No one wants to even think about placing a loved one with Alzheimer's in a facility. Period. But I had no choice. I had a full-time job and was spending every free moment caring for my soul mate, Ed. Yet he needed so much more care than I could possibly provide.
I tried having professional caregivers come in to help but that was a disaster. Ed needed much more care than even two people could provide. Day care didn't work any better. They told me his dementia was too advanced for them to handle.
He was walking around his apartment naked most of the time. I was terrified he'd leave the apartment with a cab driver, which he'd previously done on a regular basis. I worried he'd get lost and not be able to find the cab driver to go back home. I was afraid he'd be lost forever.
Plus, he was drinking prodigious amounts of vodka, starting before noon and ending at 3:00 a.m.. I tried in vain to get him to drink less. He had fallen several times -- probably due to the alcohol and/or his advancing dementia. Fortunately, he hadn't injured himself but I knew it was just a matter of time. And he wasn't eating well. He was 5'8" and weighed only 115 pounds. I couldn't get him to eat more, either.
As I describe in Come Back Early Today - A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy, I was distraught at the very thought of putting him in a facility. He'd come to this country with little more than the shirt on his back as a political refugee, fleeing the brutal communist regime in Romania. And there I was, fixing to admit him to an institution where he'd be in a secured unit. The very thought broke my heart and always left me in tears.
So there I was with this 92-year old man who desperately needed to be in an Alzheimer's care facility. The only thing was, he adamantly refused to go. He said he'd die first. He always said he'd die first. Always.
I was under intense pressure from his doctor, his lawyer, his close friends, my lawyer, several other professionals I had consulted and all my family and friends to get him into a safe place and to do it quickly, even if I had to take him against his will. That idea scared me to death. I was sure he'd never speak to me again. Not a fitting end to a 30-year relationship.
To make a long story short, after our third visit to the Alois Alzheimer Center in Cincinnati, he did agree to go. He adjusted quickly and was too demented to understand that he couldn't open the door to leave his unit.
Our love blossomed once again. Once I didn't have to care for him and worry about him every available moment, I could relax and just enjoy visiting him.
Now, what do I have to say about all this?
There are better ways to get loved ones into a facility when they don't want to go. For example, some people take their loved one to a facility and say, "Let's go in. I want to visit someone." Then when they leave they simply don't put the person back in the car. You can imagine the patient's initial rage, but facilities are used to dealing with this and know how to handle it.
Another method is to say, "We have reservations for dinner." Then take the person to the selected facility at lunch or dinner time and go into the dining room and sit down and eat with him or her. Then, as in the previous method, when leaving after the meal simply don't put the person back in the car.
It's important to remember that we are responsible for the health and well-being of our loved ones with Alzheimer's. If we cannot care for them adequately -- for whatever reason -- it's up to us to make sure they are safe and well cared for no matter how heartbreaking it is for us. Fortunately, most patients do adjust. In fact, I've been told by staff at long-term care facilities that the transition is often more painful for the caregiver than for the patient.
What methods have others of you used to get your loved one into a nursing home when he or she didn't want to go?
What methods have others of you used to get a loved one into a facility when the person didn't want to go?