“You’ve been so good to me for so long; I just can’t believe you would do this to me,” my mom says. “You don’t love me.”
When I reach over to offer comfort, she doesn’t want me to touch her.
She’s been like this, on and off (more on than off), ever since I moved her last week into the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, a nursing home. It all happened very suddenly when an admissions officer called me on Monday.
“We have a bed for your mother,” she said. “She can move in today or tomorrow.”
There was no time to prepare my mom or myself for the move, or to get my sister Kathy’s help, since she lives in South Carolina. There wasn’t even enough time to decide whether or not this was the right place for her. She definitely had to go to a nursing home paid for by Medicaid; we don’t have money to rent her an apartment and hire 24-hour care. The question is whether this was the best place for her.
She doesn’t like it, she says. That’s what I was afraid of.
“I don’t know how I’ll make it through the night. You can’t leave me here.” She weeps, incessantly, and there’s no way to console her.
I let her grieve for a while, but then I try to distract her. I take her off the dementia unit and walk her around the facility. We look at the birds and the fish, and the art. The place is massive, and there’s lots to see. She seems to be enjoying herself, almost.
“Hey, we better get home,” she says. “It’ll be getting dark soon.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” I say. “We have plenty of time.”
But I can put her off for only so long. As my departure grows nearer, there’s no avoiding her confusion and distress.
“Why can’t I go home?” she pleads.
“Because you’re going to stay here for a while.”
“Only if you stay with me,” she says.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” I say. “I promise.”
She’s lost in tears.
She can’t understand why I’m keeping her from her home. She can’t understand what she’s doing in this strange place with people she doesn’t know (people she’ll likely never know because she can’t remember them from one day to the next). And she can’t understand why her life has been taken away and why her daughter doesn’t love her anymore.