visiting “assisted living”

About a month ago our family was faced with the reality that despite our best efforts to keep our Mom in her home that she and our Dad had built 52 years ago we had no choice but to place our beloved Mom in an “assisted living facility”. The entire range of emotions from guilt to relief to sadness and resignation have been felt by all of us. Our Mom is in her early 90s with a dementia that is progressive and sometimes aggressive in its robbery of her memory and her cognitive abilities. She is in a “wing” that houses folkes with essentially the same level of self awareness. It is facility which from all we have seen thus far is a very compassionate and professionally ran institution. It is a faith based enterprise but ultimately a business, and as we all know in America. profit always trumps any other consideration. The realization that all your parent has may ultimately be stolen by the government for such “care” is a hard pill to swallow. It is not about the inheritance it’s about honouring what your parent’s labour has wrought for them and the right to do with that labour as they see fit! Typical of America it is only the wealthy and the corporation that is given the right to possess and even here it is the possession of what others have created for them.

Even in ” the long goodby” Mom is thankfully essentially the person she has always been. She is at heart an “other directed” type of person and continues to be so. She rarely misses an opportunity to compliment the staff as well as thank them, all of which she does with great sincerity and genuineness. She seems to have made her peace with the real and most likely reality of remaining at this place until she “goes on to Glory”.

But Mom has a sadness I have not seen in a long long while and that was only after my brother died when he was only 10. Even in the midst and mists of her dementia she is aware that her home where she raised her children, loved her companion and husband, cooked thousands of meals, rested from her labour, and dreamed her dreams will soon be gone and that all she has materially, save but for a few mementos, will also. She is the last of her generation and her 10 other siblings and of course her parents “are on the Other Side”.

I look into those blessed eyes and see the twinkle I have seen so many times and I give thanks that despite her sadness the twinkle remains. But Mom is no sentimental Rebecca of Sonny Brook Farm and if she finds something that she disagrees with or that she just plain does not like she will make her feelings known. Being the true Southern Lady that she is this is done politely without any doubt however as to its meaning!

She has now make friends with her “roommate” that resides in the adjacent room. Regardless of the fact that neither one cannot hear without the aid of a hearing aid an acquaintance has begun that appears to benefit both. Even flirting has not ceased with age and a gentleman who walks up and down the hall makes a point to wave at her, much to her pretended aggravation, every time he takes his constitutional!

I try and visit at least three times a week. It is about 62 miles from where I live and takes a little over an hour to drive. My sister and her children who live less than 5 minutes away visit daily. So Mom is never left alone but tragically this is not true for many of the others who like her now call this place “home”. Many rarely have visit from families even those close by and some few never have. Each family has its own set of circumstances and its own dynamics and it is not my place to judge.

You really begin to understand how fragile we humans are and how often our most treasured routines can be usurped by age and mental/physical changes. You also learn that even a smile can be a priceless gift whether it is returned or not. These are but two lessons in a “curriculum” that you might never imagined would be yours.


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