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Assisted Living: There Is No Place Like Home

Updated on March 21, 2016
lrc7815 profile image

Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She writes about taking care of aging parents.

Home | Source

Assisted Living: The Reality

Days pass slowly here. Not all of them, but most of them. It is the last place I will live, I think. Oh I suppose I could end up in a nursing home one day but more than likely, this is where I will die. They call it assisted living but it’s really just a place old people go to live when they can’t manage the day-to-day living I their own house anymore. The sad reality is that this is where most of us will die.

Assisted Living: The Costs

Most of the residents here share a room with someone. They do it to save money. The ad in the paper calls it an apartment but it’s really only a room and a bath. There are various levels of assistance available but the more help you need, the more you have to pay. I try not to ask for much. If I don’t get sick and have to move to a nursing home, I can stay here until I die or, until my money runs out. Since this place doesn’t accept insurance so I’m trying to stretch our savings so that I never have to move again. We never really planned for this expense so the future is a bit frightening.

Assisted Living Room
Assisted Living Room | Source
Bath | Source

Assisted Living: Separation

My husband of 64 years lives here too but he lives in a different building. We moved here together but when my husband started wandering, he had to move into a secure building with locking doors. He as Alzheimer’s disease and the staff said he was a liability.

Making the decision to move him was hard and although it has been a while now, I still haven’t gotten use to it. We were together for so long and I miss him, especially at night when we watched television together and talked about the programs. I visit him a lot but he rarely knows me now. Yesterday he thought I was his mother. I cried.

The staff tells me that I am grieving. They say it’s just like the grief one feels when a loved one dies. They are right; that’s exactly how it feels. I’ve lost my husband, the man I have loved since I was 20 years old. I will soon be 84. When I visit, he looks like my husband and it’s hard to accept that he has forgotten the wonderful years we spent together. He was such a good husband and father to our children. Everyone tells me that my grief is normal but none of this feels very normal to me.

An old friend sharing her talent.
An old friend sharing her talent. | Source

Assisted Living: Loneliness

Our children picked this place for us. They liked it because it was clean, the staff was friendly, and it was located close to where we had always lived. They thought it would be convenient for our old friends and neighbors to visit. They were right but these days, no one has time to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I do get visitors but not often. Some ladies from our church come to bring us a church bulletin and to provide us with communion and one neighbor comes monthly to play the piano for us. I get a few visits from relatives from time to time but no one stays very long. I understand it. If I were visiting, I wouldn’t either. Sometimes it’s just plain loud here and conversation is difficult at best. Other days are so quiet you can hear a pin drop and private conversation seems impossible. If all that wasn’t enough, let’s face it. This place is a reality check for anyone. It represents the future for so many and few want to stare it in the face. I remind myself that things could always be worse.

Assisted Living: Change is Constant

If I’ve learned anything in the time I’ve been here, it’s that change is constant. The faces of familiar staff members disappear every few months. The pay isn’t great and the pastures always look greener somewhere else. Some return and others do not. I have my favorites. The ones who make me feel special and treat me as if they really love me. I love them too and it’s hard to keep saying goodbye. It’s bad enough to watch the residents die off but that’s what this place is all about. It’s a place where old people go to die. I know this and yet I hate watching it happen.

Some things are just plain hard for me. I don’t like to complain because I don’t want it to affect the care and attention I get. I need these folks so I don’t want them angry at me. My children tell me that these people work for me and I am paying them well to take care of me. I know how much it costs but I also know that the care givers aren’t getting that money. Most are making minimum wage and working long hours to make ends meet. I feel for them and try to let them know that I appreciate what they do.

Assisted Living: Boredom and Homesickness

Things are not bad here during the week. There is a lot of activity around this place. There are games to play, van rides several days a week, lunch outings, and exercise and devotions every day. It would be more fun with a buddy to share it with but most of the residents are in worse shape than me. I get around pretty good and considering my age, my mind is still pretty sharp. Most of the residents have dementia or Alzheimer’s and many of them are confined to a wheelchair. Real conversation is limited to staff and visitors. It’s good that I enjoy reading and working puzzles because I spend a lot of time doing that now.

