We Cried Til We Laughed

Yesterday, Mark and I did “the do”. “The do” is a term I use to cover all the undesirable things that have to be done. “The do” yesterday was touring facilities in the area. I kept saying, “We need to do this so we’ll be prepared. We need to do our do diligence and research. BUT, WE”LL NEVER PUT HIM ANYWHERE!”. The first was an assisted living facility with an alzheimer/dementia unit. As we drove up, Mark, said, “Why are we here? Why would you go so far away in the middle of nowhere? I’d never approve of this place.” But, I gently but firmly reminded him that this was just for informational purposes. The visit actually was fairly pleasant. The building was light and clean. Mark’s presence with me gave me strength and he asked questions I never would have thought of asking. When we approached the dementia unit, it was coded for entry. Once inside, all the residents were eating together. Mostly women in their 80’s or 90’s. The TV area had a little TV. It was pretty sparse, but did have a nice courtyard. ALL FENCED IN with a wooden fence. Bottom figure was around $5,000 per month.

After that we took a quick debriefing walk around the local department store and bought Jerry a shirt.

Next was an hour and a half ride out to the “finest” facility. It had fourth levels of care. Independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and a FENCED IN locked dementia unit. When first walking into the place it was like a resort. Beautiful living rooms, formal dining room library, screened in porches. Lots of space for families to visit. The grounds were gorgeous set among gnarled oak trees on the water. Trouble is.....the place as so dark, you couldn’t see outside. Where were the rocking chairs on the porch? The best part of this was when we came upon two old sailors drinking a beer and listening to 40’s music. They seemed as happy as can be. But when we went into the dementia unit, there again it was mostly women with one man. When the man saw me, he held my hand and said, “How do you get out of here? I need to go home to my wife.” That was not good for me to hear. This place is where you would go if you sold everything you owned and spent every last dime until you qualified for medicaid. (government assistance.)

The third facility was actually a nursing home. It was pitiful. Bleak and dreary and bare to the bone. Each bed was filled with a skeletal resemblance of a human being. This was a facility which would take medicaid people. People who couldn’t afford the “finest” next door. This is for people who had no money and depended on government assistance from the get go. Here, the dementia patients were intermingled with the other residence. The bright spot here was a a precious old woman. She saw Mark, and took his hand. Her smiling eyes twinkled as she asked him, “Hello. Are you walking for your health?” He said in a sweet childlike voice, “I am.”

On our drive home, we spoke very little. Both of us decided we needed to take the express elevator to escape over a gin and tonic. We ran the gamut of our emotions in our head. Our certain conclusion was that JERRY WAS NOT GOING ANYWHERE.

Deck time was an emotional one. We cried 'til we laughed and laughed 'til we cried. Mark immediately put on Jerry’s toe tapping music and I clung to his side in the chair. We took pictures. We danced. We cooked and we ate. We took turns going inside to cry. We’d come back out when we could laugh. It was probably the saddest time I’ve had in years.