By Teresa Fischer
I met my neighbor Ruth when I moved into my house in 2008. She’s the first one that came over to meet me and introduce me to the neighborhood. I liked her right away, and we became great friends who shared a love of gardening.
At the time, Ruth then 76, was caring for her husband who had dementia. She doted on him lovingly until he passed away in 2013.
Ruth and her husband were avid gardeners most of their lives and there wasn’t much she didn’t know or couldn’t do in the garden! Once her husband died, other than church, gardening became her life and purpose. All of her children lived several hours away, so it was just Ruth, her friends and her garden.
The kids came to see her every few months and she got along fine until her balance started to go. Sometimes I would visit and she’d have large bruises all over her arms! When questioned about what happened, she would say “oh, I lost my balance and fell last night”. I always asked if she was wearing her life line, but of course, she was too proud for that, and wouldn’t put it on. Thankfully, she never broke a hip or worse in one of her falls, but I was always worried about her and checked on her often.
As the years went by, she started leaving her windows open at night, or the garage or shed door open, which in our neighborhood, isn’t a safe thing to do, so I would go over and remind her to lock things up. We would sit and visit and she would tell me how lonely she was, and that she was no longer going to church. She would often complain about how much yard work she had to do, and how she wasn’t cooking much for herself or cleaning house. She had even stopped quilting! Her mind was sharp but I could see she was losing her motivation.
I would gently suggest she move to an Assisted Living Community where she would be around people and have help with meals and house work, but Ruth had lived in her house since 1959 and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her beloved home. She had already decided in her mind that she was going to wait one more year and then make a move. And then she became ill.
In 2016 Ruth started having severe urinary tract infections that her Dr. couldn’t get cleared up. She ran fevers, lost weight and became weak, in spite of the fact that she was complying with her diet and drinking a lot of fluids. It got so bad that she had to go stay with her son for several weeks.
During that time, her son talked her into putting down a deposit on an Assisted Living apartment near him, which was a 3 hour drive from her home. Because she was so sick, she agreed, and was scheduled to move in just a few short weeks. But Ruth suddenly took a turn for the better and made a full recovery and returned home.
Now she faced the dreaded move! Every few days I would see her and she would cry that she couldn’t, wouldn’t do it, no matter what her son said! She felt obligated by her deposit but was distraught over her decision, and she felt she was forced into it by her son who was tired of dealing with her problems. Now on top of her anxiety and depression over moving, her relationship with her son was very strained due to her resentment over being told she had to move. Well, she did move to a lovely Assisted Living Community, at her son’s insistence, and she hated it, crying daily, longing for her home. The relationship became so strained, that her son finally consented to her returning to her house.
He brought her home, but after a few short hours, SHE decided that she really couldn’t manage alone there any longer and she chose to go back to the Assisted Living apartment! Once it became her decision, she could go with acceptance in her heart and be at peace with the move.
I miss my dear friend but have to let her go. It’s all part of her journey.
The moral of the story is, have a plan before a crisis happens, because choosing in crisis often isn’t a choice. As much as is reasonable, let mom and dad be a part of the decision making process and try to keep the communication channels open!