By Jon Lucas
As 2012 was coming to an end, so was my stamina. At this point I had been Sharon’s 24/7 caregiver for over 2 years. And things were just getting worse. I was burning out. I could feel it. I was starting to dread the start of every day. Signs of depression were beginning to show in me. Fortunately, I recognized it.
One day in January, 2013 I went out to lunch with Mandy while a caregiver was with Sharon at home. During our conversation over lunch, Mandy told me she missed me. This struck a chord in me. It made me realize that Mandy and Laura really didn’t have access to me anymore. Not only did they no longer have a mother to share their lives, they really didn’t have me around either. I just hadn’t realized it.
There was a convergence of several factors that January that drove me to the hardest decision of my life. I had made a lot of difficult decisions in my life but none of them came close to this one. I was becoming depressed. I was burning out. I was already making plans to put Sharon in a facility for a couple of weeks in March. I was sleep deprived. I was tired of being the poop coach and of cleaning up her bodily messes. Moments of any joy were fleeting. On January 27, 2013, after days of agonizing over the idea of it, I made the decision. I was going to place her in a dementia care facility permanently.
Fortunately, I had already done my homework regarding evaluating dementia care facilities ahead of time. This is something I can’t stress enough to other caregivers/decision makers: Go check out facilities before you need to, even if you think you will never place your loved one. When the time finally comes that you need to place the person, that is not the time to start looking. I had two friends in my support group that had to place their wives in facilities on an emergency basis. Both had to make spur of the moment choices without having had the chance to shop around.
The first thing I did was call family members to tell them: our daughters, Sharon’s sisters and parents. Each and every one of them supported my decision. That was a huge relief for me. I had seen situations where not everyone was on board with the decision, usually family members that had not been exposed to the daily tortures of the disease; and those were unpleasant situations for those decision-making caregivers.
January 27 was a Sunday and the staff in charge of placement for dementia care residences were not available on Sundays. Monday morning I called my first choice of facilities, Cedar Creek in Los Gatos, California. They had openings and they could send out someone the next day to evaluate Sharon to make sure she was a fit for their community. Tuesday morning the director of the facility came to our house and chatted with Sharon and me for a while. Sharon had no clue what was going on and I wasn’t about to tell her. By this time, she wasn’t really sure who I was, she didn’t know any of her family or that she even had a family. She thought “home” was some place other than the place that was our real home for over 20 years. Telling her I was moving her out wouldn’t have done her any good and she would have forgotten I told her a few minutes later anyway.