“I Wish We Had Done This Sooner.”

Published On: November 2, 2023

3 Years Ago
My parents, both in their 80s, lived in the same beautiful, spacious home for over four decades, located in a town approximately five hours away from me. For years, my sister and I had urged them to downsize, consider a move to a retirement community, or relocate closer to one of us; however, they were deeply rooted in their home and fiercely committed to each other. My father, the devoted husband and family patriarch, firmly believed that his life’s purpose was to care for my mother in the comfort of their home.

During these three years, their health was declining —hers due to dementia and his, as a result of various stress-induced ailments—our lives became increasingly complicated and unpredictable. We often found ourselves anxiously awaiting phone calls and making frequent trips to their home to address crises, attempting to put together temporary solutions and provide my father with the level of support he was willing to accept. As he continued to lose weight, shedding over 40 pounds, and his overall well-being declined, he finally agreed to the assistance of a caregiver for a few hours each week; however, it became evident that this wasn’t enough.

Six months ago
In March of 2023 , while making his usual trip to the basement to change the laundry, a task he had managed for years, my father fell backwards, while walking up the stairs. Following a month of recovery in the hospital, he returned home to celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary with my mother. Despite our best efforts, his health continued to deteriorate, and he peacefully passed away, in his sleep, two weeks later, his body exhausted. His final gift to us was leaving behind the financial means necessary to provide for my mother.

My mother resides just 20 minutes away from me, in a lovely apartment within a senior living community. She’s part of a specialized memory care program, surrounded by fellow residents with similar needs. Her days are filled with activities designed to stimulate her mind and body, including exercise, art, music, and excursions to local attractions like art exhibits, pumpkin patches, and butterfly gardens. Regular physical, occupational, and speech therapy sessions are integrated into her routine, all under the watchful eye of a diligent nursing team. Her three daily meals are not only nutritious but also well-balanced. Most importantly, a dedicated team of loving caregivers is there around the clock, ensuring her well-being and happiness.

I now have the privilege of spending quality time with my mother three to four times a week, and Sundays are fondly dubbed “Date Night with Dottie.” Our outings range from simple activities like getting our nails done, shopping, or having dinner to more elaborate adventures such as attending plays, concerts, and events. Cirque du Soleil was a particular favorite this year. We also share daily conversations, and remarkably, she remembers the details. Our topics can be as straightforward as what happened that day in her “neighborhood” or dive deep into rich conversations about the past. She’s sharp, alert, and fully engaged in life.

Before making the transition to senior living, experts had forewarned us that it might take around three months for my mother to fully adapt to her new environment. They were absolutely right. She’s not just content—she’s genuinely happy, cherishing her apartment, and, most significantly, relishing her proximity to her adult children and grandchildren.

I am profoundly grateful for the decision we made to move her to senior living instead of keeping her at home. The transformation is evident, and she is no longer the shell of the person she once was. A large part of her newfound vibrancy is undoubtedly connected to the sense of community that now surrounds and embraces her. As a daughter, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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