Many seniors are biased against assisted living communities because they confuse them with hospitals and nursing homes. However, surveys show that a vast majority of assisted living residents state that they wish they had moved sooner because their quality of life has increased a lot. Recently, I had a conversation with Jennifer H., a lady in her eighties who move to assisted living a couple of months ago. Here’s her story:
“My husband and I lived in a 2000 sq ft house with an acre of land for many years. Our children grew up there and neither of us thought we’d ever move out of it. But life worked out differently. Two years ago, my husband died of a heart attack and I was left all alone – the children moved out ages ago and live miles away.”
At first, I was coping but then things started to get difficult. First, I had to give up my garden because managing it by myself had become impossible. We used to have peach trees but I couldn’t take care of them, so I had to get them removed. Also, house maintenance proved to be very challenging to manage because it was my husband who dealt with all the repairs.
I decided to move to a senior living community about six months ago after I fell when I was washing the windows. The fall gave me a fright – I was lucky not to break any bones. True, I was scared out of my wits but I knew I couldn’t take care of myself anymore and in-home care was too expensive.
I didn’t want to leave my home and it was difficult to move to a much smaller apartment. You see, I had to say good-bye to a lot of cherished things and a lifetime of memories. Hosting a yard sale was especially hard but luckily my daughter traveled here to help.
If you ask me what worried me most, I have to admit that I was frightened of losing control over my life and concerned about privacy. You know, privacy is something you can’t really maintain with lots of older people living in one place! Us, old ladies, like gossiping! And yes, I was worried that I won’t get along with other residents.
My eldest daughter took care of the move – she helped me to pack, found movers, decorated my new apartment. I’m so grateful and proud of her, she went to great lengths to make my new home look just like the old one. And she was there for me for the first few days when I was settling in.
Has my life changed?
Yes. But it changed for the better (although I do miss my home and my old routine). I don’t have to worry about chores, cooking, maintaining a large house, going shopping, and a thousand of other things. Most importantly, I feel healthier now because I don’t forget to take my medication and I eat better (I used to skip meals when I felt ill or too tired to cook).
The caregivers are very nice and friendly, always up for a chat. You know, I thought I’d be embarrassed to let other people help me get dressed and have a shower but these girls make everything all right. They don’t judge me for being old.
I still have my privacy in my cozy apartment and my family and friends can always visit me. Most importantly, I’ve made new friends, so I’m never lonely. And I’ve joined the choir! Singing is a passion of mine, I even used to sing in Handel’s Messiah when I was younger. We sing all sorts of music here: classical, songs from old musicals, folksongs, and we have concerts every month.
When I think of it, I wish I had moved to senior living sooner, before the fall. You never know, I might have never fallen! And I wouldn’t have had to push myself so hard to do all the housework. Often, I was too tired to go upstairs to the bedroom and slept on the couch. And I used to be very lonely and scared in my empty house. I sometimes have high blood pressure and I was frightened that I might not be able to reach the phone if I felt unwell. Now I don’t have to worry about all these things. So yes, I wish I had moved sooner because my life is better now. I feel that I could live to be a hundred years!”