Summary: With aging comes losses, and if your loved one should need assisted living, the right facility can ease some of those losses, and help to maintain a sense of who they are, by supporting and nurturing their personal stories and identities.
Author: Linda Brendle exclusively for Assisted Living Directory
Linda is a contributor for Assisted Living Directory
Aging involves a lot of losses: health, beauty, career, friends and family. Through physical impairments, you may lose skills that are important to you, and mental impairments like dementia and Alzheimer’s may take away your sense of who you are.
One of the first losses I noticed with Mom was her ability to get a meal on the table. She was always a good cook. Her offerings were always tasty, and some of her desserts were to die for. But as she got older, I noticed that her roast was sometimes tough and dry, and her dump cakes had spots of dry cake mix on top. Her menus became simpler, and she rarely tried the new recipes she loved to cut out of the newspaper. She invited us for dinner less often, and when she did, I had to help her pull it all together. Eventually the invitations changed.
“We can have Christmas at our house if you’ll do the cooking,” or “I’ll do the dishes if you’ll cook.”
She said she didnt cook as much as she used to because her hands were swollen and twisted with arthritis. But her kitchen cabinets that had previously been neat and orderly were chaotic, and she became nervous and confused when she looked at the stove or the microwave.
Mom was also a good seamstress, but Alzheimer’s stole that ability, too. Where she had once been able to combine patterns to create her own customized design, or re-cut an old garment to give it a completely new look, she had trouble replacing a button or repairing a drooping hem. Her sewing machine sat idle and her sewing basket gathered dust.
She and Dad both enjoyed reading, and when they first moved in with us, I made frequent visits to our local library in order to keep them supplied with reading material. Dad also enjoyed doing crossword and word search puzzles. As their minds slipped away, however, more and more books were returned unread, and Dad’s puzzles became a mess of crossed out words and erasures.
When we first moved to Florida, Mom and Dad spent many happy hours sitting in the glider on the lanai, chatting about the variety of birds and the odd-shaped clouds, but again Alzheimer’s took away that little pleasure. They became reluctant to leave the security of their sitting room, and the few times they ventured out, they didnt know what to do once they were seated. They soon retreated into the house.
No caregiver or assisted living facility can give back what has been lost to this voracious disease, but some facilities offer opportunities to ease some of these losses. Many activities may look like busy work, but to the resident, they can be a chance to feel some sense of self and purpose.
One facility we visited offered a kitchen area where residents and their families could prepare and eat meals together. Another facility offered several activity centers. One center featured a vase and a selection of artificial flowers with a sign that read Please help us by arranging these flowers for the dinner table. Another center had a coat rack with several purses hanging on it. Many of their ladies spent happy hours organizing the contents of the bags. My favorite focal point was the bulletin board that was intended to evoke memories and encourage conversations. The day we visited, it was covered with fishing rods and lures, pictures of boats and fish, and lots of other other memorabilia that was sure to bring a smile to an old fisherman’s face.
The facility where Mom and Dad lived offered a wide range of activities. There were exercise classes and a variety of entertainment, both live and on TV. Televised church services were available in the conference room, and the staff often danced and sang with the residents as they listened to music in the common areas. Even the most immobile residents were brought to the dining room for meals, and they spent their waking hours in the common areas where they could connect with the life that was being taken from them.
The overall condition and amenities of a facility are of utmost important as well as the staff and resident care. But in addition to those big things, look for the small ways a facility attempts to retain some of the things that make your loved one who they are.
Mother’s Day tea at Southridge in 2011.My brother Jim is with them. Dad fell and/or had a stroke later that night and passed away a week later.
New Year’s Eve dinner at Southridge – my brother and me with Mom.
Easter of 2012. She was in the common area of her wing at Southridge. She was in a Geri chair provided by hospice, and she had on protective mittens to keep her from scratching the skin eruptions she developed toward the end. (It wasn’t neglect but rather some kind of rare skin disease.) She passed away about 6 weeks after this was taken.
Mom’s 90th birthday in September of 2011. Southridge provided cake, punch and decorations. Mom is the one with the corsage, and her younger sister Fay Robinson is with her.
Linda, one facility I visited had the residents peeling potatoes and preparing beans, which looked like busy work, but the residents were thrilled to do it, and I could tell they had a sense of purpose from it. Great article!
21 October 2013 at 10:13 am