After an intense 12-hour day James and I are exhausted in every sense of the word. Our friend with Alzheimer’s was moved today to an assisted living facility in a fashion that was modeled after a White House move. Everything was orchestrated from those who would keep our friend active and away from all the ‘action’, to the workers who helped us make the transition by packing (‘Gussie’) and unpacking (Lori). Nothing was left to chance, and every base was covered. From the letter that we prepared in advance for the staff at the facility to read so to better understand the new face that would appear among them, to top-notch guys from Two Men And A Truck who went above and beyond the original plan, to the pictures we took of his bathroom and desk so to be able to re-create them, to the card we dropped in the mail so he will have something from the postman on the first full day at his home, we aimed to make this a smooth move. Simply put there are many reasons to be thankful tonight, as it all worked. More than once along the way these past many weeks we have been told we should conduct a class on how to deal with these matters, given how we have dealt with our friend. After today, I think there is so much to say we should just write a book.
When an Alzheimer’s specialist advised us recently, after our inquiry into how best to prepare our friend for the move, that we should just take him out for an errand and wind up at the new home while presenting it to him with tender words, I was aghast. I held my tongue, but once in the car after the meeting James and I spoke of having different DNA in our makeup, making it not possible to deceive our friend. James was right there with me in agreement and said there was no way we could operate in such a fashion. After all the time being honest and forthright about matters it would disappear if we were to act in such a fashion. All trust with our friend would be lost, and rightly so.
We chose a different path, and one that with some prayer and hope proved to be the perfect way. While we had talked about these matters at the time our friend put his wishes into legal documents a long time ago, it is much different when the mind is muddled by disease. So over the past few days we started introducing topics such as ‘what items from your home would you want in the event that you were to move’? He was able to see the direction we were headed, and understood it was the path that needed to be taken. We sat for a long time on Sunday afternoon talking to him about how we cared and had planned for this time for many months, and asked him to trust us, as he had done all along. We told him that there was a place in Middleton that we liked, and felt he would like too.
The next day he was moving ahead in his mind about ‘a move’ without knowing the specifics, all designed to keep a level of unneeded anxiety from entering the picture. In phone calls and visits early this week he wondered how the mail would be arranged, and how his friends would be alerted to the news. He was starting in small ways to claim ownership of the idea. With a gentle hand we had moved the plan ahead.
James and I arranged for a full day of friends and laugher on Wednesday to engage our friend and remove him from his home. Carmen, a lovely 30-year-old woman accompanied our friend around the city today. As he walked with her I am sure he knew he ‘still had it’. With a truly special group of people assembled the rest of us started from scratch and moved a large section of our friend’s possessions to his new home. Later we would learn that he felt something like a move must be in the works as all the pieces from the previous days were falling into place in his mind. He also knew that once we said something would happen…..it did!
And it did.
With staff from other sections of the facility stopping in to see what was described to them as something ‘very creative’ being assembled, we were sure that the path we chose for our friend was indeed the correct one. From his unique wooden day bed (who knew in advance it came in so many pieces?) to his drafting table from Italy, to his pictures on his wall, and large splashes of color in the room, it all became a true reflection of who will live there. When the hours were growing long it was troopers like Lori, along with Josh and Justin from the moving company, that proved deadlines can be met with a smile.
When Carmen drove our friend up to door he was thinking that perhaps this was the day of the move, but was not sure. When James ushered him into his room it was the look we had hoped for, one of surprise not so much at the fact he was in his new home, but the fact that in just hours so much of his world had moved and been arranged in the fashion he loved. He was genuinely moved and touched, sitting down and just not sure what to say. He gave hugs, and then gave more hugs. It was like Christmas morning as his delight was clear by the beaming smile and….then more hugs.
I am sure there are many ways to deal with these matters at the time when a loved one needs more care than can be provided at our home. But I think it essential to allow the person most impacted to be a part of the process and claim their ownership of the decision. I am sure this path we took will allow for a more productive time for our friend as he starts this next chapter of his life.
We told him as we left late today that he can have anything he wants for breakfast, “Do they know how to make grits?” ( A true southern appetite!)
We told him if they don’t they will soon!
I think this all will work out fine.