Georgia Voice columnist Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Why Millie Pete really left Atlanta

“I bet that you miss that little boy.”

That was said more than once to my mother while attending my aunt’s funeral. Millie Pete’s sister passed on Halloween and we were in Kentucky a few days later celebrating her life. The gathering family knew Mom had moved to Atlanta when my son was born and had recently returned to her private home in Nashville.

“Very much.” That was her standard reply, and she didn’t continue further as to why being a new grandmother couldn’t wash away the bad experiences she endured while living in Buckhead. These experiences I haven’t shared publicly until now.

Millie Pete never sold her house in Tennessee, opting for a way back in case she didn’t enjoy her assisted living experience here. She did look forward to a dorm-like experience where she could easily make new friends and not have the responsibility of cooking and cleaning now that her vision was impaired.

The staff was wonderful and helpful, the food was delicious, and she did make new friends easily. Despite losing some to the inconsistency of dementia, others to moves back home, and yet a few to death, Mom kept her activity schedule consistent that first year. Her favorite activity of the week was the Friday night slumber parties with Mr. Carter.

Then she got a cold. Not used to being sick, Mom blew it off to allergies but we soon realized she had pneumonia and put her in the hospital. They treated her life-threatening infection for nearly a week, then sent her to a rehab facility for lung treatments and physical therapy so that Mom’s equilibrium wouldn’t be negatively affected by the constant bed-rest. That stint lasted two months, through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, making Millie Pete vow not to go through that again. Then she fell a few weeks later.

Mom seemed fine following the slight fall from her chair to the floor, having missed the edge of her seat one morning while feeling lightheaded. She only felt a minor soreness on the side where she fell, but her nurse wanted to make sure she was okay and sent her to the doctor for X-rays. The nurse didn’t realize Mom would not return for weeks.

The hospital determined she had broken some minor bones and decided to keep her. There didn’t seem to be any timetable, and after a few days they sent her back to the same rehab facility as before. This time they also determined she had an intestinal infection, and someone with a low immune system like I have as a kidney recipient shouldn’t be around her. So my visits were limited, and her time seemed to be extended. Even the nurse at her facility was confused.

Constantly asking for an update and being repeatedly told she needed to stay a few more weeks, I had enough and said I demanded her release. Getting nowhere, I actually had a lawyer I know call to question any Medicare fraud going on. Ironically, Mom was ready to go within the next 30 minutes.

Elderly, blind, surrounded by strangers, and unhappy with her constant hospital or rehab environment for several months, Millie Pete decided to return to her own home in Nashville.

Does she miss her grandson? Absolutely. Does she miss being targeted as an old woman with good insurance? Absolutely not.