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A Group Effort Makes for a Smooth Move


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​By Elizabeth Shean

My mom’s flexibility and resiliency amaze me. Despite living in the confusing world of dementia that makes it difficult for her to cope with something as minor as having her toothbrush out of place, she nonetheless weathered her relocation to Albuquerque with grace and equanimity. This was largely thanks to the efforts of my siblings in making the process as smooth as possible for Mom.

As I talked to friends during the process of moving from Houston to Albuquerque, many of them expressed surprise at how challenging I expected this process to be for my mom. I think they were thinking, “What’s the big deal? You put her on a plane and fly her to her new city. Easy-peasy.” But anyone who lives with dementia in the family knows it’s nothing as easy as that.

Like many people with dementia, Mom experiences both cognitive and physical challenges. Her mobility isn’t what it used to be. As just one example, she worried about how she was going to navigate the airport. Even though she knew she could take a wheelchair to the gate, she expressed concern about the act of walking down the jetway and then shuffling along the airplane aisle without tripping and falling. And then there’s the aspect of sitting for two-and-a-half hours in a cramped seat. It’s painful for a person with arthritis.

Mom also felt challenged by the issue of living in two different hotels for a total of a week. Sleeping in a strange bed and trying to locate the bathroom in a foreign floor plan in the middle of the night is stressful for a person with dementia.

Nonetheless, Mom took all of these trials in stride, and the move went very smoothly. That probably would not have happened, though, without the family support I received from my siblings.

I realize many caregivers cannot count on their siblings or other family members to provide practical help or respite care, and I don’t know how they manage. However this knowledge makes me even more grateful for the moral and practical support my sister and brother always are quick to provide. And, boy, was it crucial to the success of this process in moving Mom.

My sister, Jan, volunteered to coordinate all of the actual moving logistics for Mom. This included making plane reservations (a moving target, since the closing dates on both my houses changed twice, and the flights had to be coordinated with these), booking hotels and actually shepherding Mom through the airport. Oh, and Jan also sacrificed a week of precious vacation time in order to fly from her home base in Colorado to Houston, then to Albuquerque, and then take care of Mom at the hotel until I could get there.

And my brother pitched in, too. He lives in Houston, so he coordinated transportation to and from the airport, along with providing meals so we didn’t have to eat out for the entire four days we were camped at the hotel there.

I honestly don’t know how I would have accomplished this on my own. It certainly would not have gone as smoothly as it did without the support of my siblings.

And now Mom is ensconced in her new abode. She’s very happy. When she calls her brothers, she enthuses about how efficient the move was, how easy it was for her and how much she loves our new house. It’s the best possible ending to an episode of life that could have been anything but a fairytale.

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