In my last blog I shared 2 ways we could love those left behind after we died; downsizing our stuff and the Because I Love You binder. If you’ve followed my blogs any length of time you know I desired a simpler lifestyle a few years back and began eliminating “stuff”. Evidently not enough stuff as I still have plenty to sort. The decision process, were it simply stuff, would not be so mind-boggling. But, it’s not just stuff. Its memories and the stories tied up in those “things”. Its years of my life lived to the full. There’s a small part in me, perhaps in all of us, which feels that when I give these things away I’m giving away part of me, a part of my life. By hanging onto them I’m hanging on to the loved one who’s passed on, the love a friend or family showed in the giving of the gift and the joy I felt in receiving the gift.
Reality – My soul and those with whom I love are not wrapped up in these objects. I don’t need things to remember the touch of their hand, the way they smiled, the time we all went to Disneyland, our child’s adoption day, my first dive, or the day we said, “I Do”, etc.
I know some of you are thinking, “My memory’s not so great, I need those things to remember”. If you are afraid you’ll forget the memory by letting go of the object, might I suggest taking a picture? Looking at the picture will stir up those same memories which the object itself stirs within you. 1000 pictures easily fit into a memory album and takes little attention; 1000 objects not so much.
Deciding it’s time to transition a parent(s) from his or her home of many years to a smaller more manageable home or assisted living is never an easy decision. There are a few exceptions but for the most part we’re creatures of comfort. We like our homes; they bring us a sense of security and love. Like the stuff we fight to hold onto our home which has beloved memories and stories. Deciding that time for oneself isn’t easy either. Scarlet O’Hara is famous for placing her hand on her forehead and with a huge sigh say, “I’ll think about that tomorrow”. Scarlet O’Hara’s not the best role model to follow in these circumstances. I’ve read it’s easier if the decisions could be made while the parent(s) is able to partner in the decision-making process.
How does one decide when the time’s come to look for smaller digs or assisted living for aging parents, or self? Here are a few guidelines.
- Safety should probably be top on the list. Falling too often; too many driving mishaps; regularly discovering leftover food in the fridge fit for tomorrow’s science project and no longer recognizable. I know one family whose parent was famous for leaving a towel next to the stove and at the same time forgetting to turn off the burners. Yes, you guessed it. One time the burner and the towel were in the same proximity. Fortunately no damage happened as it was caught in time. Pans burned beyond use due to the stove not being shut off.
- Is keeping up the house no longer feasible; both inside and outside. For many the affordability of a gardener and a housekeeper are not within their financial means. Even minor repairs are no longer within their capabilities. A house not well-kept can also become a safety and health hazard.
- Health reasons such as poor balance, forgetfulness, not remembering when to take meds or doubling up on meds because one doesn’t remember they already took them. Perhaps the acceleration of a disease such as Parkinson, or Alzheimer’s or a myriad of other health issues would indicate that assistance in day-to-day living would be beneficial. I remember a story of one person who visited her mother and found a pan of cooked potatoes nicely tucked away still inside the pan. A sign it was time for her to consider other living arrangements. Fortunately this woman was taken into her daughter’s home to live out her remaining years.
- Socially becoming a hermit. Are they not able to get out and about; making trips to the grocery store a challenge? Once active in church, never missing a Sunday, and now they rarely attend? Social gatherings no longer a current event and keeping up with friends simply takes too much energy. One friend shared her mom used to say, “Oh I don’t have time for such silliness”. When in reality she simply was no longer motivated to see others; just easier to stay home, “less hassle”.
These are just some of the signs which might indicate it’s time to prepare for a move. There may be more. Please share other signs you’ve seen, heard, or experienced which signaled it was time to encourage new living arrangements.
What does one do when assisted living is not an option and there are no family members able, or willing, or who maybe don’t exist to take one in their home? A big box under a bridge… not a comforting thought. No one likes to think about such things. Yet. it’s vital we don’t play the Scarlet O’Hara role. To be honest I have no clue what other options exist; at least not at this moment in time. 🙂
I want to be proactive, prepared and as ready as I’m able. The more I’m able to do now, the easier it will be when it’s time to transition. Should Heaven be my/our next home, life will be easier for those left behind too. Hopefully by preparing now, the decision for when to transition won’t be to heart wrenching.
More to come,