Weekends are bad. There is no other way to put it. There is almost no organized activity on the weekend and the staff shortage limits the amount of time they can spend with me. The clock ticks slowly and I have too much time to think. I visit my husband but our time together makes me sad. I cry a lot afterwards and retreat to my room. There’s no place like home.

Assisted Living: The Benefit

I know these sounds like a lonely only woman complaining. I don’t mean it to sound that way. I’m really grateful to have this place. I no longer worry about storms taking out the power or struggle with keeping track of my medications. I sleep good knowing that if I get sick during the night, there is someone here to take care of me. Someone takes care of my laundry and the housekeeping. They don’t do it like I would but they do okay. I get three hot meals a day and several snacks. Some meals are better than others so I keep a secret stash of snacks in my closet or refrigerator. Cooking is what I miss the most. My dishes were always prepared with love and I loved trying new recipes. Here, it’s the same thing over and over again and I reminded again that there is no place like home.

Assisted Living: It Could Be More Like Home

My children love me. I know this and I understand why they had to move me here instead of into their home. Times are different now and even if I had moved in with them, I would have been alone most of the day. They made the right decision and I am trying to make the best of it. I just wish that I could tell people how lonely it gets. I wish that people had more time for the elderly. We have lived our life and given the best we had to our children and communities. We have stories to tell and memories to share. We just need a hand to hold and someone to listen. Life in assisted living isn’t bad but there is no place like home. It could be though, if it weren’t so lonely. Do you have a few minutes? Will you sit with me and let me remember? I may not have much time left and it would mean a lot to me.

A Note From the Author

It's been a year since we moved my parents into an assisted living facility. It's far from perfect but there are many things you can do to make it more like home. Because of space limitations, we had to buy new furniture for my parents but we could have rented it. My parents were excited about getting new things after all these years.

A key to making a room feel like home is to create spaces where memories can be displayed. We installed shelving for keepsakes, utilized shadow boxes for the delicate things, and added color with personal paintings, pillows, and framed jigsaw puzzles my mother had completed. We removed the institutional shower curtain and added one that my mom would have chosen. Coordinating towels added color and warmth. A compact refrigerator with a small freezer was added so that Mom and Dad could enjoy their ritual of sharing a bowl of ice cream in the evening.

The most important thing we have done is to stagger our visits so that one of their children or grandchildren visit daily. It means a lot to my Mom and it helps to keep the staff on their toes. As good as they are, it still helps to let them know we are watching.

It's never easy making these life changing decisions but for many of us, it is the only choice. Do it with love and you can continue making memories to cherish later on.

© 2014 Linda Crist


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  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Sherry, it is heartbreaking to watch the ones who have brought us into the world slowly slipping away from us. One of my biggest stressors right now is the transportation issue since I lost my vision. I was seeing my parents 3-4 times a week before and now....I'm lucky to get there once every 3-4 weeks. Things were so much easier when I was driving. As you know, I'm sure, you need to be there to make sure they are being cared for properly. My Mom is still able to tell me when things are not right. Her mind is still fairly sharp but physically she is losing ground. Dad, who lives across the street in a locked housing unit, doesn't know me anymore (Alzheimer's). This is a hard road we are traveling my new friend. But, we are learning things that we will pass on to others through our writing and that makes me feel slightly better about it. Holidays are tough, aren't they?

    I thank you for your compliment and I will be thinking about you and your Mom in the days to come. Thank you for sharing a part of your story with me.

