The Decision

Mz. Ruth feeds her birds. By Jo Ann Bell

Last week, Momma and I visited Cousin Bernadette, who is in a nursing home suffering from ailments associated with dementia.  It was a pleasure to see her, even though Momma really didn’t quite comprehend the reason for the visit or Cousin Bernadette’s disability.

To put a loved one in a facility, either temporarily or permanently, is a decision that plagues many families.  It is a decision that should not be subject to the judgments of outsiders.  Many times, families choose nursing homes based on what’s most convenient for everyone except the person being sent to live there.

I try to make decisions that will appease everyone. That’s not always the best mode of thinking. I worry a lot about how my friends and family would react if I placed my mother in a nursing facility. Between my brothers and I, I am the primary caregiver. Momma lives with me, and although my family helps, I am the relative who tends to her needs the most. Still, when I weigh this incredibly heavy and difficult decision – to keep her here or to take her there – I am filled with anticipated guilt.

Mz. Ruth herself has come within minutes of being moved to a place I call “Shady Pines.” Now, that’s not a real place, at least not to me. It’s a threat I conjure on those days when Momma has thoroughly plucked my nerves. I think about Shady Pines a lot on those days when she gets combative, confrontational, or hard to physically manage.  The days may be long and the nights may have been longer.

Watching Momma enjoy her simplest pleasures reminds me why I keep her by my side. By Jo Ann Bell

But then I look at the way she enjoys the simple pleasure of an ice cream cone, or her love of nature and animals. Or the way she might for a single moment express love.  I realize that, for now, Momma’s love of life is big and special, and that she deserves to be free. Placing her in a nursing home would deny her that freedom.

And so we continue our life journey together – Mz. Ruth and I, here at home.

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