On Tuesday of this week, my brother Gray helped get my dad into a nursing home.  It’s been a long struggle.  For the past three-and-a-half years Dad has suffered from severe anxiety and depression, lying on the couch during the day and tossing and turning at night.  It’s such a change from the man I’ve always known, who was optimistic, energetic, and enthusiastic, ready to change the world or chop a load of firewood, whichever was needed most.  We’re not really sure what happened.  My mom thinks it started when he stripped a piece of furniture and spent three weeks in the presence of those strong fumes.  The doctors disagree, and they’ve experimented with a raft of psychotropic drugs.  Nothing seems to help. 

And so Dad went to the hospital last week mostly because he lacked the will to get out of bed.  Mom called the doctor, who suggested that they meet him at the hospital.  After four days there, and a full battery of tests, a nursing home seemed like the best option.  My brother Gray, who lives in the same town (and who has been absolutely heroic in the care of my parents) sent this message to his five brothers at the end of  a long day on Tuesday:

Dear Brothers,

Today was a good day.

I picked up Dad and Mom from the hospital at about 2:00 and drove them to the nursing home. We were warmly greeted by a number of friendly staff members and taken immediately to Dad’s room. While the nurses went through the check-in process and helped Dad unpack, I took Mom for a tour, including a stop by the ice cream parlor where she made Dad an ice cream cone. By the time we got back, Dad was all settled in. I left Mom to visit with Dad, went and did all the paperwork and then dashed back to the office for a meeting. When I returned around 5:30, Mom was all smiles and Dad seemed totally content.

Dad’s is sharing a room with a very sweet and alert 90 year old man who worked in the CCC camps during the Great Depression and later served in the Navy. His sister and brother were visting from out of town and were very reassuring about what a nice place this nursing home is. That was really encouraging to all of us.

All of the staff that we worked with, or just bumped into while we were touring around, were super nice, cheerful and patient. A nurse and a physical therapist got a complete run-down on Dad’s medications, medical history, and current physical condition. I think Dad appreciated the professionalism and it probably didn’t hurt that they were both young, pretty, and sweet.

Mom was absolutely thrilled. She couldn’t believe what a nice place it was and that we could actually afford it. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see so pleased with our choice. She had been really determined to go the Presbyterian Home and I was afraid that she wouldn’t like any other option.

When we left the nursing home, Mom and I spent about 45 minutes practicing how to get to there. (It’s only a mile or so away from one of the hospitals that she has been to repeatedly, so we just had to practice on that small stretch of unfamiliar road.) It was cute. A lot like giving driving lessons to your teenager.  After a few tries, she seemed to have it down pat.

I think it will be a couple of weeks before we really  have a feel for how this is going to work, but like I said, it was a very good day.

With love,


Anyone who has helped a parent into a nursing home knows what a difficult decision it can be, and how many emotions are attached to that move.  I’m surprised by how grateful and relieved I feel at the moment.  Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet.  Maybe it will.  But for now I’m simply thankful that such a good place exists, and that my dad is there.

And that my mom can bring him an ice cream cone.

10 thoughts on “Transitions

  1. Jim, my heart goes out to your Mom and Dad both — not to mention to you and your brothers. From 1956 – 1993 I looked after from 1 to 4 seniors in my or my husband’s family, so while I don’t know how YOU feel, I can certainly empathize. Nursing homes were often involved, and it does indeed mean so much to have very caring and professional staff — sadly, that’s not always the case, even in the best of spots. The good thing was, that in my mother’s situation (at 11 years, the longest bit) early on she was as happy and relaxed as I ever remember seeing her, once they got the medications regulated and became well-acquainted with her particular personality. God was very good to me during that time, and both my father and I felt especially cared for by all our good friends. Dad spent his last 14 years at the Baptist Home in Culpeper, where he continued his ministry in many ways until just three weeks before he died! I’m sure he was a blessing to many of his fellow residents, and certainly I learned a lot from my interactions with others during those years. Blessings.

  2. Thank you for sharing your brother’s e-mail. It is difficult seeing our parents age.My mom now suffers with dementia and it breaks my heart to see such a strong intelligent woman change to a woman who has to be told/shown like a young child.
    I pray your parents will adjust and accept this new chapter in their lives.May God bless and keep them.

  3. From personal experience I understand. Your parents and family will be in my prayers. May God bless and watch over you all.

  4. This story brought tears to my eyes and I am so sad for your dad, mom, brothers, and you, but am glad that the transition has gone better than expected. My sister and brother in law had to use ingenuity and covert means when our mother stubbornly refused to move out of her house. Without forewarning Mother, who at that point was confined to her bedroom while the rest of the house laid in dust and fading memories, they rented a U-Haul trailer, arrived unannounced, “kidnapped” her, her wheelchair, and her bedroom, and moved her into an assisted living facility near their home three hours away. Fearful of her reaction, but sure of our joint decision to take these drastic measures, we were elated to learn that our mother rolled easily into place with complacency and resignation. It had been a desperate gamble on our part, but once settled in with a caring staff, lots of company, and a daughter five minutes away, Mother never looked back! May it be so for your dad and mom as well.

