I know a woman. Mildred. She’s an 87 year old widow who raised six children . . .

This article was written by Martin Bayne who has Parkinson’s Disease and has lived in an assisted living community for the past 10 years. He publishes the blog “The Voice of Aging Boomers” and is a frequent contributor to Changingaging.org

I know a woman. Mildred. She’s an 87-year-old widow who raised six children, and when her husband died five years ago, her children convinced her she would be better off in an Assisted Living Facility (ALF). After all, they reasoned, she’d be around people her own age and life experience; she would never have to cook another meal, and god forbid, should she ever fall or need emergency medical assistance, someone could contact an ambulance within minutes.

Sound familiar? Of course, it’s your mother . . . my mother . . . everyone’s mother.

So . . . Five siblings and I, after extensive research, decide on an assisted living community and move our mother in. It goes without a hitch. Sure, Mom has some separation anxiety when she leaves the place she called “home” for fifty years, and yes, the $7,500/month my siblings and I are now responsible for, is a contingent liability no one had planned for. (Not to beat a dead horse, but I did suggest, in the strongest terms, twenty years ago, that both Mom and Dad buy long-term care insurance. If they purchased the policies I recommended, it would have covered her current expenses, and then some.)

Now Safe

But, alas, I accomplished my mission! Mom is now safe and has “three hots and a cot,” and with any luck this will likely be her last move. (We also managed to skip over that nasty little conversation about dying and death, a conversation no one relishes, especially mothers.)

I think we covered all our bases. Just to make sure, let’s check with ALFA, the Assisted Living Federation of America. They might have additional information that could be helpful­. After all, they state very clearly on their website that:

A vital role of the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) is to advocate on behalf

of senior living and the residents served by senior living companies.”

Wait a minute. Let’s see if I understand this correctly . . . ALFA advocates for both the assisted living communities and their residents? I may be confused, but isn’t that like Greenpeace advocating for both whalers and the whales? Oh well, on with our story . . .

It’s now been three years since we first stepped on the manicured lawns and elegant entrance foyer of mom’s assisted living community. Because all the children live within a five-hour drive of her community, she’s been peppered with regular visits over the three-year period. (She counts herself lucky. Many of her fellow residents have not had a single visitor in three years.)

The A Word

And everything is going just fine until that little “incident” last Thursday when Mom woke up in her neighbor’s room. Oh, $%&^*, now we’re suddenly in new territory. Now, we’re using the “A-word,” and everybody is on edge. Mom’s ninety now, and keeps saying “Lyndon Baxter” when asked about our current resident in the Oval Office. Come to think of it, she also answers “Lyndon Baxter” when asked about the current CEO of her assisted living community, too.

Frankly, I’m not concerned about Mom. She still recognizes her six bill-payers and follows NCAA basketball right through to the Final Four. It’s the assisted living community I’m worried about.

The last question I asked them just before we placed Mom there was – what happens in the event of dementia or Alzheimer’s?”

“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it,” they said. “There are a lot of decent ‘transition memory units’ available.”

I never did ask what a transition memory unit was.

It’s a pity.

Because now we’re on that bridge.

And it’s a lot more rickety than I ever expected.