The following is a portion of an article in the Ft. Myers News-Press by Stephanie Borden on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
The call came 21 years ago, but I still remember the doctor’s voice on the phone from 1,000 miles away, telling me “Your mother is here in the hospital, and it’s not safe for her to live alone anymore.”
A recent widow, my modest Minnesota mom, age 75, had fallen on the kitchen tile and blacked out. When she came to, she called 911, but made the paramedics wait for her to put on pantyhose before getting into the ambulance. On the way to the hospital, she “coded” three times, but was brought back and was now stable.
Trembling in my North Carolina kitchen, I called my sister in Oregon and my brother in Vermont. We all flew into Minneapolis that night with a shared agenda: find the best assisted living facility we could for our mom.
After discharge, we drove her to five places, took tours, studied contracts, and asked her to select her new home. We packed up what could fit into 700 square feet of living space, and we moved her into a lovely place 20 miles away from the family home where she had gathered memories like roses for 43 years.
She had to give up the cat she pampered with filet mignon every Sunday, her prize lilies, and the rhubarb she picked from our side yard to make pie with lard in the crust. She never had a chance to say goodbye to the hairstylist who knew the names of all Mom’s grandchildren by heart, or the waitress who had poured her morning coffee for 16 years and always saved her the last cinnamon roll.
After the move, during our visits she would always ask “when can I go back home?” Sadly, she never did.
The good news is that today, as a certified aging-in-place specialist, I could have helped her stay safely in her beloved home.
I would arrange for home health visits and help with cooking and cleaning. Installing a stair lift would allow her to sleep upstairs in the bed she and my dad shared for years. I would enroll her in a ride service to take her anywhere she wanted to go, from medical appointments to matinee movies. Outside, I would have several raised garden beds built, so she could water and weed those prize lilies from her wheel chair. And she would still be spoiling that darn cat!
Here in the Richmond, Virginia area we have also seen similar changes, and improvements, in the care available to seniors. Companies such as BrightStar Care of Richmond, which has been in the Richmond area for seven years, can today provide many of the services for seniors as discussed in this article, and thus allow seniors to not only stay in their own homes, but also continue to have a very active and engaging experience.