My Top 3 Reasons for Choosing Assisted Living Memory Care

Someone recently asked me how I decided when it was time for my mom to be cared for in a nursing home or assisted living memory care. I’ve written about that decision a time or two, but decided I should write about it again.

Before I share my personal “Top 3” list, I invite you to grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite beverage) and listen to this video by Dr. Natali Edmonds — someone who has been a virtual mentor for me as I’ve learned about being a caregiver.

Dr. Natali Edmonds

“People who place their loved ones in nursing homes are not horrible people. They don’t love their loved ones any less than people who care for their loved ones at home. In fact, sometimes placing a loved one in a nursing home is the best thing for your loved one.”

Dr. Natali Edmonds

Now, here are my Top 3 Reasons

Reason #1: Sleep

Not mom’s sleep. My sleep. I wasn’t getting enough of it and it was beginning to affect everything. Long-term sleep deprivation is brutal. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, it was creating “excessive caregiver stress” and it was showing up in all of the areas of my life that mattered the most to me. It was harming my closest relationships — my time in God’s Word, my marriage, my opportunities to spend quality time with my grandchildren, my friendships. I was a tired and distracted employee and my job performance suffered. I loved teaching Sunday School, but I knew in my heart I wasn’t able to focus on preparation for my ministry and wasn’t as creative in my teaching as I once was. Those in my circle of friends were beginning to comment about how tired I looked.

Reason #2: Personal hygiene needs

Mom’s resistance to help with personal hygiene, to put it politely; bowel incontinence, to be specific. When my mom’s brain could no longer register the “urge to go” with the need to do something about that, life got a lot messier. Literally. Between multiple clothing and bedding changes, multiple loads of laundry, and floor and bathroom cleanup, daily life was getting too hard for one or two people to handle. Mom needed more hands on care and a bathroom that was designed with disabilities in mind.

Reason #3: Safety & Mobility issues

In the later stages of dementia, mom was beginning to forget how to walk. There were days when she needed coaching to put one foot in front of the other. Her legs were growing weak, making her a greater risk for falls. Using a walker helped, but not always. Sometimes she’d forget the walker in another room. Other times, she’d drag it behind her. On a few occasions, she couldn’t figure out what it was, so stuck it outside of her room so it wouldn’t be in the way. My house wasn’t designed for using a walker or a wheelchair. All of the bedrooms and full bathrooms were inaccessible to mom since they were located on the second floor.

We made the best possible use of this half-bath space to accommodate mom’s growing needs, including taking the door off the hinges so we could have more room to maneuver and help her.

The more of a problem “Reason #2” became for us, the more I knew she needed a safer place to live.

I applaud and encourage the many who have made “at home until the end” work. You are amazing caregivers! Please understand, however, that you will still be an amazing caregiver if you make the hard choice to reach out for help in caring for your loved one. You do not cease to be a caregiver by changing the location of where that care is given or who helps you provide that care.

I’d like to leave you with a little slideshow with just a few photos depicting how happy and content my mom was in this abode where opportunities were many, friendships were sweet, and help was always on hand.

“The best place for your loved one with dementia to live and grow old depends upon several things, including: what help they receive, their willingness to receive help, their physical abilities, and the specific dementia symptoms they have. Not everybody with dementia requires the same level of care.”

Dr. Natali Edmonds

I could never forget you

It makes me a bit sad when I re-read this post and am reminded I wasn’t able to care for mom in our home until the very end of her journey on earth. But, only a tiny bit sad. I know in my heart that moving her to BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care in her last year on earth was the right thing to do. BeeHive was so much more than a “place for those waiting to die”. The decision to move her into memory care provided her with so much more meaningful interaction, activities, opportunities to move about, more variety in her meals, and lots of tender loving care. I am beyond grateful for the time spent with her — I know that is something I will never regret. I’m thankful for a husband whose wise investments meant that she would not “run out of money” as she had often worried. It was enough. God is good…all the time.

Barefoot Lily Lady

When you have Alzheimer’s you can’t remember that you don’t need to worry about something. So you do worry. A lot.

Mom worries about such things as whether there is food in the fridge and if she’ll be able to afford the things she needs to live. There is, and she will.

When we have guests, she worries about how they’ll get home in the dark, or where they’ll sleep for the night. She will oftentimes tell our guests that they can sleep in her bed if they need a place to sleep.  Sad, but sweet.

Her worries are usually small ones. She worries every night about whether or not she has a toothbrush. She frets about leaves and twigs out in the yard, or the water on the deck after a rain.

