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My mom spent the last three years of her life in an assisted living facility. During the last some months, having become increasingly disoriented, she wore a bracelet that sounded an alarm if she tried to take the elevator off the floor.

One day near the end of her life Mom was telling me that she was ready to go home. Not understanding yet, I told her she was home but she insisted that no she wanted to go home to her real home.

She often talked of her home in West Seattle where I grew up but other times she spoke of her childhood home in South Park and still other times it was the apartment she had in the independent living area before moving to assisted living. It was hard to know from one day to the next which “real home” her confused mind meant. Any of these could be what she meant as the memory loss became more and more a part of her everyday life. Fortunately for me she generally knew me to be her daughter although at times she called me by her sister’s name and did mix up various family members. I’d become accustomed to her confusion but instinct guided me around and through the resulting issues.

Late one evening the nurse called me to say Mom had tried to get on the elevator and said her father had come to take her home. Mom became very upset when the nurse would not let her leave. As her anger escalated, she said: “Dad is leaving without me.”

When I arrived, Mom repeated that her father had come to take her home, adding that her mother was waiting for them. I explained her parents had died many years ago. I expected this would make her sad but no … She just repeated that her father had come to take her home and wanted to know how was she going to get home since he went home without her. I remembered a conversation with the Chaplain that it is not uncommon for folks to see relatives who have passed coming to escort them. I realized this was likely what was happening.

After sitting for a time, she agreed to go to the “room that was ready for her” but would not acknowledge that it was where she currently lived — her home.

As she settled to sleep she asked if it was ok if she went home with her father when he came again to take her. I told her it was ok as long as she did not try to use the elevator as it would upset the staff. She seemed to think this was perfectly reasonable and said “Bye bye. I'll see you later at home.”

It was only a couple of days later that she died. Grandpa had indeed come to escort her home.

There was no need to use the elevator.

Rebecca DeShaw

Although retired, Rebecca continues to be an active web and instructional materials designer and data systems specialist.

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