  • profile image

    Ibidii 3 years ago

    I love how you wrote this in your Mom's words. I can imagine my Mom thinking some of this before she got to the point where she does not know where she is now and has a hard time recognizing my voice when I call. I am trying to get used to that. My Mom is 84 this year, 2004 and Dad passed away 13 years ago. Mom got a stress fracture in her back and after 6 falls in 2 years she is in a care center. She does not get out of bed anymore, or only once a week to the wheelchair. She is on Hospice. She had lost weight. They may take her off Hospice as she is stationary now. Wonderful story, Linda! Glad to meet you through Jill Freeman. ~Sherry Ibidii

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    fpherj48 , you are so kind. Thank you for reading my work and leaving such a kind comment. This piece was really cathartic for me. I think many of the misunderstandings in our world could be eliminated if for just a while we could see through the eyes of others. While writing this, I constantly felt heartbroken for my Mom but quickly realized that what I felt was minuscule compared to what she was really feeling. I wanted to evoke emotion because I wanted this piece to awaken others to the brevity of those 64 short years that Mom and Dad spent together. Don't we wish they could have had a few more before they had to give up so much? I am sorry that cried. No, I'm really not. That is exactly what I wanted the reader to do. I wanted them to feel. Bless you for having a heart that feels and the strength of character to know that tears are not a sign of weakness. Thank you for sharing your comments with me. You made my day!

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Timetraveler, hello. If I have learned anything in this process, it is that there are things far worse than death. The other is that life is shorter than we realize. It is so important that we build good relations and take good care of them while we can. Thank you for your kind words.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Linda.....You just made me cry. But tears are good sometimes. In this case it was because your story tugged at my heartstrings. I really lost it when I read how much she (your Mom) missed her husband whom she had loved since she was 20........

    Beautifully written and a wise decision to have written this as the narrator. You and your parents are blessed to have one another........Up+++ pinned, tweeted, googled.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 3 years ago from USA

    It is a sad fact of life that all of us, if we live long enough, likely will end our days in this type of facility. It is frightening and heartbreaking. Telling this story in first person was extremely effective, and it shows how much you love your parents. The best you can hope for is that they both die peacefully in their sleep one night...together.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    RTalloni - thank you. I can hear the grief in your comment. These can be very sad places and so often families just drop off a family member and walk away. I am blessed and grateful for the family I have and that we are sharing the responsibility. I wish you the best. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

    I'll have to be careful here because I am suddenly neck deep in nursing home issues (a relative is in one--not by my choice) and I could write a dozen hubs in this comment. That may come later, but for now, your post on their needs is so valuable for family members--the loneliness of patients in these facilities is astounding. Your note on coordinating visits is so important.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Rebecca. I appreciate your taking time to read my hub. It's good to get feedback from someone who has been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. I hope your Mom is doing well. It's a real journey, isn't it?

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Theresa!!! Good to hear from you. Thanks for the compliment. I am starting to really enjoy writing in the first person. It is proving to be a great teacher for me. When we try to see things from another persons view, we find that things are not always as they appear. It's always nice to have you weigh in on my work. Blessings to you as well.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    My Mom is in assisted living. She is 91 and she would SO agree! Thanks for sharing this!

  • phdast7 profile image

    Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    Linda - This was very well done. I would never have thought of doing it in first person. Great suggestions for how to make our parents as comfortable as possible in an assisted living situation. Thank you for writing this important and very helpful Hub. Blessings. Theresa

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Ann1Az2 . Thank you so much for your praise. Anyone who goes through the closure of a family home and a move into assisted living must face the emotions of such a move. My brother and grew intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually through the experience. And, we grew closer. there were many benefits to the move but we could only recognize them when it was all over. Yes, Alzheimers is horrible but you can learn to live, love, and laugh through it. Thanks again!

  • Ann1Az2 profile image

    Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

    This is a wonderful testimony to your parents. I found it very personable and very sad in some places. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease. I've known people who had it or people whose parents had it. It's hard on the caregivers. You handled the delicate subject of living in an assisted living home with a flourish and in very good taste. Well done.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Suzanne, your comment is full of wisdom and I thank you for the visit. It is my parents who are in assisted living, not me. I wrote this in the first person perspective for effect. I guess it worked. lol

    When we moved my parents into the facility, we did indeed take their favorite blankets, lots of photos of family, my Dad's military awards and my Mom's collection of miniatures that originally belonged to her mother. The facility they are in does have lots of activities both inside and outside the facility. But I still see so much loneliness. Again, thank you for being here and for the vote.

