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Taking her dog away

Originally posted July 24th, 2012.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Dalai Llama

Two weeks ago my siblings and I moved my mom to assisted living.

Some people know what that really means.

Some people think they know, but I know they really don’t know.

She gave up her home, her car, her bank accounts, her keys, her freedom.

She still had her small dog.

But they made me take him away from her after a few days, too.

In the first few days in a strange setting, they SAID he bit someone. Others in the facility said this wasn’t true.

But having a dog was a source of stress for my mom, who is very ill. So it was understandable the facility felt he needed to go, but it was painful to do so.

I lied to her. I told her that I was taking him to the vet for a check-up.

She handed him to me, and said, “You are so kind. Thank you for taking care of my dog. What a good daughter.“

I took him away from her and walked out.

Two short years ago, we hiked Rattlesnake Trail to the Squam Lake overlook together….

There was crisis, small crisis, crisis…in the months leading up to this, the dementia knocking at my door until I finally turned around and recognized its unwanted and ugly face.

I am bone weary and sad beyond words. I know she is too.

This week we cleaned out her belongings, shrinking her life into one small room.

What lies ahead?

The assisted living facility is a nice place. It’s clean, the food is very good, the staff is competent and compassionate. It is expensive. Hushed, we say, the money will run out; how can we stabilize her healthcare costs?

There is no answer.

It is not a reasonable amount of money; none of us make enough money to plug that hole.

Life feels different now.

I used to feel safe and comfortable. I no longer do. I now feel life is cruel and unpredictable. I mean, I always knew it was. I have weathered other storms in my life. But this knowledge is in my bones.

I watch the cruel memory loss take over and it is debilitating and frightening, for the one afflicted and the family watching.

What happens when the money runs out?

How can this nation turn its backs on our elderly citizens?

Too many questions.

The list of things Medicare doesn’t cover is long.

Isn’t this invisible disability as real as one that physically cripples?

My heart weeps.


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