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January started off well: Mom was well taken care of in a new place, she seemed happy. I called her every day and we spoke. Things were good.

Then on January 18, I received a call at 2 AM from the night nurse at the residence. He had called to tell me that Mom had fallen while in the bathroom and had hit her head on the door frame. She was bleeding and they called 911 to take her to the ER. *sigh* we go again. There was nothing I could do so I went back to bed. Oddly enough, I wasn't panicked. I was comforted by the nurse's quick response and his immediate notification of me. He assured me that Mom was not in pain and that she seemed OK despite her fall.

In the morning, I called the hospital and got an update on her. She received stitches and that went well. She did not complain. There was, however, one heck of a surprise: they had discovered through blood tests that she had severe anemia! Her hemoglobin levels were very low, in the 60's when they should have been close to 100, which explained why she was tired so often and why she often seemed weak.

The doctor informed me that he would prescribe a couple of blood transfusions to bring up the hemoglobin levels. He also asked me if I'd be willing to authorize additional tests such as an endoscopy and a colonoscopy in hopes of determining the cause of this anemia. Because the levels are so low, he suspects possible internal bleeding. After discussing it with the doc, and getting his own personal opinion, I declined. I just couldn't see myself putting an 85 year-old woman with dementia through the trauma of having tubes inserted in various orifice,not to mention the possible dangers of anesthesia. What they'll do instead is closely monitor the hemoglobin levels and come up with an appropriate plan should things not improve. Mom was physically OK at that point, and I didn't want to start a routine of constant hospital visits.

She responded well to the transfusions and was released within a couple of days. Nevertheless, from having been bed-ridden for three days of so, she was having some difficulty walking on her own. She was still regaining her energy but she could not be left alone. She was eventually released from the hospital and returned to the residence, but with 24/7 in-room assistance. The social worker had someone assigned to her day and night to make sure she didn't fall while getting out of bed or while going to the bathroom. For the next few days, Mom seemed fine when I talked to her on the phone. According to the nurse, she was slowly regaining her strength.

Then, on January 24, I received a call from the social worker. Mom was still having difficulty walking without assistance and it was no longer possible for her to stay at her current residence. Just like it would with our health care system here, having someone at Mom's side 24/7 was busting their budget, plus this particular residence was not set up for that kind of care. Ugh! This is *so* not what I wanted to hear. The social worker advised me that Mom would have to be moved into a long-term care residence that would be better suited to her needs: lower ratio of patients-staff, more personnel, and facilities with more equipment.

I was faxed paperwork to sign and fax back. The social worker advised me that this could take a while as openings in long-term care facilities are few and far between and that there's a waiting list. Unlike the last time, I figured this would take a while. Well, guess what? On Wednesday, a mere two days later, I received a call from the social worker informing me that they'd already found her a spot and that she was moving the very next day at 1:30 PM. Huh, what? Wait! I asked what had happened to the lengthy wait time. The nurse advised me that she had marked Mom's file as "urgent" due to personal safety reasons. Somehow that put Mom at the front of the queue and she got the very first spot available.

While I was pleased at the short turnaround time, this posed a problem with work. Plus, Eric and I had planned on seeing Mom the second weekend of February. This moved our schedule up a bit. We were both able to get time off from work, we rented an SUV and drove up to Montreal late Thursday. We arrived there Friday morning. Our first stop was to pick up the last of Mom's items at the previous residence. They don't waste time...when we got there, they were already showing Mom's room to a new resident's family members. They had placed Mom's things in storage, so we loaded up the SUV and took what we could to the new place.

Mom recognized us immediately. I was so happy! She looked a bit thinner and frailer than I'd remembered her from just a few weeks prior. She motioned for us to hug her and she kissed us on the cheeks. Eric got more kisses than I did! Mom was in a great mood and she was chatty.

The new residence is older and much bigger overall than the previous one. It's also not as "warm" and much more clinical. But, Mom's not there on vacation, so what mattered most was that she would get the best care there. The room itself is smaller and was already furnished, so we couldn't bring too many additional items. We hung up pictures on the walls, placed a few knick-knacks on her dresser, and set up her TV. Her beautiful chair and floor lamp were given to the Salvation Army as there was no room for them. We then spent a little more time with her, then it was off to her old apartment (where she lived up until October) to finally clear everything out of there. There weren't may items left but what was still there was bulky: boxes with paintings, Dad's war memorabilia, etc., so we were glad to have gotten the SUV.

We spent the rest of the weekend visiting her though our visits weren't very long: she'd often end up falling asleep. On Saturday, Eric and I got to see first-hand the sadness that dementia can cause. When we got to the residence, Mom was finishing up a walk in the hallway. She was at the other end and when she saw us, she waived and quickly walked over to us. She was so happy to see us. Though her speech was still very confused, she was fully alert and in a very talkative mood. We went back into her room where she sat down on the edge of her bed. We talked for a little bit. Then, suddenly, her face changed, her eyes glazed over and her eyelids became heavy. It's as if someone had flipped a switch...she suddenly seemed lost, as if in another world. She seemed to look right through me, as if I were a stranger. She seemed unable to focus on our conversation. She became very tired and decided that she wanted to lie down on her bed, which she did. Within a minute, she was asleep. Eric and I left. We then went into Montreal proper where our friends John & Mario were gracious enough to host us for the weekend.

On Sunday, we went to visit Mom but she was asleep. We ran a few errands then came back and visited for a little while.

On Monday morning, I dropped Eric off at a local mall (free wifi) so he could get some work done while I took care of a bunch of errands all over town: deposit checks at the bank, go see the social worker to make financial arrangements, go to Revenue Quebec to change Mom's address, go to the post office, etc. I managed to get everything done shortly before noon. We then went to visit Mom one last time. Unfortunately, she was very tired and was falling asleep so we didn't visit for long. We had originally planned to leave on Tuesday, but the DC area was scheduled for an ice storm on Tuesday morning, so we left around 3 PM on Monday afternoon. We drove all night and made it home around 2 AM.


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September 2011

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