"Is there anybody there?"
I believe that many families are confused with regard to the role of assisted living facilities. They are not a replacement for family, simply a further support system.The role of family and friends is still crucial to the mental and physical well being of their loved one.
I have a client who is in her early 90’s. She has been an active independent strong women all her life.She had to learn how to survive, she was widowed young in life.She moved from independent living to assisted living in the past few years. Her friends have all gone, her two sisters have passed and her sons are busy with their lives. Although she has grandchildren and extended family none of them visit her regularly or ensure that she has the supplies she needs.I began working with her a couple of years ago and now I visit her as a friend. I treasure her in my life.
Her memory is not what it was, and she is prone to mild confusion but aware that the world is moving on without her. She struggles daily with the apparent fact that her role and function in life appears to have gone The facility is comfortable and well run, but she is left to her own devices a great deal of the time.
She leaves her room for meals and occasionally to use her scooter to travel along the corridors but her days are long and lonely. Many times I have come to visit her and found her sitting in her chair leaning over with her head in her hands. Waiting, passing the time.Anxiety is a very significant factor in our lives as we age, but this is increased if there are no changes to the environment such as outings, visits, talks, conversations etc.I think it is easy to forget that these activities continue to be very important for health and well being.If families realized how much they are still needed in this type of situation they would become more involved.
This wonderful women used to get a great deal of satisfaction playing solitaire on her computer and looking up different sites. She was able use her basic PC easily. When she moved her computer was changed to a mac ,this she could not adapt to. She now has nothing. This only increases her isolation.
I have spent many hours in many different facilities and know that some of this depends on the person involved. If socialization and affability has been part of earlier life it continues but for those who are more reticent,less sociable they need help integrating into their new environment to avoid becoming isolated.Just a few conversations a day with different members of staff can make a huge difference.
Honoring and looking after our aged is not a burden but a privilege.They have much to teach us through their life experiences and stories.I believe that in this fast paced ever changing world we are losing treasure troves of wisdom and life lessons.It can be a struggle to find the time to sit and “be”in this increasingly fast paced world. Our time is becoming defined by rush and frantic activity and the the beauty, wisdom and gift of old age is liable to get lost in this relentless rush forward.