  • Suzanne Day profile image

    Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    A great hub, I got a lot from reading the personal perspective about assisted living. I think a lot of people need the keepsake space, it helps to keep dementia at bay when surrounded by memories of your life. Many people I know like to have a special quilt or blanket and a pet or plant to take care of too. I'm sorry that you feel lonely, maybe the place could organise more community involvement in the area, which usually helps with transport to local events and visits from schools etc for something to do. Voted useful and up!

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    teaches12345, thank you. Your first and second comment did appear. I think HP is having issues. You have been there so you know this story all too well. It is hard but a necessary evil. I do think it's far too easy to overlook the emotions of the parent or loved one that we place in a facility. We think care is so important that we forget the little things like hugs and hand holding. Those things are often better medicine than pills. I hope your dad has adjusted. I know with Alzheimer's any day that you don't get a phone call is a good day. Take care!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

    I posted a comment earlier but don't know what happened to it. So this is may turn out to be a double post. I enjoyed your sharing from experience on this topic. It was a tough decision to make when we placed my dad into assisted living. With the onset of Alzheimer's, we felt we made the right choice as he needed constant care. Voted way up and sharing.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

    I remember when we placed our dad into assisted living. The decision was hard to make but it was the best place for him as he had Alzeimers and needed constant care. Your story is heart warming and reminds me visits are so important to those you love. Bless you for writing this lovely post. Voted way up and sharing!

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    uildon, Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I worked in health care (a hospital) for 38 years so I was well aware of the neglect and abuse that can occur in any care giving facility. I set the bar high for what I wanted for my parents. We are blessed for sure but no place is perfect. Low pay and staff shortages are a curse but, are the norm. Although I'm sorry that this made you cry, I am also proud that I was able to evoke such emotion. These can be sad, sad places and until society understands that, nothing will change. Thank you for the votes and for sharing but also for your years of service in a caring profession.

  • quildon profile image

    Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

    What a touching hub! You brought tears to my eyes. I work in a hospital and many of our patients come from ALFs. We hear a lot of horror stories about some of these places, so you are blessed for having taken the time to find a nice place for your parents. Also, I love the tips you give for making the place homey. Voted up and sharing.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Miz B, if only we lived near each other neither of us would be as afraid of the future. Well, I doubt that either of us is really afraid but you know what I mean. My mother would love you too. She has a very keen interest in the metaphysical and yet it is something she has never been willing to talk about with me. I remember back in the early 70's she became fascinated with Moody's theory of near death experiences. It was the first indication I had that she believed there was more than "this" life. I've wished and wished that she could open up that part of herself to me but it isn't to be.

    You are so right about Alzheimer's being a kind of death. For those that are witness to it's destruction, the five stages of grief are very real. I will almost be glad when my mom gets to the anger stage. It will be a little easier to watch. I have made it to the acceptance stage and it's a good place to be, finally.

    I am so sorry about your son's ex-wiife. How sad that is too. I'm sure that she knows how much you love her. Even I can sense it.

    At the end of the day, we do the best we can to take care of each other. It's not a perfect world, is it?

    Sending hugs and good wishes to you and yours and thoughtful prayers of healing too.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James-MizBejabbers 3 years ago

    This really is sad to know that your parents can’t be together. Alzheimer’s is a death in a way: the death of the person who was while the body goes on to something new.

    My son’s ex-wife who is still very dear to me is in assisted living because of poor physical health. She is on oxygen, and she isn’t even 50 yet. I so wish that she lived near here so I could visit her. She has an actual apartment, and they allow her to have one pet. She has a cat to keep her company, and her parents live about 30 miles away. Her daughter is in college a few miles from her parents so she does have family to visit her. I guess there are degrees of assisted living.

    This is so scary for my family because none of the three of us is holding up very well, and it is scary to know that we may have to give up our homes.

    I wish you and your family lived near here, too. I would visit your mother. I’m sure I would love her. Your writing in first person is very striking, and I can feel the heartbreak, too. It is unfair and sad. Voted up and awesome!