Other times, her worries are big. Her biggest worries are about the future. Just today, she came…

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Blessed to Bake

I am truly blessed by God’s gift of being able to bake for my friends. While they will likely never recover from their illnesses and memory loss (on this side of Glory), I hope that my desserts and treats will help them recover a special lost memory of a yesterday and bring a little splash of momentary joy to their day.

I am blessed to spend three mornings every week baking for my friends. Each of these dear ones lives at BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care home due to some type of memory loss.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

I am blessed to see my friends smile and wave at me as I measure my ingredients into my big mixing bowl. I love hearing the buzz as they talk amongst themselves about what I’m doing — guessing what will come out of the oven.

I am blessed to hear the ladies reminisce about how they used to bake for their families, or how their mom used to make what I am baking for them.

I am blessed when the aroma of something sweet baking in the oven wafts through the building and a dear one stops by the kitchen to ask, “What are we baking today?”

I am blessed when one gentleman scoots his wheelchair through the door and sits in the kitchen chatting in a language I cannot speak. My friend doesn’t eat sugary treats, but he likes to keep me company and watch me bake for awhile, then nods off in a little middle-of-the doorway nap. I hope his dreams are sweet.

I am blessed when one special lady-friend giggles and says (several times a day), “Since you started baking here, it’s getting hard for me to button my pants!” Just the smell of something baking in the oven has a way of making my friends smile and helps them anticipate their next meal.

I am blessed when I serve another friend her dessert before her meal – allowing her to start her meal with dessert means she will likely keep eating the rest of her meal. Her dainty little smile on her face as she savors her dessert blesses me.

I am blessed when I am able to take a little break from my baking to help one of my friends find her room (or her purse, or her keys). This friend is special to me because she shares my mom’s first name and reminds me of her in so many ways. I love it when this tiny little lady takes my hand in hers and draws it to her lips for a little kiss and says, “I will never forget your kindness.”


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday blog link-up where I join up with Kate Motaung and a community of writers and bloggers of all ages and stages who gather on Fridays around a single word prompt to free-write for five minutes. Kate’s word prompt for this week is {recover}.

A Passion Enabled ‘Yes’!

Phew! I’m dead last (#56) in submitting my writing for the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up. FMF is an opportunity for writers of all abilities to gather each week around a single word prompt to freewrite for five minutes flat, then share our work and encourage one another. If this sounds like fun, you can learn more here.

This week’s FMF writing prompt is: ENABLE

The weather is trending warmer and my garden is calling me from underneath that ever-thinning blanket of white stuff. I am getting excited about once again feeling the earth beneath my feet as I meander through my flowerbeds pulling weeds, amending the soil, and getting my hands (and feet) dirty as I tend to the flowers thrusting their heads above the sun-warmed soil. Getting time in the garden will be a little trickier this year, as I just made a commitment which will ensure that I will wash my hands and feet a few days per week. A job. I wasn’t looking for a job, but my eldest granddaughter sent me a text about a job opportunity at her place of employment anyway. Her message said,

“PT cook?”

Violet works for BeeHive as a CNA (certified nursing assistant). If the name of her workplace sounds familiar to you, perhaps you may recall that my mother spent the last year of her life living in the care of BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care. I spent a lot of time there too, mostly loving on my mom, but helping where I could too. It was all little stuff that I could do when mom was napping: filling birdfeeders, pulling weeds, cleaning out cabinets, and an occasional organizational or word-processing project.

Every now and then I would get in a bake-someone-happy mood and would bring a big batch of cookies along with me and leave them in the kitchen for the staff to use as a snack for the residents (or themselves). Before long, I had a reputation for my baking. One resident loved cookies more than anyone I have ever met. I loved secretly tucking a cookie or two into June’s walker bag. Seeing her face light up when she discovered the treat made any effort on my part so worthwhile.

A week ago on Tuesday my phone rang. It was Gina at BeeHive and she wanted to let me know that there was a job opening assisting the cook with baking duties (yep, the same job Violet told me about). Gina wondered if I would be interested.

Interesting how God used my love for baking and my passion for the mission of BeeHive to enable me to say “yes” to this opportunity without a moment’s hesitation. I didn’t need to say, “Let me pray about it.” I pray for them often and I knew that God was blessing me with this chance to make a difference.


Measuring Time

This is my mother’s watch.

