Safety Comes at a Price

I hear the sirens of the ambulance fade in the distance... My body cannot move as my mind is over flooded by the realization that the time has come. Oh, boy. How am I going to tell her, how?

Like a robot, I get in my car to drive to the hospital. Once there, every few seconds a new nurse arrives with a new set of questions, none of which I can answer -- but I am the only one who knows my mother.

When did she fall?
How long had she been lying there?
Was she unconscious?
How old is she?

Ah, finally my fuzzy brain knows that one! I answer, "Eighty-two. She has memory problems and falls frequently."

More questions. What? I don't know...

I know nothing. My mother is suddenly not my parent anymore. When did she turn into the child? My mind can't comprehend what my heart already knows. It's time...

I can no longer avoid it. I silently stare at all the machines that are beeping happily next to my mother's bed. The doctor tells me she cannot go home any longer. I nod my head. "What is the solution?" I ask.

Today, it is called a "care facility." Basically, I am putting her in a home and locking her up... Oh, did I just think that out loud? No, thank goodness. The doctor drones on...

I have to find a moment to tell her between the memory lapses, to tell her... I, her daughter, have to tell her that I am taking away her freedom, her right to go home. I feel a huge, tight ball settle in the pit of my stomach.

When did we reverse roles? Last time I saw her, I thought she'd make it somehow without... well, this awful decision -- that somehow she'd stay home.

I can't do it! I won't... There must be another solution!

To be proactive instead of hanging around the hospital all day, I visit the care facilities that are on a list that the social worker hands out. The moment I walk in the first facility listed, I know my mother is NOT going here, to this totally sterile environment with not one friendly face anywhere. As fast as I can, I am back outside, deeply breathing the spring air and hoping that this will go away.

After a few visits to different facilities I find something I like. Nothing, of course, I truly like, but this is the best-case scenario. All I have to do is wait until the insurance gives the ok and the doctors officially release her from the hospital. Minus one little detail: I still have not told my mom anything.

Finally, I have to as there is no more time, and while I dread the conversation, it actually turns out ok. Today, my mother is lucid. We are having coffee together and somehow, against all odds, I find the words.

"Mom, you know your memory is not great, right? And you keep falling. I need you to be safe. You understand?"

"Yes, yes, of course," admits my mother, "I do fall a lot, and I am alone."

I take a deep breath and say, "Mom, I want you safe. Your safety is the most important thing to me. The doctors agree that you have to go into a care facility where they will do rehab and help you. The good thing is, you will get three meals a day!" I try to sound chipper. She nods her head in understanding.

As we prepare the transfer to the facility, everything happens suddenly fast. I guess the hospital needs the bed. When she arrives in the care facility, I and a staff member get her settled into her new digs. Then it is time to kiss her good-bye and that awful ball in the pit of my stomach is about to blow up. I just barely make it out of the room. Around the corner, I lean my head against the wall, holding myself up for support as the tears stream down my face.

Why does safety come with this price tag? Wow, it is awful! I know many of us are in the same boat, but until you do it yourself, you have no understanding of the horror it is to take a parent's rights away and ultimately become the parent yourself...

Every life matters...

(Written for a friend, who is experiencing this with her mother.)