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    torrilynn, it's often as hard on the care giver as it is on the one needing the care. I don't know what the solution is but I think it's important to just be aware. I know that my attitude really changed when I realized that my Mom saw this move as her last stop. When my Dad had to move, I wondered just how much a person should have to lose in the late stages of life. It's so unfair and sad. Thank you for sharing with me today. I wish you the best.

  • torrilynn profile image

    torrilynn 4 years ago

    I take care of someone who lives in assisted living and I've realized that they don't like living there and they would rather live at home but the reality is that they are unable to take care of themselves let alone their former house. it is sad indeed. thanks for the hub.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, I'm in contact with Daddy all the time. We email, text and talk. He prefers email and text because he gets winded when he talks. But, yes. We are in contact.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Eric, thanks for the visit. I appreciate it.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, these are sad places. My Mom reports daily on the number of new admissions and the number who left in a body bag. I see it in her eyes, the knowing that this is her last stop. It breaks my heart. She also speaks of looking around her and seeing nothing but helplessness and hopelessness. She is the brightest crayon in the box where she lives. When she visits Dad, she is confronted with a hallway of zombies. Of the seventeen residents on his hall, only two or three of them even speak. One yells "help me" all day long. The only escape she has is when she rides the van out to lunch or when we visit. So yes, I would say your father probably does feel these things. Can you call him? Do you? We all have obstacles and can only do what we can do. I hope you're right about your Mom and her husband. Life can deal us some real low blows and I think the one of the worst of them is having to leave the home you love.

    I wrote this in the first person for a reason. I've seen it and I hear it in Mom's voice. If I can do nothing else for her, I can give voice to her heartbreak. I sure hope it helps others.

    Thanks for sharing with me Shauna. I can feel your heavy heart and I send you hugs and love.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Very interesting viewpoints

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, this is so sad. Reading this in the first person makes me think of my natural father. He's been in assisted living for two years now. What's hard is he lives in Sacramento and I live in Florida. I wonder if he feels the things you bring up in this post. Probably. It breaks my heart. He's 82 and has emphysema.

    On the other side of the coin, my parents (Mom and second dad) are 76 and extremely healthy. My mom still tends to her acre of property with all its themed gardens. Dad still plays tennis and takes long walks. I don't see either of them having to move from their home as they age. That's comforting.

    Thank you for sharing this perspective on assisted living, Linda. It's a real eye-opener.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Jackie, bless your heart. You did the best you could and that's all any of us can do. Honestly, I think people have good intentions when it comes to visiting the elderly in facilities. But then, life keeps us in a tail-spin and it gets pushed back until one day, it's hardly even a thought anymore. I just don't think most people realize how lonely it can be, Even though my mom participates in a lot of the activities, I still see the loneliness in her eyes. She misses my dad so much. It's like raising children though. You cannot protect them from everything no matter how much you wish it. We can only do our best and believe that they understand because they've lived more years than us and learned a lot of lessons. Don't beat yourself up. I have no doubt that your mom understood and felt your love. Thanks for sharing with me today.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

    I remember when my mom got Alzheimer's and I kept her as long as I could. Then when she didn't know me it hurt so bad. I am so glad your mom gets visitors. I was talked into letting my mom go to a nursing home where most of my and her family lived so they could see her and then they none went to see her ever and it was so hard on me traveling to look after her. We should never take anything for granted but do what is best for them. I cannot undo it and it makes me cry to this day that she spent so much of her last days alone. Thanks for sharing this sad yet beautiful story.

  • lrc7815 profile image

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks Bill. I find myself looking through the eyes of my parents so often and I must admit, the world looks very different that way. I hope it prepares me for the day when I face my own hard decisions but who knows. Thank you for the compliment. I'm grabbing all those hugs and recycling them. But the ones coming back to you are brand new. :-)

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Telling these truths in first person was very effective, Kindred. For those who have not had to face this reality yet, this story/truth is right on. No, it is not easy and no, it is not pleasant, but it is a reality many will have to face down the road. A lovely piece of writing my friend.

    hugs coming atcha



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