When Mom moved to Assisted Living, I, like most people, breathed a sigh of relief. She was safe and she was lucky enough to be in a supportive and nurturing environment that kept her engaged and active.
And like many, I dutifully visited her—about once a week.
I admit to a somewhat inflated sense of my importance in her life. I am, after all, her daughter. Surely she looked forward eagerly to my visits. But slowly I began to realize that I played only a tiny part in her life. True, she is always happy to see me but far more important are her neighbors and the team of care-givers, nurses and activity managers.
In Assisted Living, Mom has found a new family—and so have I.
I used to plan activities just for the two of us—just Mom and me. But as I began to know her neighbors, I expanded the circle. I was surprised to find that I had five new mothers. Phyllis—who rarely speaks but who loves to hug and dance. She begins to laugh gently—almost coo—when you hug her, especially the head hugs I learned about from ARR. There is Kathleen—serious and eager to be taken seriously—sharing her opinions and sometimes her fears. Lovely Flora—often reverting to her native Italian and beaming as I greet her with “Ciao Bella!” Jane who loves gentle neck rubs, telling me I have a “happy hand.” Charming, considerate and stately Gloria—quick to make me welcome.
After lunch, they tend to stay at the table enjoying each other’s company. Last week they invited to me sit with them. It was an honor.
And the staff—the people who take care of her every day and night—they are part of our new family as well. Talk to them and listen. You may know everything there is to know about your parent’s life before but they know far more than you about her life now.
Again I take my cue from Mom. She is quick to smile and tell them how wonderful they are. And they are. They not only do the hard work of keeping her safe, healthy and engaged but they also enrich her life with love and cheer.
They deserve our gratitude and respect—and the occasional gift of flowers from the garden and cookies from the kitchen.
Now I find that my visits are no longer a duty but an appetite. Increasingly, I need to see Mom and my new family. They make me so happy!