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[personal profile] eurodancemix's been four months since I've updated this. Because of the amount of information to cover, I'll split the entire write-up into three or four parts, to be posted over the course of the next few days. So, here goes:

On October 21st, my mom suffered a slight brain hemorrhage. You can read more about it here in my previous entry:

That first weekend in November, I went to Montreal by myself. Eric was supposed to go with me, but his mom was scheduled for back surgery and, understandably, decided it was best for him to stay here with her. When I got to the hospital, Mom recognized me right away and began crying. For some reason, despite me reassuring her on the phone the day before that I'd be seeing her, she had forgotten and she had somehow convinced herself that I was never coming back. Mom had lost more weight, but was physically OK. Mentally, it was a completely different story: she continued to be nonsensical and her speech was greatly jumbled.

According to the doctor, they would most likely keep her for a few more weeks until the hematoma went away. I asked about the odds of Mom regaining her speech, and they advised me that, due to her age, the chances were not good. Even with the hematoma gone, the brain had been damaged. An elderly person's brain isn't as supple as a young person's, it calcifies and hardens actually, and it doesn't "bounce back" as well, so any pressure within the brain essentially deforms it ever so slightly. In addition to this, Mom was diagnosed as suffering from advanced dementia.

I spent a week with Mom.

There wasn't much for me to do, but I spent my days sitting with her for a few hours a day, then doing her laundry back at her apartment. I also bought her some new clothes. Even though the hospital setting was drab, Mom was a happy-go-lucky patient. This is good because it meant she didn't know specifically what had happened to her. Every so often she would have moments of lucidity and she'd ask why she wasn't in her apartment, but they were few. I would tell her why and she would just look at me with a look of slight surprise. Within minutes she would forget about it and move on to something else. Our days together were, for me, very emotionally and mentally draining. Imagine spending several hours with someone who's happy that you're there and who wants to chat endlessly, but doesn't make one bit of sense. Mom reminded me of a little child who'd just learned to talk and was mish-mashing words and syllables together just to make sounds. During this time, I slept at Mom's apartment. I stayed for a week. It was difficult leaving her, but she was in good hands: the hospital staff loved Mom ("she always has a smile", a nurse told me) and it was the safest place for her right now. I left knowing that I'd eventually have to come back when she'd be released from the hospital so I could take her back to her apartment.

Then, on November 17, I received a call from a social worker in Montreal who had been assigned to Mom's case. She called to tell me that even though Mom would eventually be released from the hospital, she could not return to her own apartment for safety reasons. It turned out that not only did Mom require more supervision because of her condition (dementia + after-effects of the brain injury) but that she was also a roamer, especially at night. Mom apparently had a tendency of waking up in the middle of the night and roaming about...she twice tried to exit the geriatric unit where she was. Therefore, for her own safety, the social worker suggested that Mom be placed into Quebec's public nursing home system where she could be in a monitored and locked environment. I was asked to meet with the social worker and the doctor the following Monday. My trip back came a lot sooner than I expected.

Now, when I first heard "public system", images of dirty, malnourished, neglected elderly people came to mind. We've all heard horror stories of nursing home neglect and the idea of putting her into a non-private location scared me. But I spoke with some friends, one of whom is a pediatrician in Quebec (so he has knowledge of the system) and who also had to place his own parents in such a system (albeit in New Brunswick, a different province). He assured me that there were plenty of checks and balances in place, and that the whole system had been reformed several years earlier to prevent such horror stories.

So, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, I met with the social worker and the doctor who took their time to explain to me everything that was going on with Mom, what I should expect, and what their recommendations were. By this time, the hematoma has completely disappeared, but an additional brain scan revealed that there was some scar tissue as a result of the hemorrhage. Mom's speech would never return to normal. Her dementia continued to progress and, without supervision, some basic hygiene wasn't being met and some daily routine elements were not completed properly. It's as if Mom had partially returned to being a child.

We discussed the process of finding Mom a new place to live, which was surprisingly pretty simple: I gave them authorization, and the social worker did all the work. We spent about an hour together discussing how events would unfold and I signed paperwork. As soon as I signed the form, I felt guilty. There were no other feasible options, but I felt like I had just gotten rid of my mom somehow. I couldn't take her home with me, and she couldn't return to her apartment...there's no way I could afford the same level of care in the States, so this was truly the only option. Mom would be found a room in a local nursing home. They advised that it could take several weeks before a room could be found, since the system is clogged up and the administrative part of the process is running a bit behind (it *is* government, after all). The cost would be either $1100/month for an intermediate level of care or $1700/month for a higher level. These are maximum amounts set by law. Both levels include 24-hour nursing surveillance, a doctor on duty or on call 24/7, furnished room, 3 meals a day + snacks, laundry service, assistance for bathroom and bath/shower, and personal hygiene products (shampoo, soap, body creme, etc.). The intermediate level does not include the cost of medications, but the higher level does. All other costs are covered by the government. The way it works is that the government reserves rooms in various nursing homes; the cost of the room itself (the lodging portion) is paid by me, and everything else is paid for by the government, with the exception of medications depending on the location. But keep in mind that meds are greatly discounted for the elderly...on average, Mom paid about $94 for $500 worth of medications every month.

After the meeting, I returned to Mom's room and spent a little bit of time with her. I held her in my arms and started crying. She looked at me, kissed me, told me she loved me, and said everything would be all right. She did not ask me what was wrong, she just instinctively reassured me. Out of the blue, she even sang me a little song that she'd sing to me when I cried as a child. For those few seconds, I needed Mom to take back her role, and she did. I dried my tears, spent a little more time with her and then headed out for the day. I immediately went to her apartment to advise the director that Mom would not be returning. Per Quebec law, landlords can charge up to three months' rent when a lease is broken early. This was the case, but I would still have the apartment until the end of February; this was great news as I wouldn't have to rush to empty out the apartment before returning home. I did, however, spend the rest of the day in the apartment, shredding paperwork that Mom had accumulated and decluttering as much as possible.

We had already downsized a year prior when Mom went from a 2-bedroom apartment to the studio. Now, we would be downsizing from a studio to a furnished room. I had my work cut out.

I spent a few more days in Montreal, visiting Mom each day and decluttering each night. I left on Tuesday, December 1 and returned home. I estimated that a new place probably wouldn't be found until well after the holidays.

Date: 2011-02-28 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
this brings back so many memories of 2007. I'm glad to see you are sharing this...will do you good.

Date: 2011-02-28 07:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's been's taken me a couple of weeks to write it all out.

Date: 2011-02-28 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Maybe you did tell me this, but I don't remember you saying that she held you while you cried and sang you a song. Wow...that is just so touching.

Date: 2011-02-28 07:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I thought I had told you about the little song...


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