, uttering those words would have earned me a rhetorical backhanded slap across my face. My mother created a life by caring for others: her children, grandchildren, parents, neighborhood children, church members, and all others needing her assistance. Granny Box fed neighborhood kids long after hers left home, cooked meals for seniors although she was a senior herself, visited hospitals and nursing homes. She was a revered elder in Rockford, Illinois, where she’d lived for sixty-five years.
After retirement, my mother continued working part-time, serving lunch at a local elementary school. Along with the meal, she encouraged the students to focus on their studies. When students came to school without the required lunch money, she fed them. No child went hungry on her watch.
As part of her daily routine, as soon as she woke up, my mother raised the kitchen shade. At a prearranged time, the apartment complex’s maintenance man drove by. If the shade was up, she was fine. If the shade was down, he knocked on the door and entered the apartment if there was no response. Friends and relatives called regularly or stopped by. She was content and we were grateful she had a village.
She began telephone conversations with “did I tell you…” rattling off the events as if reminding herself to remember them. When the conversation moved to grandchildren, church, or information stored in her long-term memory, she was her cheerful self.
When we visited her, we opened the bills and paid them. She scribbled notes on envelopes, taped them to a bulletin board on her kitchen wall: reminders of important dates, phone numbers. Prominently noted were her daughters’ phone numbers and emergency contacts.
My mother fractured her pelvic bone during a fall at work. Her bones were thinning and the doctors told us another fall would leave her confined to a wheel chair. She was no longer able to live alone. She was forced to move away from the place she knew and loved.
For the next two years, my mother attended an adult day care program, making new friends, participating in outings. We attended church, social events and made short trips back to Rockford, until she fell again and fractured her right Humerus.
After eight weeks of therapy to restore her arm’s functioning, she was placed in an assisted living facility where she had limited independence, round-the-clock nursing assistance and was in the company of other seniors. Did I forget to say my mother loves people and is energized being around them?
Six months later, my mother fell and broke her right hip. Her surgical team had pioneered a new hip replacement procedure, testing it on seniors with amazing results. Thirty-six hours after her fall, my mother had a new hip.
My mother received one hundred days of therapy. She was resistant to therapy, unwilling to move unless forced to do so. The hip healed as demonstrated through x-rays and manipulations in the doctor’s office. She became a permanent resident of the facility where she received her rehabilitation services, transitioning her to the long-term care section. She could not return to the assisted living facility in a wheelchair. Her number of daily medications has increased. The home’s staff knows and loves her, laugh at her antics, and provide quality care. She trusts them to take care of her and to call me when she says so.
While placement in the nursing home is not the outcome any of us wanted, my mother is in the best place for her to enjoy a higher quality life during this season. My sister and I visit faithfully. Her grandchildren spend holiday breaks with her. Her friends have made the pilgrimage to see her. In the end, we had to let go of a promise we were unable to keep in favor of a better decision that uplifts and nourishes our mother’s twilight years. Let Go…let God.
-Joyce A. Brown
Joyce Brown is a motivational speaker and author who uses her creative energy to give voice and meaning to the challenges women face in all walks of life. She grew up in Rockford, Illinois in a household of strong women. She graduated from Bradley University with a B.S. and M.A. Her professional career expanded her reach into Peoria, Illinois; and Battle Creek, Michigan. Joyce obtained a PhD from Western Michigan University.
She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and has served as a direct services worker, executive director, program director for a major foundation, and an entrepreneur. Joyce has experienced many uplifting moments as a professional and as a dedicated parent and strives to bring those events and lessons to life through her characters in the contemporary fiction novels she pens.
Her most recent novels are Getting Away With Everything, What You Can Get Away With, and she is also one of twelve collaborating authors in Baring It All: The Ins and Outs of Publishing and a contributing author in a romance anthology titled, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours.