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advice needed for parents
Others here will have excellent advice and suggestions to help. I just want you to know my heart goes out to all of you.
The promise they made to each other is null and void. Dementia does NOT allow those types of promises.
Your father, probably with you along so you understand, needs to see an Elder Care Attorney immediately. It sounds like Medicaid will be the only way he can afford to place your mother, and he needs to get that ball rolling right away.
Since Medicaid is a state program, he will need to decide ASAP whether Wisconsin or Florida will be home base. The attorney should be able to help look at the Medicaid programs in each state and help him decide what makes the most sense.
Ah, the promise to never put your spouse in a facility. I totally understand the sentiment, but people don't have a crystal ball and sometimes fail to realize what is in store for them.
So she is wandering, and her needs exceed what Dad can do. He has his own health problems and he is in his 80s and needs his own health and needs attended to. There comes a point where you don't have options. Her (and his) care needs HAVE to drive the decision making. Not promises or wishful thinking or guilt. She is not safe at home right now if she wandered and was found by a neighbor. That ended about as well as you could possibly hope for, but she may not be so lucky next time. Consider Dad's quality of life in his final years as well. If it hasn't happened yet, she will likely have more issues in the future. Alzheimers often brings incontinence and night waking as it progresses, both of which are game changers for caregivers and are seriously exhausting.
Dad made a promise, but try to view it like this: he was promising to always look out for her, to make her comfortable, to make the best possible decision for her. That's his and your job now. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it and it's the right thing to do. At the moment that means more care. They either need to have someone coming to the home or move her to a facility. 24/7 care is expensive, even more so if it is in their home. You need financial planning with an attorney. I would also point out that today's memory care facilities are not the nursing homes they may have seen their parents in or have been envisioning. Staff training, care, and rules have changed drastically in the last decade or two. Many memory care facilities are home-like settings with the routine a PWD needs, good food, natural light, visiting pets, fenced outdoor areas, activities that a PWD can keep up with. After an adjustment period, my loved one really flourishes at her care facility. If anything her cognition improved because she was finally getting the routine, care, and oversight she needed.
I would immediately consult an elder law attorney in the state where she will live permanently (as someone else stated, switching between two homes is probably out for her now.) An attorney can look at their finances, property, and income and advise the best way to pay for care. It likely means spending down assets and getting her on Medicaid. Many facilities accept Medicaid. These rules vary state to state and the rules are strict, so you do want legal advice to make sure it is done properly. The attorney can also help make sure dad is taken care of financially.
I want to add I was in a similar position (my father is 80, was hanging on taking care of mom at home but was totally overwhelmed.) The last 6 months of having her at home were very hard on him. He was open to moving her but I had to take the reigns and make it happen; there was no way he had the mental gas in the tank to do so and it was also a very difficult thing for him. He was exhausted and it was taking its toll on his mental and physical health. For months after she moved he was still a shell of himself and I worried he would never bounce back and regretted not moving her sooner. Now after more than a year he has come around just a little, and is slightly more energetic and like his old self but we definitely lost some of him in this process as well. Mom was robbed of so much, but he was too. He missed out on a lot and time with his grandkids. I am grateful we found a good place for mom and that he can do his twice a week visits but leave the day to day care to professionals and live his life now. He's slowly finding some of his own peace and enjoyment in his final years.