Our aging parents represent some of our best ideals, particularly when it comes to long, enduring marriages and a strong belief in the vows they made including “…in sickness and
in health.” The idea of mom resisting the pressure to move her mate of 40 plus years out of her home, her bed and her life, into a facility, even on the same campus, can be abhorrent.
In this situation, where dad is dealing with advancing dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to remind your mother why she and your dad made the decision to move into a continuous care retirement community (CCRC). More than likely, both your mother and dad wanted to have the peace of mind knowing that they could take up residence, initially in the more active and vibrant setting of an independent living community. But they also were planning together for a time when one of them might need additional or increasing care for a disability that had perhaps not yet manifested. Dementia is a perfect example.
You have to win mom’s approval to make this type of adjustment to their lives. One of the best things you can do is to arrange a meeting with the facility staff and with their help put together a plan that starts integrating your dad into some of the daily activities available in the dementia unit, like music, art, and games. This will also provide your dad with the added benefit of socialization during the day with people dealing with similar memory loss issues. The facility may also offer spouse support groups that will be helpful in having your mom accept that fact that she is not alone, nor the first to have to face this difficult decision.
This will also allow you to slowly introduce your mother to the benefits available for her husband in the memory disorder assisted living or dementia-specific parts of the CCRC. Suggest to your mom that she accompany your dad to some of these activities, or drop him off and visit him during the day while he’s there to check up on him. During this trial time of perhaps several weeks, many things will begin to take place.
Most likely, dad will be quite happy with his new friends, and will probably let you know that he enjoys the new activities and people. If his condition is more advanced, he will be well cared for, and exposed to activities, people and a level of care appropriate to his increased need for attention.
Mom, on the other hand may actually become the bigger beneficiary of this approach. As she gets used to the idea that dad will spend his days happy, active and being cared for, she will begin to find the time and the will to rediscover her own life, a life that she had actually put on hold as her husband began his disease-related decline. Give your mom lots of encouragement and support to do things with her friends, take her out to lunch or shopping and remind her that this is what her dad would want for her – not to see her spending every waking moment caring for him.
The idea of “allowing” or better yet, suggesting that dad be relocated to the assisted living or dementia part of the CCRC is easier to approach once mom realizes that she can still see her husband daily if she chooses, and continue to enjoy her life, guilt-free, without the worry of leaving him alone in their apartment during those times she has to be out or when she is seeking personal time for respite or to be with her friends.
Other issues to consider regarding relocating your dad to the increased assistance part of the CCRC include: (1) with dementia, there is a possibility that he may wander from their independent living apartment, (2) he may begin to show behavioral issues in the dining rooms, (3) the reality of increased expenses for in-home private care and (4) the fear of a fire or a fall in the apartment during times when the patient may be left alone during the day and at night when your mom is trying to sleep, particularly if your dad is showing signs of sundowning.
You mom has to gently be shown that her decision will contribute to better care, greater safety, and an improved quality of life for dad, and constantly and consistently reassured that her decision is not a violation of their wedding vows, but a decision that is in the best interest of the health and well being of both partners.