Taking her dog away

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Dalai Llama

Her doggie sleeping in the sun

Two weeks ago my siblings and I moved my mom to assisted living.

Some people know what that really means.

Some people think they know, but I know they really don’t know.

She gave up her home, her car, her bank accounts, her keys, her freedom.

She still had her small dog.

But they made me take him away from her after a few days, too.

In the first few days in a strange setting, they SAID he bit someone. Others in the facility said this wasn’t true.

But having a dog was a source of stress for my mom, who is very ill. So it was understandable the facility felt he needed to go, but it was painful to do so.

I lied to her. I told her that I was taking him to the vet for a check-up.

She handed him to me, and said, “You are so kind. Thank you for taking care of my dog. What a good daughter. “

I took him away from her and walked out.

Two short years ago, we hiked Rattlesnake Trail to the Squam Lake overlook together…. 

There was crisis, small crisis, crisis…in the months leading up to this,

the dementia knocking at my door until I finally turned around and recognized its unwanted and ugly face.

I am bone weary and sad beyond words. I know she is too.

This week we cleaned out her belongings, shrinking her life into one small room.

What lies ahead?

The assisted living facility is a nice place. It’s clean, the food is very good, the staff is competent and compassionate. It is expensive. Hushed, we say, the money will run out; how can we stabilize her healthcare costs?

There is no answer.

It is not a reasonable amount of money; none of us make enough money to plug that hole.

Life feels different now.

I used to feel safe and comfortable. I no longer do. I now feel life is cruel and unpredictable. I mean, I always knew it was. I have weathered other storms in my life. But this knowledge is in my bones.

I watch the cruel memory loss take over and it is debilitating and frightening, for the one afflicted and the family watching.

What happens when the money runs out?

How can this nation turn its backs on our elderly citizens?

Too many questions.

The list of things Medicare doesn’t cover is long.

Isn’t this invisible disability as real as one that physically cripples?

My heart weeps.

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37 Responses to “Taking her dog away”

  • This problem is getting worse as the baby boomers age. We spend more money on prisoners than on care for the elderly. Everyone deserves dignity as they age.

    • Hi Noreen – It is a scary prospect. How can we as a country just ignore this? So many will be aging and so many will have dementia. Being able to be treated with dignity and respect as one ages is so very important. To still feel like a successful person, to feel successful as your world shrinks.

  • Ivy:

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes, Kathy. What you are going through is so, so gut wrenchingly painful. I can’t say I know what it’s like to gi tjrough what you are going through but I can say I can imagine, even though I really dread to, what it would be like if this should happen to either of my parents. It’s so not right for this country to put so many in need of care at the bottom of its list of priorities. The situation is so difficult, unfathomable and sad. My heart aches for you and your mom. I will send you my phone number to talk sometime. Hugs to you, my friend.
    Ivy recently posted..I Am TitaniumMy Profile

    • Hi Ivy – It helps so much just to hear you are there. I would love to talk with you and plan to go to one day of BlogHer. Thank you my friend. I am unable to grasp the socio-politcal systems in this country and the people who are behind them, how cruel it truly is. It is unfathomable tome as well. thanks again, Kathy
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Taking her dog awayMy Profile

  • Kathy, I cannot imagine what you are going through. I am sending you love and support. My parents had to put both of their fathers in assisted living. Those two transitions were so emotionally and mentally exhausting for my mom and dad.
    Jenny recently posted..Just Be Enough: One of the Hardest Things I Have Ever Had to DoMy Profile

    • Hi Jenny – Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I guess I can take a lesson from you: to try to “Just Be Enough,” when just enough doesn’t seem adequate. thanks, Kathy

  • Dear one,
    Thank you for this. Thank you for speaking your truth and your heart. I can hold this space for you, as others here have noted they can too. And in doing so, we hold the space for each other, and all women. Full-circle psycho-spiritual lifespan dry-heave. And to have so much of it mired in fear because of money. It’s obscene.

    There are so many levels of motherhood in this. It just plain stinks, and hurts, and you are not alone. My love and prayers…call me if you need.

    • Hi Walker – thank you so much for your support, you are a wonder woman! I do need this space held and I have had many people reach out and hold this virtual space for me. I am going to lay back in this soft virtual cloud and imagine it as pink and enveloping. The money thing is just sickening. We spend so much on war and crime and yet we dont want to build our own society up in compassionate true support for families. ugh. so frustrating and unfathomable. love Kathy

  • Oh, Kathy: how do we put into words what has happened to the person who was once vital and in charge of our lives?

