It was our worst-case scenario, the “what if” my siblings and I had presented to our father for the past year as we tried to get him and our mom to move out of their old house and into a place with people who could care for them properly. The event we’d warned him about finally happened: my dad collapsed and was in the hospital — where he’d end up staying for a month as he battled pneumonia — and my mom was left at home. Alone.
My mom has Alzheimer’s. It’s been a slow and steady decline for her; she’ll have moments of humor and clarity as well as long periods of anxiety and confusion. For several years, my father had been in denial about her condition. Oh, when pushed, he’d acknowledge she had a “bad memory” and as a result could no longer drive, nor cook meals as she’d burned too many forgotten pots on the stove. But conversations always ended with him thanking for us for our concern and telling us he’d “think about it.”
Within two days of my dad being hospitalized, my mom was in a geriatric dementia care psychiatric unit in Baltimore. While a dramatic turn of events, it was exactly what she needed. As they adjusted her medications, she became calmer, happier. She still couldn’t hold onto a new memory for more than 30 seconds, but she was in a much better place, emotionally. Jumping through legal hurdles and court filings and more, we were able to get her moved into a memory care home where she enjoys socializing with residents. When my dad finally recovered physically, he moved there, too.
So our worst-case scenario — something happens to Dad and we have no way to take care of Mom — ended up working out in the end. But for stress alone, it’s not the way I would have preferred to get them settled where they need to be. It wasn’t easy on me, my siblings, my husband, or my kids. In addition to seeing their Grammy and PopPop’s health plummet, my son and daughter saw me pulled in too many directions. I pushed their problems to the back-burner as I tackled one hurdle after another for my parents.
To help our readers who may find themselves among the sandwich generation, we sat down with Kathy Cox from Country Meadows to get answers to questions I wish I’d asked 20 years ago, when my parents were still healthy and active. She shared better ways to anticipate our parents’ future needs and how to help get measures in place now so we’re not scrambling if a crisis hits next year or in a few decades.
As my parents settle into their new assisted living community, I’m looking forward to spending more time connecting with my kids. Luckily, fall has always been my favorite season for that. We have traditions — some newer than others — of Friday night football games, hayrides (more often haunted now that they’re older) and picking out pumpkins. This issue is packed with ideas for fall fun, with our guide to area corn mazes and pumpkin patches and a calendar filled with outdoor activities.
We also have our Education Report with articles explaining what cyber snow days are all about, helping you prepare for the upcoming parent-teacher conferences, and exploring why some school districts have done away with valedictorians and class rankings. It’s an ever-changing educational landscape.