Will he like them? Will they like him? Will they take care of him? What horrible things can happen? How can I prevent these unknown horrible things from ever happening? Will he be happy? Am I doing the right thing? These fears — among several zillion others – swirled in my head 24/7 as we prepared to move my dad to assisted living in July of 2010.
With three years in my rearview mirror, I can honestly say, I was more traumatized by the experience than my dad — or maybe he was just better at hiding it than I was. I harbored the guilt that it was me who chose his new residence. He toured the place less than 24 hours before moving in. It was me who urged him to move closer to me and my husband. And, worst of all, deep down I knew it was me who was stripping away the last of his independence to live in a place called “assisted” living. In his mind he didn’t need “assisting.” He was just fine on his own.
Upon entering this new world, my sweet reserved 89-year-old father had to make new friends, figure out the system (and there is a system) and establish a new life. You see, he no longer had the comfort of his wife (a.k.a my industrious, tireless and outgoing mother) to take care of everything and anything as she did for the past fifty-five years of their married life.
In a short period of time, my father settled into his new surroundings and began to flourish! Yes, flourish! (Can you hear my sigh of relief, feel my guilt dissipate a little (as Warren’s Daughter it will never go away completely), and see my worry lines start to fade?) He’s made friendships with the most interesting people over the years. His current meal companion is Captain Gray; an amazing Harvard educated man blessed with the gift of storytelling. He created a schedule that works for him; though, I think it’s crazy that he wakes up at 5AM. He cranks up the heater in his room at night, rivaling the temperature of a hothouse, and nobody complains. He does what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants to. He is in charge!
I love that my dad can control the controllables, as the saying goes, since there are things out of his control that come with age. This is where the “assisted” part of living comes in handy. There is a wonderful team of people who take care of everything he can no longer do, like cook, clean or wrangle those crazy tight compression socks on. I thank my lucky stars that my father found a way to achieve his newfound independence while graciously accepting some assistance.