    To have things turn and twist around to this.

    It is a stab to the heart, and leaves me in a place where I can’t find enough words, and I can’t stop finding them, either.

    Thank you for reaching out.

    • Hi Alexandra – That is how I feel. There are no words. It is a wordless pain. Yet this blog did help me last night. I was distraught in a primal way. It is not depression, it is a deep grief, I think. I think. Not sure how to characterize this emotion. It is as you say, a stab to the heart, and it is a place where there aren’t enuf words, and simultaneously, no words. I am glad to have met you. We will correspond often, I hope. thank you, Namaste, Kathy

  • Dear Kathy,
    You have expressed this pain so eloquently. My husband and I have been through this with both of our mothers. The loss of the dog is so sad, as I’m sure the dog would be comfort to her in this transition.
    And the worry about money is so unfair, on top of all else you are having to face. I so agree about our country’s priorities. I expect that you have friends and community to support you in this. Sending healing Light your way.
    Carolyn Stone recently posted..Your Children and the Aftermath of the Colorado ShootingsMy Profile

    • Hi Carolyn – I am saddened to hear that you went through this two times. It is so painful and I don;t think anyone understands the depth of the grief until you’ve gone through it. I know I am ashamed to say, I did not. This will help me in my counseling work. Thank you for your love & light. Much appreciated.
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Taking her dog awayMy Profile

  • Hi Kathy,

    My heart is breaking for you and your family. I also share the outrage and sadness and fear about the financial aspect of taking care of our elders. So many families do not have the resources, and we as a society have dropped the ball. I will be thinking of you during this difficult transition.

    Rachelle Norman recently posted..Thoughts on “The Intouchables”My Profile

    • Hi Rachelle – Thanks for your kind thoughts. It is absolutely outrageous, sad and scary abt not just the disease and its horrid progression, but abt the finances as well. Yes, we as a society have absolutely dropped that ball. It is so difficult to comprehend. Your support is much appreciated, thank you , Kathy
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Taking her dog awayMy Profile

  • Kathy,
    Reading your post made me weep. I weep for your loss, for the way we treat our elders, for the state of health care in America. I am sorry for you loss. Can she at least have her dog as a visitor? May the God of all comfort bring you great comfort.

    • Hi Barbara – My dear I am sorry you are weeping. There are so many sad aspects to this, it is hard not to be able to just rest on it, as all aspects are so enraging and sad. It is intolerable the way we treat our elders. Yes the dog can visit so that is a comfort. It really is a nice place and the staff and director are excellent. It’s just the situation is so sad all around. God bless you too, thank you for your comforting words. Take care, Kathy
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Taking her dog awayMy Profile

  • Kathy, This is indeed sad. Thank you for reminding us how difficult the care for our elders is. I’m glad you reached out and shared your heart.

  • *hugs* I can’t believe there are so many gaps in our elder care system. At least I didn’t until my own mom started having health issues. No copay to go to the doc, big whoop. That doesn’t matter when they hardly cover any of the doctor fees and tests. If you can’t pay the bill, as so many of our elderly are on budgets and cannot cover these bills, then you can’t go back to your doctor. Grrr. I can only hope in the next few years things will get better for the whole country’s healthcare needs.
    Melinda Hamby recently posted..Friday – End of Year ReviewMy Profile

    • Hi Melinda – I hear what you are saying, it is an invisible issue until it is in your face. It’s a huge issue that lots of people are ignoring. It’s really a travesty what we are putting our elderly citizens through. And their families are also suffering the trauma of the illness, and the fear of the money issues. thanks for your reply, take care, Kathy

  • Kathy, my mom is going through the exact same thing with her dad right now. So, so hard to be making decisions, moving, changing a life, all while you are trying to cope emotionally. I can’t say I know how it feels. I can only offer hugs and support. Take care…

    • Dear Susan – I am so sorry to hear that your Mom is going through this with your grandfather. So you know what it entails and how heart-breaking the situation is. Good luck to your family and I hope your mom can find a place that gives her some peace and is safe for her father. Thank you so much for your kind words. thank you for your support. it is like despair.
      take care, kathy

  • Kathy, My heart goes out to you. I hope you are taking good care of yourself and letting other take care of you too.
    Best, Allison
    Allison Andrews recently posted..The Ins and Outs of Parenting Children with Special NeedsMy Profile

