My father-in-law recently moved into an assisted-living home. To say he moved reluctantly would be an understatement. Arnold is definitely on the ball, and the only time I ever questioned his mental state was when he announced he wanted to live with my family. Our household is chaotic; sometimes even I don’t want to live there!
After a nasty fall, Arn was quizzed by the ER medical staff to check his cognizance. A doctor walked in late and asked, “What year is it?” A nurse responded: “I guess you weren’t in here when he was talking about Obama and politics!” The staff realized early on that Arn’s feet might not be working, but his mind certainly is.
The decision to move him was rough. It came after much contemplation, two strokes, five falls, six weeks in rehab and four professionals saying he couldn’t live unassisted.
Arn’s best friend, Frank, is like the sunshine. Frank is brilliant and warm, and oh-so-necessary. They became friends at a senior center years ago, and listening to them discuss current events is educational and enjoyable. They are bright, aware and witty. Frank recently moved into a senior residence. We realized that Arnold should be near him, and amazingly, we were able to move him into the room next door. What a lifeline!
On move-in day, we took coffee to Arn and his buddy. I warned my daughter that this was a difficult day for everyone, and that Grandpa would be upset. I was correct. What I didn’t expect was why he was upset — because we arrived precisely as happy hour started! They practically kicked us and the coffee out. We stood there, stunned, watching them amble down the hallway with their walkers. Arnold’s smile was the biggest ever (and he doesn’t even drink).
Arnold is with his best friend. The food is great. There’s entertainment when you’re in the mood, and a door to shut when you’re not. He likes it there. Loves it, even.
This has given me an idea: Let’s change how we view senior living options. Rooming with friends in college was a blast! Why not grab our friends and choose an assisted living home now, for when we can no longer safely live at home? Let’s make a pact and agree to meet there, whenever the time comes. We might forget each other’s names, but who cares? We will eat, drink and make the best of it.
I have zero expertise in this area, but much experience. My brother’s dream house included an apartment for our parents. Dad loved the view of the hills – but he was diagnosed with cancer, dying that first year. Our mother, having suffered strokes, then came to live with my family. She was as loving and adoring as ever, but mentally, she was not OK. Her condition deteriorated, and I became schooled in health care. When Mom accidentally started a fire in our home in front of my young children, I realized that nobody was safe. It was a painful wake-up call. Mom needed me, and I needed her. She also needed 24-hour care.
She had always loved spending time shopping with us, and I once managed to make transportation arrangements to sneak her off to the mall. She looked happy, and it was a special day for all of us.
Afterward, my son said, “So, Mommy, when you get old and live in a home, you want us to take you to the mall, right?” I said, “Oh, no, Honey! Just send me out to sea on an ice floe!” But I have since thought better of it. Please take me to the home that my friends and I chose. The one with happy hours.