Note: At the time this series of articles was written, my wife Beth was still with us. She died October 11, 2012.We are moving to Huntington Manor, an assisted living facility about 5 miles from the single-family home where we have been living for the past six years. This may come as a shock to many who know us and know how fervently I have been clinging to my independence. It comes as an even greater shock to us. However it is not a move that has been made casually. It is the culmination of many months of questioning, analyzing, arguing and soul-searching. The best way to picture what we have been going through is to pretend you are passengers on the Titanic. You’ve been enjoying a spacious stateroom and fine cuisine. Then the iceberg announces itself. You can choose to remain in your comfortable stateroom and hope for the best, or you can fight through the crowds and climb into a lifeboat, with no idea how you will survive that experience. But you know the freezing waters of the North Atlantic are waiting if you make the wrong choice.
For us, that time arrived when we could no longer say that we were each others’ caregivers.
I have been in a wheelchair for 12 years and my wife has been in hers for six. But we have always managed to find a way to be just enough help to one another to get by on our own. Several months ago I began losing what little strength I had in my hands and arms, causing me to stop driving, stop cooking, and start thinking about what to do next.
I am technically classified as “non-ambulatory” and in my case that is an understatement. I cannot walk, I cannot stand, raise my head, or rise to a sitting position without the help of my electric bed. Most assisted living facilities can’t accept a non ambulatory resident. Maybe we should just stay put.
Then at Christmas my wife began having symptoms of a cognitive issue. Whatever is going wrong inside her brain causes her to be very anxious and confused, especially at night. She will get up at two in the morning thinking it is time for her to leave for an appointment. Picture my helplessness lying in bed knowing that I can’t get out before attaching my ceiling lift sling and using it to get into my wheelchair, a process that would take at least half an hour. That is when I realized that it was no longer safe for us to be alone. The waters were rising.So, back to the search for assisted living. Fortunately we discovered a facility that had been off the radar the first time I looked. It is Huntington Manor, a charming old ranch home that has been converted into a modern assisted living facility with a special emphasis on meeting the needs of the frail elderly. We are neither frail nor elderly but the services they offer are exactly what we need. Best of all, because of their emphasis on an older population, many of their rooms are certified to handle non-ambulatory and bedridden patients – like us.
The owner was very sympathetic to our situation and offered to make some modifications on a new wing of his building to make the transition for us less painful. The most significant change was to give us two rooms at the end of the hall, remove the doors while adding a wall and door in the hall. This lets us be together and also gives us some much needed extra storage space.
Index for this series of articles about assisted living.