    • Hi Allison – I am struck by how lucky I was much of my life. I thank God I did not have major health issues to deal with. It is costly and emotionally draining. It’s so hard to take care of myself when every day a new crisis occurs, and I am getting calls from the facility. Its confusing, as I thought they had the resources to care for their residents, especially at the price we are paying. take care, Kathy
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Taking her dog awayMy Profile

  • Oh Kathy,

    I have not yet taken this journey with my parents, but I have been involved closely in the decision-making process for my grandmother and three of my husband’s grandparents. Losing a loved one to dementia *is* a grief-inducing process. Shrinking a vibrant life into a managed care setting is a painful, sad, heart-breaking process. Adding money worries to the top of those challenges just feels fundamentally wrong–and unkind.

    I’ll join those who are emotionally holding space during this painful time.

    Much warmth,
    Ann Becker-Schutte recently posted..Self-Compassion–An Exercise in FreedomMy Profile

    • Hi Ann- Thank you for your kind words. This whole thing is so painful. and the money worries are truly insurmountable. I am very frightened as are all my siblings. Thank goodness I have my siblings, I can’t imagine goingn through this alone as an only child. thank you for holding the emotional space. take care, Kathy
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Taking her dog awayMy Profile

  • Austin:

    That is really one of the most heart-breaking things you can do to someone you hold dear to your heart.

    On another note, posts like this kindles my long-time question: why do they have to make medical advances to prolong our lives when we will not get the support we need when the time comes?
    Austin recently posted..amazing learn guitar softwareMy Profile

    • Hi Austin – Thanks for stopping by my blog. It is a strange time we live in, with people living longer, but with no clear-cut answer to how to care for those long term who are vulnerable. It is indeed the saddest time of my life. take care, Kathy

  • Kathy,

    I’m so sorry to hear what you, your mom, and your family are going through. I can hardly imagine the depth of your grief. My heart is with you during this painful time.
    Lynda Buitrago recently posted..Your Gut on CarrageenanMy Profile

    • Hi Lynda – thanks for your kind words. We are moving my mom into a higher level of care soon. She seems to need this. She does love the new place and has become less stressed as she gets to socialize and have more nutritious meals. We took care of her as best we could, but she is very independent and did not want to live with me or anyone else. It seems though it was stressful for her to take care of herself and this seems to be an ok solution. I will update on the blog next week.

      take care, Kathy

  • Dear Kathy,

    I feel incredibly sad for you and your family and feel angry at the state of affairs for the elderly in our country.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.


  • […] The event I decided to reflect on is my mom’s Alzheimer’s disease and the post I wrote about it last years: Taking Her Dog Away. […]

  • Here from the future via Time Warp Tuesday and so moved by this post!

    First off, I love, love, love the quote that you began your blog entry with. It is such a good reminder of the control we have over our attitudes and actions in life, even though we may not always feel that way.

    Secondly, this post really resonates with me as in the late 1990’s both of my maternal grandparents had Alzheimer’s disease. My grandfather was able to live at home with my grandmother until close to when he died in 1998, but he did spend some time in a nursing home before his death. My mom is an only child and had to trick her own mother into the assisted living facility she lived in. It broke my mom’s heart, but we all knew it was for the best. I was very close to my grandmother and it was difficult to watch her personality and ability to reason change, in addition to her memory loss in the final years and months of her life before she died in 2000. I can’t believe it has been 13 years, as so many of those last moments I spent with her I recall vividly.

    I wrote a post last week for The Today Voice in which I talked about how I am handling my own parents’ aging and referenced how well I felt they handled their parents/my grandparents’ aging and death. Here is a link to it: thetodayvoice.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/week-forty-eight-kathy-benson/

    I am so glad you chose to reflect on this post that you wrote last year, as I am sure there are so many who love and care about those with Alzheimer’s who can relate to and appreciate your experience. Heading back to the future now to read your new post.
    Kathy recently posted..Time Warp Tuesday: DecisionsMy Profile

    • Hi Kathy – It is indeed difficult to age and to need to be taken care of. What has modern science wrought? How are we to think about these dilemmas of what is humane? End stage Alzheimer’s is so devastating. I don;t even want to let the images come to mind. I’m checking out your post today, Warmly, Kathy

  • This is such a raw post … and knowing the full sequence of events makes this snapshot all the more poignant. Truly devastating … for her, and for you.
    Justine recently posted..NaBloPoMo Time Warp Tuesday: DecisionsMy Profile

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