Mom is 87 years old and the mother of eleven children. She has lived on her own until she went into the hospital in February after a very bad fall. There had been a series of falls and late night calls to family because she was alone in the evening and overnight. The family was understandably worried. The subject of finding a better living situation came up time and time again, but she just wanted to go back to her apartment, and who could blame her.
A home for seniors is always portrayed in such a dismal way all throughout our lives. The decision was a difficult one, and one that came over time when she saw it would not be feasible to live alone any longer. We all felt a sense of sadness but also relief. She would be safer and that made us all feel better.
It's amazing how much difference time can make, while she does miss her apartment life, she seems very content in her currant situation.
In the last several years the only time Mom had left her apartment building was to see a doctor or in an ambulance to go to the hospital after a fall. Her life had become very limited and while she had lots of visitors she wasn't meeting anyone new or seeing new things.
Her new living situation has opened her life up in a way that wasn't possible in her beautiful little apartment. Yesterday she went shopping for the first time in years. A clothing store, Northern Reflections, had set up a store in the common room and she had an attendant help her choose clothing. Other than online shopping it was the first time in years Mom had been able to shop for herself. She was pretty excited to tell me about it. That conversation led us into a conversation about what really is independence, and at what cost.
She talked to me about something I discovered many years ago but have spoken to hardly anyone about. That is perspective.
I was devastated when I woke up from my first surgery to find I was paralyzed almost completely from the waist down. I didn't have bladder or bowel function, and it wasn't clear what my chances were of regaining it or the ability to walk again. (I will talk more about this in a later post). I was placed in a rehab centre to try to learn to walk again.
My Mother had some of the same feelings when she was in the middle of being placed in a home. There's a sense of loss, a sense of defeat, and something being ripped out from under you. A loss of control. That is until you get there and take a good look around.
There is a feeling of comfort of knowing there is someone always there, someone who knows what your needs are, and are skilled in delivering them. Most importantly you look around and see you are not the only one in the situation. It is nature’s way that we compare ourselves and feel grateful for what we have, instead of focusing on what we don't.
In the real world we are often the one who stands out, for not being able to do things others are doing. We need others to do things for us constantly. In institutions those needs being a matter of fact and are taken care of for you routinely. There are those who are worse off, and those who are better off than you; you will not stand out for your needs.
Mom finds herself helping others for the first time in a very long time, and feels good about it. She is able to sit for meals with someone who has difficulty and can gently offer a hand. That feels good. When she has needs of her own she doesn't need to apologize anymore, she is in the right place.
I have always been grateful for the ability to walk, despite the disabilities I am left with, because I saw first hand what the alternative was. I believe Mom sees that too.
Sometimes when I hear the way some people complain about injury or illness I know they don't have perspective, I'm glad I do. It was hard earned, but a lesson worth learning.
Mom and I have had some interesting conversations about life in this last month or so. We have talked about meaningful things. Even though there is a thirty-four year age difference, we can relate on many different levels.
I'm proud of her for adjusting so well to her new situation as I know she was proud of me when I worked my way to walking again.