“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven …” – Ecclesiastes 3
May … Five Years Ago
Melissa and I picked up stakes, our business and our lives, and moved from Tallahassee, Florida to Richmond, Virginia.
The sole purpose was to be caregivers. My mom, Helen, and sister, Nel lived together and were both having dementia related challenges that were getting worse by the day. We had observed this for some time, but didn’t even know where or how to help. As time went on, we saw more and more disturbing signs when visiting, and we learned even more through conversations with friends and relatives in Richmond.
The whole rationale for moving to Richmond seemed simple at a distance. My family had always been there for me. I had to be there for them. It was the only choice I could make. And, Melissa supported that choice all the way. The challenge was we hadn’t googled “primary caregivers” to even know what our new role really meant.
After arriving in Richmond with no plan in hand, exploration, discovery and being totally overwhelmed at every turn would be the be the best way to describe it. We had dealt with hurricanes, sinkholes, alligators, sharks and other dangerous things … but nothing prepared us for this.
And, this didn’t even include being homesick for Tallahassee, where Melissa and I started our leadership development firm, Catch Your Limit, had a home, friends and the Gulf of Mexico as our playground. Did I mention we loved to fish?!
The welcome wagon was not exactly here to greet us when we arrived in Richmond. My Mom and sister were an extremely strong, independent, self reliant duo. We had talked with them at length about our decision to move to Richmond, but the reality of us coming hadn’t sunk in (or possibly even registered with the dementia challenges) until we walked through their front door after our 12 hour drive. Nel, greeted and hugged me, and immediately said, “Hi, Tom … great to see you, when are you leaving?”
Mom had even asked someone to call Henrico County Sheriff’s Office upon seeing the moving van arrive to let them know that we were not needed or welcomed here and to have us escorted from town if necessary. Our move was threatening to them in so many ways. But, Mom and Nel were running out of options.
The dangers surrounding Mom and Nel’s challenges with dementia were increasing. But, we were limited in what we could do from afar. Below are just a few examples:
- Once on a visit, we talked with them about driving and took away their car keys and disconnected the battery only to have “friends” step in, override our family decision and enable them to get on the roads and endanger themselves and others once more (Nel could no longer find her car when parked in the 7-11 parking lot … the 7-11 she and mom visited multiple times daily to get Big Gulp refills). And, there were lots of dents all over their car that they could not explain. No telling how many they left on other people’s cars.
- Mom and Nel collectively refused medical attention of any sort.
- And, in the year before we moved, Mom’s attorney had contracted with 24/7 caregivers, which was most needed, but the estate was hemorrhaging so much money that we were already having discussions about when their assets would need to be liquidated.
Only once we moved were we able to dedicate the time necessary to navigate the available resources, build a team and understand how to ask for help. Fortunately, within a couple of months, we found a doctor who would make a house call and my sister’s behavior was diagnosed as early-onset Alzheimer’s.
May … Four Years Ago
My daughters and I were grieving for Nel, she had passed away March 28th, just a little over one month shy of turning 65 on May 10th.
One year to the day after we moved to Richmond, I started this blog … my91yearoldmom.com. I decided to keep the domain name, and celebrate her new age and stage every Christmas Day. Yep, mom was a Christmas baby … and this coming Christmas, she will be 96.
This was my introduction to the blog …
“If you are, have or even anticipate caring for an elder parent, sign up for my blog and join me on my journey with my 91 year old mom. You’ll find laughs, tears, insights, and lessons learned (often the hard way) all along the way. One thing I promise you on this journey (that has no road maps), no two days are ever the same! So , join us … mom and I could both use some company.”
May … One Year Ago
I wrote a blog titled “Step Mom”. It was about having permanently grounded mom, but not for bad behavior, goodness no!
You will have to click on the title to read the rest of the story.
This Last Day of May 2015 … Today
Between that first May date (that seems like one part yesterday, and one part an eternity ago) and now, so many things have happened. So many lessons learned. So much still to learn.
I am grateful for my mom for continuing to be my inspiration and my teacher.
I am grateful for becoming a caregiver.
I am grateful for my entire family that supports me, even as I learn.
I am grateful to you for being a part of our journey.
I am grateful for learning so much more about life, love, caring, grief, hope, faith, sorrow, joy … to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven …
That choice Melissa and I made to move here in May, five years ago … it was the right choice … it has changed our destiny, who we are and who we will be, forever.