Momma undoubtedly bought several watches during her lengthy nursing career. But, as she often recounted the story of her watch, she had been wearing this very watch since she graduated from nursing school in 1955. You see, a watch with a sweep second hand was essential in my mother’s era of nursing. It kept you and your doctor on schedule and kept you accountable for the time you spent on breaks. When updating a patient’s medical chart (no computers back then), it provided the time for documentation purposes. Its sweep second hand was the essential tool momma used day in and day out to measure a patient’s heart rate in 15-second increments of time.

Holding my mom’s watch in my hands today, I recalled how meaningful it was to her, even after my mom could no longer tell time (which I wrote about here). A mind clouded by Alzheimer’s loses the ability to measure the passage of time or interpret the face of a watch somewhere in the middle stages of the disease’s progressive march through the brain.

Even after my mother could no longer tell time, I invested a good bit of time in finding my mom’s treasured watch when the paranoia of dementia would cause her to occasionally hide it for safekeeping. I had the band resized when she slimmed down and it spun on her wrist. I even took it in for repairs once and replaced the battery on several occasions. The natural motions of her body would wind the self-winding watch (another clue that it was NOT from 1955), but Momma would wind it anyway because that was what she remembered doing in days gone by. Over time, this damaged the watch beyond repair, but she still loved to wear it.

When my mom moved into assisted living memory care and I saw how she would distribute her things all over the building (and borrow the belongings of others without consent), I decided to take her watch home with me for safekeeping. I hated to take something that was hers, but the story of the watch had also become something I treasured. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to matter much to mom — especially since her friend and BeeHive neighbor Roy didn’t seem to mind if mom (ahem!) borrowed his watch from time to time.

One day I noticed my mom sidle up her wheelchair to another lady friend at BeeHive. She seemed concerned that her friend was slumped in her wheelchair. Here’s the precious thing I was honored to witness with my own eyes. Momma reached over and gently placed two fingers on her sleepy friend’s wrist, instinctively finding that arterial sweet spot nestled between the thumb and tendon. The nurse in my sweet mother looked at her watchless wrist as she felt her friend’s pulse for about 15 seconds, then smiled with satisfaction and patted her sleeping friend’s hand as she said, “You’re going to be okay.”

Six on Saturday: Bees & Birdhouses

It’s the blue-skied, breezy sort of day that lures you outside to just sit a spell and enjoy summer’s final days. I’m sitting in a comfy chair on my backyard deck, enjoying the sights and sounds around me while I sip on a cup of coffee from a favorite mug and spend a little time reading my Bible.

In addition to all the usual weed pulling, deadheading, and watering, we’ve kept pretty busy this week. My hubby has been busy building birdhouses for our yard. He’s been using the lumber salvaged from our former deck in his creations. The birds don’t really care one little tweet if their new homes are decorated, but I have been enjoying getting a little artsy with painting and embellishing them. I’ve got a spot all picked out for the latest creation…a nice spot between two trees in the backyard. I’ll post a pic once it’s in place.

The latest creation needs to find a spot in our yard. The little brass bit around the entry is salvaged from a kitchen faucet we recently upgraded.

Yesterday my hubby and I went to a new eye doctor to have long overdue eye exams. Of course, COVID-19 precautions meant they are being extra careful, so we parked in a shady spot and checked-in for our appointments via phone from our car, then were instructed to wait in our car until someone came out to the car to ask the screening questions.

Waiting in the car for your eye appointment isn’t so bad. Especially if your waiting room looks like this…

Hubby’s eyes had only a minimal change since his appointment four years ago. I had been noticing changes in my distance vision since my last appointment three years ago. Things weren’t quite as crisp and sharp as they used to be. Sure enough, my eyesight had indeed changed significantly, so now I wait for new lenses for my glasses.

The sweet chair garden by my 3-season porch is filling in nicely with a little stand of phlox. You might recall that a few of my granddaughters painted this chair for me last summer. (You can read a little about this chair here too.)

Bees are happy I decided to plant a few zinnia seeds in two of our raised beds this year. I enjoy cutting the zinnias and love creating little bouquets to take to my friends at BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care.

I hope you enjoyed the mini six photo tour of my garden this week. Most Saturdays during gardening season I join up with blogging gardeners around the world for a virtual garden tour. Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. Could be anything – a flower, a tree or bush, a favorite gardening tool recommendation, a gardening dilema, a cool bug or critter…anything at all. Our little show ‘n tell is hosted by The Propagator, who shares what’s going on in his amazing garden, then invites others to share as well. If you’d like to take a peek at the gardens too, just click on The Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read, then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find loads of links to explore. I know he’d love to have you join in on the fun too.

Dementia-friendly Activities

Helping a loved one with dementia feel content is sometimes a difficult task. I’m by no means an expert on the subject, but thought I’d share a few photos depicting several ideas that we tried.

