tumbled onto the glossy marble hallway,
fracturing a knee. The family arranged
for home health care aides to visit Doris
at Regina’s house during her recovery—a
novelty that, to Doris’s surprise, she didn’t
entirely mind. To be sure, when the two
male attendants first showed up to bathe
her, the modest octogenarian was taken
aback. “But you know,” she told Paige
later, “they did a good job.”
Still, Doris felt unmoored by the experi-
ence. “You could see,” Paige says, “she was
not a happy camper.” So several months
after she arrived, Doris returned home to
Jacksonville, where one of her sons was
still living at the time. He died of con-
gestive heart failure in 2010, leaving no
spouse or children. About a year after that,
Doris fell and broke her hip.
Knowing that Doris was recuperating
from her hip injury so far from her surviving children troubled the sisters greatly.
Yet respecting her wishes seemed, at that
point, just as necessary to her health.
When Paige visited the Jacksonville
rehab center, though, Doris looked worse
than her daughter had ever seen her. Doris needed skilled nursing; she couldn’t
dress or go to the bathroom by herself.
Helpless, cut off from a lifetime of relationships even in the midst of her hometown, she had plunged into depression.
“Oh, I’m all right. How are you?”
“I did not even know whom to talk to,” Paige says. “It was
eating me up. My gosh, I thought, ‘I just pray this is not the
last time I see my mom alive.’ ”
But ever the planner, Paige already had a rudimen-
tary plan B. For decades, Paige had known that she herself
would never move back to Jacksonville. So, well before
Doris’s accident, Paige had started visiting facilities near
her home in Houston. Narrowing the possibilities by price
and services, she methodically ticked off other items she
wanted. The place she liked best, a rehab and assisted liv-
ing facility in the suburb of Sugar Land, was not the most
elegant of those in her price range. But the daughter of
Paige’s cousin worked there, and that human connection,
according to her calculations, was priceless. “That rapport
was more important than having a luxury, plush place,” says
Paige. Luckily, the facility had an opening when she called
about placing her mother there.
Although not the most expensive facility she’d seen, it was
still costly, at about $5,000 a month. (CONTINUED ON PAGE 62)
MOVING FORWARD TOGE THER
Doris’s daughters—from left: Regina, Paige, and Janice—
now live close to one another in Houston.
day. On Sundays she donned a smart hat to attend the local
Baptist church, where she sang in the choir.
For years, Paige and her sisters had fretted about their
mother’s living so far away. Doris, a diabetic, needed twice-daily insulin injections, which she had been giving herself.
Once, Paige had arrived for a visit to find Doris nearly unconscious from poorly managed blood sugar.
Four years ago, alarmed by Doris’s growing frailty yet
bent on respecting their mother’s desires, the daughters
had coaxed her to try an extended visit to Houston. For
the most part, she stayed in the suburbs with Paige’s sister
Regina, whose house had a full bedroom suite on the first
floor. The neighborhood was verdant and quiet, a bit like
But the setup wasn’t ideal. Regina and her husband
worked long hours; their children, then teenagers, were
consumed with schoolwork and extracurricular projects.
Straggling home in the evenings, the family had scant
energy to socialize with Doris. With no porch, no close-by
neighbors, and no place to walk, she felt bored and alone.
Then things got worse. One day, during a short stay at
Paige’s home, Doris missed the last step on a staircase and