  5. It is difficult to place a parent in a nursing home even when you know that it is the best decision for the parent, the spouse and the rest of the family.

    Love and prayers for your parents and all of your family members.

  6. Dear Pastor Jim,

    You know how short the time is to love one another. Your love and admiration of your Dad as friend, mentor, advisor, patriarch of your tribe, is amazing. Speaking from your heart on Sunday mornings allows folks in to your inner most feelings, and so it is, that you must experienceloss. Holding on comes with the territory, but realize that you may be going thru a grief journey. I know what that’ s like.

    Here is a poem to wash away your sadness:


    To let go does not mean to stop caring.
    It means I can’t do it for someone else.
    To let go is not to cut myself off,
    it’s the realization I can’t control another.
    To let go is not to enable,
    but allow learning from natural consequences.
    To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means
    the outcome is not in my hands.
    To let go is not to change or blame another,
    it’s to make the most of myself.
    To let go is not to care for,
    but to care about.
    To let go is not to fix,
    but to be supportive.
    To let go is not to judge,
    but to allow another to be a human being.
    To let go is not to be in the middle arranging outcomes,
    but to allow others to affect their destinies.
    To let go is not to be protective,
    it means to permit another to face reality.
    To let go is not to deny,
    but to accept.
    To let go is not to nag, scold, argue,
    but instead, to discover one’s shortcomings and correct them.
    To let go is not to regret the past,
    but to grow and live for the future,
    To let go is to fear less and love more.
    To let go is to let GOD, find peace.
    REMEMBER—The time to love is short.
    ——author unknown

    Pax vobis cum.

  7. Jim,

    What a courageous thing Gray did. Having just done a similar thing within the last year, its one of the hardest things to see your parents age & their lives diminish. Know that there are lots of us with broad shoulders for you to lean on as you walk down this path. Lean on the Lord and lean on us and the load will be made much lighter. Going through times like this show what a beautiful place church is. Prayers for the entire family.

  8. Jim,

    Thank you for sharing this news about your father. I am sorry that he has had to go into a nursing home, but I am glad that it sounds as if he might be making the transition to the nursing home better than some people do. Back in August 2007, my brother and I had to place our mother in a nursing after she had lived in an assisted living facility for 1 1/2 years. Her health had deteriorated to the point that we had no other choice, but it still was not easy for us to place her in the nursing home. Unfortunately, the care my mother received in the nursing home was not the best and her condition went down hill quickly and she died in May 2008. It did not help that she basically gave up after going to the nursing home and that helped to bring her death that much more quickly. I do not write all this to make you feel any worse about your family’s decision regarding your father. Some people get very good care in nursing homes and they are able to keep a positive attitude about life. The proper care from nursing home staff and a positive attitude on the part of the parent help to determine how successful a placement in a nursing home is going to be. I just want to let you know that I wish only the best for your father. From what you have shared with us about your father in the past, I am sure that he is a very special person and hopefully he will be able to successfully make this transition in his life. It is hard to watch our parent’s world shrink as they grow older, but it is something that happens and it will happen to all of us at some point. May your father, your mother, you, and your brothers be able to gracefully accept this transition to this new stage in your father’s life. Take care.

  9. Jim,
    I have been away from my church family due to recent losses, and have SO missed my church home! I am trying to catch up on everything, including your blog.

    My brother and I had to place our mom in a nursing home a few years back, and I understand some of the challenges of this process, especially with the emotional toll that it takes on all the family. It also gave us a certain comfort and peace of mind when we realize that our mother would be well cared for and that she had been placed in a safe, uplifting environment. Even though I have to repeat myself, my mom still laughs at my silly “one liners” and it does my heart good that she is has not lost her sense of humor. There is a little tug at my heart, when I think about the fact that my brother and I have reached this chapter in our lives where we have become the “parents” to our mother, and I wonder, “How did this happen so fast?”

    It sounds like you have such a wonderful, supportive family. My prayers are with you.

  10. pastor somerville, i watch first baptist on sunday and went to your blog via my cell to see what it was all about.we too had to place dad in a nursing home because he kept falling here at the house.i helped take care of dad for over a decade.we both had to deal with scitzophrenia,and i depression and anxiety as is no longer with us and mom is ill as well.i have one of the best doctors in our area who helps with my sadness and isolation.i send cards and gifts to patients where dad was,let me know if your church needs help with that,i’m seldom busy elsewhere. I sometimes recommend music to help familiees who have a parent with would not believe what i dealt with as a teen.but god watches over us. You are in my prayers, jack comer,richmond.

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