When I moved my mom to Denver, she was 90 years old and she suffered from a form of dementia that made her unable to speak. Our family had decided that the best place for her to live would be a dementia unit in the same building where my dad would reside in independent living. Mom’s dementia unit was beautiful. It was sunny, upbeat, and attractively furnished. We thought she would be very happy there. The first day my husband and I visited her after her move to the unit, Mom was sitting in one of the anterooms. When we greeted her, she smiled, took my hand and, though she rarely spoke anymore, she clearly blurted out the words “I want to go home.” I was devasted. I understood how much she missed her beautiful home in Chicago, her blue and white china collection, her paintings she and Dad had purchased from their travels all over the world, her sunroom where she listened to music and knitted everyone scarves and hats for Christmas. What could I say that would make her feel better? I wasn’t sure anything would work, but I knew I had to try to at least attempt to encourage her to look on the bright side of her situation. I continued to hold her hand, I tried to look positive and I responded to her plea. “Mom,” I said, “I know how hard this is for you, but we can’t take care of you as well as the people here can take care of you. We’re all going to come and visit you and be with you as much as we can, but this is your new home now.” From that day on she never complained again and she graciously made the most of her situation. She participated in the unit’s activities, learned how to draw, showed people her soup making skills and went on field trips. It wasn’t easy to tell her what I needed to say, and it wasn’t easy for her to accept my words, but by talking about it together, each of us was more able to move on. Although I can’t say that during the time I cared for Mom I always chose the right words to say, at least I had the satisfaction of knowing that, in this one particular moment, I had communicated effectively. I think Mom could tell that I loved her and that I wanted to take care of her in the best way possible. I think she understood the message.
Search AARP Colorado
Sign Up & Stay Connected