A Story of Signs Part II

We remain in town a little longer to make sure my mother Ginny is o.k. from her fall. (See Part I). As it turns out, we also have to say goodbye to Summer. No, it wasn’t the changing of the season but rather Summer is the name of Ginny’s caregiver.

I haven’t spoken much about Summer whom we hired through an agency. We never thought it would work because she is so young (20) and mom wouldn’t have the patience for her, but we were wrong. Ginny adores her. Although she is scheduled for only one day a week, she accepts extra days as long as it doesn’t interfere with her nursing school schedule. Ginny just clicked with her personality. She loves her stories about her family and life on various air force bases (her dad is retired now) and she’s smart.

Sadly, today is her last day. She is moving and will no longer be able to provide care to mom.  But at least, we get to say goodbye. She arrives before us (we’re staying at my sister’s) and listens to mom’s story about her fall. She asks some great questions about whether her breathing is labored at all (broken ribs) and mom says she is ok. She does find a bruise on mom’s left side. She convinces Ginny to take some ibuprofen.

After Summer’s departure, we spent the rest of the day with Ginny. Aside from stiffness, she is doing well. Then, my sister Hailey’s phone starts to ring at 7:30 the following morning. It’s mom and she is dizzy, nauseous and wants our help. We realize that the fall has triggered her vertigo. We arrive as fast as we are able and start working on an appointment with the American Balance Institute. This is where they have successfully treated her vertigo in the past by gently moving her head in specific motions to guide the inner ear crystals back into place.

By the end of the afternoon, with an appointment scheduled, and Ginny successfully eating lunch and a snack, we left for home feeling confident that the treatment would be successful. But it wasn’t. It lessened the dizziness; but not the nausea. She stopped eating. Hailey brought her to her home for 2-3 days where she began to eat again. But as soon as she returned to her own home, she felt lousy again. She saw her primary doctor who ordered an ultrasound and it was negative. In addition, Ginny announces that she’s not sleeping because she’s thinking but “not sure what’s she’s thinking about.” And now, there is no “local” help to lean on. Summer is gone and my sister-in-law Betsy is on vacation.

It’s a perfect storm of complications. At one point, I turn to my husband Dennis and say “how many signs is the universe trying to give us to tell us it’s time?” First, we get the call that the owner wants the rent increase and signed lease. Then she falls.  Then the vertigo returns and our caregiver moves. And Betsy is out of town. It all happens simultaneously.

There is a quote by Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist that comes to mind.

All you have to do is to pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready, and if you can read the signs, you will learn everything you need to know in order to take the next step.

Paulo Coelho

We can read the signs. They are large and neon and flashing. It’s time to place Ginny in Independent Living where she won’t be alone. Not only is it for her safety, but it’s for us too. I’m seeing it differently now. Something else IS going to happen. We need to actually move her over a time period where she is feeling well. And she is doing better now.

We’ll have to talk with Ginny about it (not to negotiate but to convince), however, I’m wondering if those “nights of thinking” she referred to is thinking that she doesn’t want to live alone anymore either. That would be the biggest sign of all.

Did you see clear signs when you placed a parent into independent/assisted living? What were they? Was your parent willing to move from a home they were comfortable in? Please feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. As always, you write about so many vital issues, Melanie. First, I had no real knowledge about the world of caregiving until it became part of my mom’s world. It is a highly underappreciated profession and requires an extreme amount of skill and patience. I think Mom saw caregivers as people who were interfering with her loss of independence. She also distrusted many of them. She resented having them in her house.

    My mother-in-law had the same fulltime caregiver for six years. When I say fulltime, I mean she lived in my mother-in-law’s home. She did have occasional breaks during the week, but another Fijian caregiver would always relieve her. The primary caregiver was a saint! We were so lucky to find her. Part of the caregiver’s story, which I found the most interesting was she was from the island nation of Fiji. Her husband, a minister, lived in Fiji the entire time she worked for us. He would come to visit her once a year for a couple of weeks. They also had seven children, six of whom lived in Fiji as well. One of their daughters came to America and got her degree and still lives near her mother. The caregiver used to video chat with her family each night. It was fascinating to me that this was the route she chose, but it was our good fortune.

    My mother-in-law is still living at age ninety-six. She is a remarkable woman who has survived many falls and continues to bounce back from each setback. She no longer recognizes any family members, but we are grateful that she is remarkably happy. Two years ago, my wife and her sister decided to move their mom into a home. I don’t know that a perfect solution exists when your loved one gets to be that age, but my mother-in-law’s situation is the best that it can be under the circumstances. She lives in a home with a longtime licensed provider. Only 5-6 residents are living there at once. Most of the people are at the point where they sleep nearly all day, but my mother-in-law is the exception. She pays close attention to her surroundings and what is happening. She looks nice each day, and even applies her lipstick.

    The cost of private caregivers in your home vs. living in an assisted living facility is expensive either way. We are renting my mother-in-law’s house to help pay for her care.

    I’m sorry that your mom has lost her young caregiver. Life does have a way of helping us decide when the time is right to move a loved one. Of course, that time is different for everyone. I’m afraid this isn’t an exact science. One of the other things that is quite common should you make a move, is your loved one may tell you they are ready to move home at various points. That happened so many times for my mom. At first, it was quite distressing, but she often would forget her request two minutes after she made it. As more time passed, she brought it up less and less.

    Much luck in your decision making. As I’ve told you before, don’t beat yourself up. You take the circumstances of your mom’s life, and you make the best decisions for her. Sorry for the novel, but there are so many important issues to consider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pete. Please forgive my absence, although I know you understand my circumstances. The right caregiver is gold!!!!! That’s interesting that she lived with your mom. Keeping a parent in their own home is definitely a big trend right now. And I’m fascinated that you thought to rent your mother-in-law’s home to pay for her care. That’s brilliant!!!! And you made me laugh with the lipstick. My mother is the exact same way. Appearance is everything! She doesn’t leave a meal without reapplying. 🙂 Thanks for your insight Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so happy your mother was not seriously hurt, and I look forward to reading about Ginny’s new journey and home. I trust she too will find great comfort in being around other people and making new friends.
    PS: I love that book “The Alchemist” read it many years ago.
    Thank you again for sharing from your heart.


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