Home Sweet Home
It’s official! My parents now own a property just down the lane from me.
Though we only live 90 minutes apart by car (or 2½ hours by public transport), even that distance is sometimes too much. How often I’ve wished I could pop in for a short song and dance with Mom, stop by to help out, do their shopping, or give my dad some alone time.
They won’t be moving right away. The house purchase is to help us plan ahead. We’ve hired a contractor to make some internal changes, including wide doorways for an eventual wheelchair, a large bathroom where a caregiver can assist with personal hygiene, a sliding door at the back to let in sun (plus, as we live in Israel, a reinforced safe room that will keep them protected from rockets). The house is all on one level with a small park nearby, as opposed to their current 3rd floor apartment, so it will be easier to get around.
Moving is fraught with stress at the best of times; how more so for someone with Alzheimer’s. Mom’s stability relies on the routine of living in a familiar environment, walking familiar streets, seeing familiar faces, attending familiar events. If we take that away, we might unbalance her.
Eventually, it will come to pass. And when it does, we will have to be sensitive to her needs. Here are a few tips to help us prepare.
Talk about the move. Assuming Mom can understand what’s happening around her, talking about the benefits of moving can lessen the trauma. The incentive of living near me is a powerful one, and we can emphasize this as we describe the advantages of a new home.
Keep Mom occupied during the move. I can imagine her standing in a room that is being packed up and reacting very emotionally to all her “things” being put in boxes. When it comes time to leave, we’ll bring Mom to my house so that she will be in a familiar setting rather than the new house with all its boxes and mess.
Unpack your sheets first. This is advice Mom gave me years ago during my first move. Make your bed so that you can collapse when you’re exhausted.
Decorate her room with comfort items. Hopefully this will give Mom a sense of familiarity in her new home.
Expect a period of transition. Mom might experience grief or anger at being in a new environment. There’s no way to know how long it will take before she is comfortable in her new home. The dislocation from her familiar surroundings might induce Mom to ask to go “home.” We’ve experienced this before, and it’s clear that the “home” Mom was referring to was her childhood home. We’ll have to give her support as she transitions.
Provide the opportunity to reminisce. Alzheimer’s patients can access long-term memory more readily than short-term memory. Getting Mom to talk about her previous homes may be comforting.
There is no right or best time to move someone with Alzheimer’s. Whether you’re moving your loved one to a seniors’ living facility or a new house, it’s an individual decision. It depends on so many factors, and must include the health and preparedness of the caregivers. Perhaps we’ll wait to move Mom until she is no longer capable of understanding that one place is different from another. Or maybe we’ll move her in the near future so that she can become accustomed to her new surroundings before it’s too late. Either way, the stresses of moving will be magnified for an Alzheimer’s patient.
Meanwhile, the saga of my oven continues. It’s been more than a week since the oven died. I’ve been getting good use out of the burners, and it’s made me try creative cooking methods. For example, both chicken and meat can be cooked on a stove top. Here’s the recipe I used for a succulent roast cooked in a pot on the stove.
Stove Top Pot Roast
This is the best roast recipe I’ve ever used. The meat cooks to a tender and juicy consistency, and despite the long cooking time—four hours—once it’s cooking, there’s little work involved.
1 to 2 kilo steak roast (the foreshank, no. 5)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 potatoes, cubed
3-4 carrots, sliced
2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced
2 large onions, chopped
10 or more garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp basil
3 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Up to 4-5 cups water
1 Tbsp flour
½ Tbsp potato starch
Heat on a high flame 1 Tbsp oil in a large pot. Using half the remaining oil, rub one side of roast with oil and half the spices. Place roast spiced-side down in pot and sear until brown. Meanwhile, rub the second side with remaining oil and spices, and sear this side, too. (Searing the meat to an almost caramelized crust will make it more flavorful.) Then, if you can manage, flip the meat on its sides and then its ends to sear these parts, too. (You might have to hold the meat upright with your hands until seared.) Once meat is seared, add water so that it covers half the roast. Cook on low flame for two hours. After two hours, add potatoes, carrots, and garlic cloves. Cook for another hour on a low flame. Add sweet potatoes and cook roast for an additional hour. Transfer roast to a large pan and let sit covered for 30 minutes before slicing. Remove vegetables to a serving dish. Transfer meat juices to a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Use the meat juices to make gravy by adding 2 Tbsp of meat juice or ½ a cup of water to 1 Tbsp flour and ½ Tbsp potato starch in a small cup. Mix, then pour flour mixture slowly into meat juices while stirring until juices thicken. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.