Jul 132012

Note: At the time this series of articles was written, my wife Beth was still with us. She died October 11, 2012.

Beth and Mike in the Huntington Manor courtyard.

Beth and Mike adjusting to life at Huntington Manor.

I may have over promised when I said the next article would be about adjusting to life in assisted-living. I have always embraced change, and therefore I thought this would just be one more change to assimilate.

I didn’t realize this would be a different kind of change. Most of life is marked with milestones of achievement – moving away from home, graduations, first love, first home, marriage, children, a bigger home, promotions, recognitions, vacations, retirement.

Even the downsizing that goes along with later stages of life can be viewed positively as you are shedding excess baggage, allowing you to have more time for travel and fun.

But this is different. If most of life is like climbing a winding mountain road in a sports car eagerly waiting to see what’s around each turn, what we are going through now is like stalling and coasting back down the mountain in reverse, with the certain knowledge you will never make it back home.

However, blaming assisted living for our sense of loss is like blaming your garage for no longer holding a car. Physical and personal circumstances have altered the trajectory of our lives. Well-meaning family and friends try their best to make us feel like we are still part of their circle, but the truth is we are not. We are part of a completely different life, one that is necessarily highly regulated and predictable.

Mike, Drew, Linda, Howard, Jennifer and Beth at Huntington Manor

Family members joined us at the Huntington Manor Summer Picnic.

So how does one adjust? I believe there are some key steps:

1. Accept the change. Dwelling on what used to be your life is a sure path to depression. In an earlier post I said I needed to rewrite my life’s script when I learned I had an untreatable, progressively disabling disease. Perhaps now it is time to tear up the script altogether and improvise!

2. Celebrate the advantages. While assisted living may limit your options, it also can improve many aspects of your life, especially if you have been struggling with the activities of daily living. Being helped out of bed, bathed, dressed and fed a nutritious breakfast is a wonderful gift. So is having help available at the push of a button. Cheerful caregivers bring us water and snacks, make sure we get our medicine, drive us to doctors, serve us lunch and dinner on our patio and help us to bed when we are ready.

3. Find purpose. In my case, I’ve taken on the job of building an internet presence for Huntington Manor by updating their website, adding two blogs, one on facility news and one on cooking for the frail elderly, and a Facebook page. I am also dusting off my old php/sql skills to build a database to be used for administration and marketing. I have also given myself the longer term objective of writing one or more books.

Index for this series of articles about assisted living.

Introductory article plus updates.

Is it time for assisted living?

Making the decision to move to assisted living, emotionally, practically and financially.

How we chose the facility we did.

Deciding what to take, what to leave, how to adjust our expectations.

What life in assisted living has been like.

How can we make assisted living better for the physically disabled?