Friday, December 5, 2014

Home Sweet Assisted Living Home

Always be nice to your children because they are the ones 
who will choose your rest home.
                                              - Phyllis Diller

I think about that quote often nowadays as I frequently visit my mother-in-law in her assisted living home. We – my husband, my sister-in-law and I – chose the place. Mom had a stroke and the consensus among the family was that she could not return to her apartment and continue living alone.

While Mom rehabbed, we visited assisted living facilities, eventually selecting a very nice place six miles from our home.

That was three and a half years ago. Mom has had her ups and downs since then, as a slow, steady decline in mental and physical abilities continue.

A couple of months ago she transferred to a more secure section of the home. Her long-term memory still works remarkably well, but short-term functionality has been compromised. In addition she lost hearing in one ear as a result of the second stroke, and has difficulty catching and processing conversation. Phone calls are a string of, “What?” and, “we must have a poor connection.”

Yet, in a strange sort of way, she is doing better than before her transfer. She receives more attention and hands-on care, and as a result is thriving.

But because she is thriving she is restless and displeased with her situation, but participates in more activities than previously. She is less likely to sleep her days away.

A newly hired Activities Director enthusiastically supports and encourages the residents. Learning each one’s likes, dislikes, and history, she develops activities tailored to their interests and abilities, including family events promoting family and resident interaction.

So will Mom be me a couple of decades or more from now?

There is a strong movement to age in place – in one’s own home – but that is not always possible or desirable. Physical and/or mental requirements sometimes force an individual into an environment offering more intensive, hands-on treatment than spouses and family members can provide.

Not that there is anything wrong with Mom’s assisted living facility.

Except of course that is not what Mom will tell you. She berates the fact that her son put her in ‘this place’. She wants her car, which she cannot drive. She wants freedom to do what she wants when she wants, but is too frail to help herself do much of anything anymore.

Down the road I hope my health, both physical and mental, holds up enough so I can live my life the way I want and make my own decisions.

So how much longer might I expect to enjoy my favorite foods, world travel, reading (it will take several years to finish my current must-read list, and it continues growing), mind-numbing TV shows…and survive zumba class so I can enjoy my favorite foods?

Life expectancy at my age (I will turn 65 in 2015) is another 20.5 years. For men of the same age life expectancy is 17.9 years. 

If I must, I hope to pick my own ‘rest home’. At least then the only one I can blame for not liking the place will be me. It may be a difficult mission. A Health and Human Services Department study forecasts a shortage of housing for seniors as boomers age, predicting about 70% of the population reaching age 65 will need some form of long-term care during their lifetime.

In this particular case, I hope I will be a member of the minority population.

Meanwhile I will…

Eat a lot of chocolate. Recent studies indicate flavonoids, found in cocoa, may help stem age-related memory loss.

Get exhausted – but lots of exercise - every few weeks attempting to keep up with the grandkids.

Think about cleaning the house, occasionally actually doing so.

Make an effort to lose weight, a battle never won.

Dye my hair, although I am not sure for how much longer. At some point I will succumb to its natural color, whatever that might be.

Endure exercise classes, realizing achieving amazing results and morphing into a slim, trim figure will never happen.

Enjoy friends, family, and new relationships.

Try some new pursuits, learn a new skill or two or three. Easy ones!

Continue writing, traveling, complaining, and participating in all the other activities honed over six decades of living.