There came a time when caring for my sweet momma in our home was no longer best – for her or for me. God knew what we both needed and provided a wonderful place for her to live a 10-minute drive from our home. Momma lived the last year of her life here on earth as a resident at BeeHive Homes of Oregon – an amazing assisted living memory care community. The amazing staff did so much to help her be as content and happy as possible. Let me share just a few photos of those wonderful activities and opportunities she was privileged to take part in.

Group Activities to Encourage Movement

Momma loved her snacks! BeeHive always had something she loved.

Though her deafness was sometimes a barrier to fully enjoying the music, Momma and the other residents had many rich opportunities to hear and participate in a variety of musical forms.

This lovely harpist was a regular and well-loved visitor to BeeHive. I do believe I saw “rapture” on the faces of some of the residents as they listened to her play – some of them singing along.

BeeHive is blessed with visits from many musical groups and choirs
Momma obviously enjoyed the accordian – it was certainly easy for her to hear. Just look at the joy on her face!

Several dance troupes brought their lively performances to BeeHive. What a sweet treat!

I’m thankful for the churches who faithfully held services for the residents. This photo is of mom and her friend Roy listening to one of the pastors.

So many creative people and groups shared their time with the residents helping them make a variety of lovely crafts.

Momma gets a little crafting help and encouragement from a sweet volunteer.
The intergenerational activities were SO meaningful. The local school sent students over every week to read to the residents. I just love seeing this photo of momma and her armful of babies listening to this young boy read aloud.

Please, let me take just a moment to speak to those of you who are facing the decision of whether or not you should place your loved one in a care facility. Looking back on my caregiving experience, I am so very glad that I spent time with my momma helping her in any way that I could during the last few years of her life. When the time came for her to move out of my home, it was a very difficult decision. My body was telling me it was time. My emotions were telling me it was time. My husband was telling me it was time. Yet, I felt a little like I was giving up. However, I now realize that if I had insisted upon keeping my momma home with me until the very end, she would have missed out on so many wonderful opportunities and friendships.

Momma and Carol didn’t know one another’s names, but they were nonetheless sweet friends. I’m so glad they were able to be there for each other.

May God bless you who are caring for a loved one or friend with memory challenges. May you be blessed with creativity for your very long caregiving days, strength and patience for the long and sleepless nights, and wisdom and grace for each decision you make on your journey of love and care.

Butterfly Kisses

The final week I spent with Momma is now a blur; the days and nights run together in my head. What I do clearly remember is an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. Each day and night that I spent with her illuminated the many reasons I had to be so grateful; many of those “reasons” wore scrubs and a nametag. It did not matter if they were a nurse, a personal care or nursing assistant, or owner of BeeHive, it was obvious that each had a role in providing care, and they all loved my Momma.

Keeping vigil at my mom’s bedside during that final week, I had the privilege of watching each one of mom’s amazing caregivers at BeeHive, together with her hospice team, do their best to make this last part of my sweet mom’s earthly journey as comfortable and pain-free as possible. Every few hours they would check to see if she needed to be changed and reposition her to prevent bed sores and to ease her struggle with terminal respiratory secretions. Medications were administered to keep pain under control and help dry up some of those bothersome respiratory secretions. If there was any sign of pain or discomfort, they were on it, adjusting her medications or finding that “sweet spot” in positioning her. Since Momma couldn’t swallow to drink anymore, they used swabs to soothe her parched lips and keep her mouth hydrated and clean.

Even though BeeHive is a busy place, as the caregivers worked with her, they never seemed to be in a rush. Gentleness was in their touch whenever they moved her. Each person involved in mom’s care spoke to her just as if she could hear and respond. As each one left the room after performing daily cares, they left behind a kind word of care and endearment.

It could have been my imagination, but as her body weakened and she slipped into a non-responsive state, I sometimes felt as though she was peeking through almost closed eyes, searching to see if I was there. Otherwise, in all of this, momma gave no real indication that she was aware of anyone being in the room with her. I honestly didn’t know if she could hear me, but I talked to her anyway. Even though Momma was quite hard of hearing, I oftentimes placed my phone on her pillow next to her ear and played her favorite hymns while I sang along with tears playing in the corners of my eyes. When I sensed that she was agitated, I stroked her forehead to soothe and quiet her, tracing her forehead and nose with soft touches, much as she did for me when I was a child. When I could do nothing else, I just held her hand.

