Is there housing that matches my mother's independent needs?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 18, 2016
Sunshinedaisy asked...

My mother had a stroke in October of 2009. She is 60 years old. She was living on her own in a camper by the sea year round so that she could go fishing every day if she wanted. She really loved her life, and enjoyed that we came to visit about every other month (read-- she likes her alone time lol).

Now, she is in a nursing home. She is depressed and extremely angry. She lived for about a month with my sister, but after she became angry out of the blue one day, she refused to let my sister even change her soiled undergarments. My sister had no choice but to place her back in the nursing home/rehab place.

I moved her to a facility near me at her request. She will not speak to my sister at all, she says that my sister is stealing from her and she hates her and will not ever talk to her again. She has convinced herself that she is going to be leaving the nursing home for good in 3 months time.

Her right side barely functions, she can move her lower leg slightly, but not much else. She is incontinent, and her right hand has mostly atrophied. She told me I should just drop her off at her camper and she would be fine. Obviously, I cannot just drop her there. I would take her home with me, but I live in a 2nd floor apartment with only stairs. I could never get her up here, much less back out again.

She is a very independent person, and I want to know if there is some other option for her. Are there maybe group homes for elderly where she could be with just a few people? She only really needs help with toileting, soiled undergarments, and getting in and out of bed. Not anything a nurse's aide couldn't handle. She doesn't really need skilled nurses I don't think. If not the group home, what exactly would be required for her to live in an assisted living facility? She has both Medicaid and Medicare, Medicaid after the stroke, and Medicare because she had memory issues prior to the stroke that kept her from doing basic things like getting the faucet to turn on (she would turn it backwards). She actually forgot one of her granddaughters at a car dealership and had to go back for her 20 minutes later when I called and asked where she was.

She is not a very social person, and absolutely hates the nursing home. I have been looking into government housing where she can have an aide come by for 8 hours a day. If I could arrange this, with me taking care of her on the 2 days a week that they don't come, would this be considered neglect since she would be alone for many hours each day? I just don't know what to do to help her, and I know she won't live out the year if she stays in that place.

She has medical training, and knows of several ways to harm herself even with the limited supplies available there. I really believe that if she doesn't leave soon, she could get depressed enough to take her own life. She has been prescribed two different anti-depressants, but she refuses to take any medication except her blood pressure pills and a stool softener. Please help me, any suggestions and ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Expert Answers

Donna Quinn Robbins is the author of Moving Mom and Dad and On the Road of Life, Drive Yourself. She helps individuals, families, retirement communities, and corporations make successful transitions through her company, Ultimate Moves. Robbins is an active public speaker on the topic of senior transition services and has appeared on NBC's Today Show.

Your question is about housing for an independent person. The one thing you did not mention is if your mother can walk. It sounds like a 6 and under board and care would be the best place for her if she can walk or get around by herself. There are hud housing board and cares. Call the Ombudsmen to get a list of the places in your area. Thanks, Donna

Community Answers

Sunshinedaisy answered...

Thank you for your response. My mother cannot walk. She can stand with assistance to transfer from chair to bed or shower and back again, but not walk. She is able to move her right foot slightly, but not much. I tried a smaller facility with only 6 beds, but unfortunately they were not very helpful. When she was taken by ambulance to the hospital with chest pains, they didn't even call me. I only found out because i came that particular day to visit with her. I am now looking for an apartment in the lower level of my complex to rent and then I can be with her all day, and we can be connected with a baby monitor or 2 way radio. Then my children can visit whenever she likes and I would even feel comfortable with sleepovers with my oldest since I am right here if something goes wrong.

A fellow caregiver answered...

First, I have to say that I'm not an "expert" on any of this. However, I disagree strongly with the response given to your first message.

I think it was clear in that message that your mother cannot walk. It seems to me that the word "independent" could be interpreted in two ways in the title of the original message and in the message itself. You used independent to mean that your mother does not want to socialize with others, that she wants to be alone much of the time. The title sounds as if she is independent in the sense that she is able to take care of her own needs including the ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). I don't remember all of the ADLs right now, but they include toileting oneself, walking, eating, bathing, etc. Your mother is not independent in that sense. Also, she apparently has some memory problems.

My husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. His short-term memory is bad, his long-term memory is declining, his reasoning varies (sometimes it's okay, sometimes not), and he can carry out all of the ADLs without any help other than occasional reminders. I've been told by his doctor that he should not be left alone, because anything could happen. It seems to me that your mother should definitely not be left alone at all, especially since she is essentially bedridden. Even if you were to see to it that she was up, dressed, and in a wheelchair, she could fall out of the chair, start a fire in the kitchen, etc. Also, could she get out of the apartment if there was an emergency such as a fire? Would she know to or be able to contact you or someone else for help? I wouldn't chance it.

I don't know much about the bed and boards. I doubt if the Assisted Living Facilities I know about would take your mother. She seems to need more help than they usually give. Are there government agencies in your area that provide assistance in finding appropriate facilities? Unfortunately, when I tried to find a facility for my sister who was 59 at the time, I learned that it is hard to get help with people under 65.

I'm sorry you are facing this. Good luck!