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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Midge's Last Stop

Long-Distance Love

By Liliane Clever
Junto Staff Writer
My sister and I agree: It is time to move Midge to a nursing home.

It has not been an easy decision.  Midge has been living happily in her small apartment in the country for almost three years now.  But every since a bad fall and a bad cut to her leg back in July, she has been declining rapidly.  Annick has organized a web of dedicated and loving helpers to care for Midge for several hours every day. But it has come to a point where Midge needs more and more help and this web is no longer wide enough.  The major problem of course, is Midge's advancing dementia.  For years we joked that my mom would live for ever as she would always pass her physicals with flying colors.  But along the way, she started to forget and no longer understand some of the most basic things.  As her mind goes, so does her body.  She has been falling down recently and can no longer be trusted to stay alone.

Annick has been visiting nursing homes in the Paris area where she resides.  Afterwards, we have long phone conversations to discuss what she has seen. For the most part I have been pleased with what she tells me and from what I am able to gather through the nursing home web sites. Of course I have many questions and Annick answers all of them with details and a lot of patience.  I think that talking to me might help her reevaluate what she has just visited and reassure her in her own mind. At least I hope that it does. Initially we talked a lot about finances.  We asked each other questions such as 'How long do you think Midge has left".  At times we had to laugh at what we were saying, so it would not sound so horrible.  But we are the practical types. Fortunately, we are very lucky that Midge is able to pay for her stay for years to come, and will be able to move into a place where she can be safe and well cared for.  So far, all nursing homes visited have a waiting list, and my mom is on all of them. This gives us more time to reflect and think about it as still in the future.

This morning, Annick called with the news that she had visited a new place that she liked that has two vacancies.  Suddenly it is at our door step.  Annick put a down payment to reserve one of the rooms, and plans to wait as long as she can before we make the final move. I greatly appreciate the fact that she wants to include me in the decision, but in reality, it is all in her hands.  I thank her profusely every time we talk, but the fact remains that I cannot be of much help from 6,000 miles away. I console myself by saying that after Midge is back in the Paris area that it will be easier for me to visit.  I am even thinking about long week ends during off seasons when fares are cheaper.

Either way, it is the end of an era.  It is sad to think that very soon, Midge will have little left of her current life.  From the friends and memories that she made since moving to the country, her daily walk to the village bakery to get her baguette, her morning café in her sunny kitchen, the afternoon teas with the ladies when she would carefully serve cookies on her communion desert plates, to all and every reference points that allowed her to retain a level of independence in her old age. None of these people, places and things will be available to her in her new environment. Annick will carefully pack favorite things, family pictures to display, a vase for fresh cut flowers, a lovely lamp to put by her bed, maybe one of her warm and comfortable blankets, all in the hope that it will help make Midge feel more at home.

But there is no way to fool ourselves.  After moving from her apartment in Paris to her house in the country to her apartment in the senior citizen complex, the nursing home will be Midge's last stop.  As hard as it may be to confess, it will be a sort of last stop for us too.  And this thought simply scares me more than I want to say.