On Saturday night, I noticed Momma making kissing sounds. Her eyes were closed, but her head was raised off her pillow and she was definitely kissing the air. Her kisses were insistent, so I thought perhaps she wanted to give her Dolly a kiss. Momma loved that Dolly, taking care of her (and a host of other dolls) as if they were her children. I put Dolly’s cheek to Momma’s lips and Momma gave her little butterfly kisses. I thought that was so sweet, so tucked Dolly back in with Momma.

But Momma kept making kisses. So I put my cheek to Momma’s lips to receive her kisses. Momma kissed my cheek a few times and I kissed hers. Momma stopped kissing and relaxed her head on the pillow.

It was then that I knew those butterfly kisses were for me. My sweet Momma knew I was there and she was trying to give me a goodbye kiss. Perhaps Momma knew that heaven was drawing near and that she would be with Jesus in the morning.

In Search of Billy

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I arrived at BeeHive to sit with mom during lunch. Momma was able to stay focused on eating if someone was nearby to remind and coach her. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, she had begun missing meals – sometimes only eating one meal a day – so I tried to be there during that time whenever possible. On this particular day, I was running a bit late and most of the residents were eating their dessert.

Not Momma. She had already toodled away from the table in her wheelchair and was calling out, “Billy! Billy! Where are you, Billy?” Now, I didn’t know anyone there by the name of Billy (not even one of her dolls had that name), and had never heard her call out for someone in this unconsolable way. Mom seemed almost frantic to find Billy.

I put my things down near her place at the table, then approached her and asked if I could help. “No! I want Billy!” insisted Momma. “Well, let me help you find him,” I replied. “Can you tell me what he is like?”

Momma seemed glad to have someone help her find Billy. The staff was nearby beginning the cleanup process after lunch, so I asked if any of them knew who Billy was. No one did.

Then, with tears in her eyes, Momma brought me back to the situation at hand and plead, “Please, help me find Billy. He’s my friend and he’s so kind. He helps me.”

That description was all I needed to give me a strong hunch as to the mystery of Billy’s identity. Going with my hunch, I asked one of the gals if Momma had been hanging out with Andy that morning. Why, yes! Andy had paid quite a lot of attention to Momma earlier that morning, strolling with her around the building and helping her with daily cares.

Photo credit: Kathleen Zelinski, BeeHive of Oregon’s Activity Director

Andy is one of the owners of BeeHive of Oregon. Like the other co-owners, Josh and Gina, Andy has more than just money in the business. He puts his caregiving heart in there too.

Andy showed his interest by taking the time to notice the photos I had placed in mom’s room. As he looked them over, he would ask questions about them so he could learn more about my mother’s past – important because Momma was living in the distant past in her mind. Knowing more about a someone’s past is helpful in caring for those with any number of conditions which cause short-term memory loss.

Andy often told me how much he adored my mom. He wanted to know about her and took a genuine interest in hearing stories from her past so he could better understand what made her tick. Though Momma probably didn’t say so, she trusted him and I think she sensed how much Andy loved her.

And Momma loved her ‘Billy’ too.

Falling for Dolly

Momma rested comfortably after Vivian and Jess left, so I decided to go home for a bit that evening to have dinner with Wayne and repack my bag. I knew in my heart that I would be staying with mom until the Lord called her home, so stuffed my backpack with a week’s worth of clean clothing, my Bible, a book, and a few movies to watch. I was just getting in the car to make the 12-minute drive back to BeeHive when I got a call from Kate, one of her sweet caregivers, who was calling to let me know that, weak as mom was, she had somehow managed to get herself out of bed and had fallen once again.

When I arrived a few minutes later, mom was back in bed and resting comfortably. The bump on her forehead from a previous fall had been in the healing stages, but now looked fresh again. Momma was chatty, but more difficult to understand. I did manage to cipher at one point that she was talking about her baby. Dolly was seated across the room in a chair, rather than in her customary spot in bed with her. It was then that I surmised Mom had been attempting to get out of bed earlier so that she could bring her baby to bed with her, but had fallen as a result. I placed Dolly in Momma’s arms and she patted her and spoke soothing words to her for quite some time.

I shared my theory concerning why mom had tried so hard to get out of bed with the staff. We all agreed that Dolly was very real in momma’s mind and that we should make sure Dolly was always in bed where Momma could see her.

I always loved watching my sweet mom tenderly caring for her beloved Dolly (and other dolls and stuffed animals), so I took a little video of Momma interacting with her Dolly that evening. When I would watch her care for Dolly, it seemed as though I had a glimpse of what my mother was like when I was a baby.

I will always treasure this sweet and special memory of Momma and Dolly.

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