My mother used to live in a duplex four blocks from our house. The space was very small, and she had to downsize considerably to fit into the one-bedroom, one-bath living space. There was a tiny shed connected to a carport that she could use too. In Florida, outside storage is one step closer to the garbage bin because of the humidity and pests. Still, Mama and I were able to winnow her belongings down to the duplex and the storage area.
Our children rode their bikes to school and made a point of riding past Mama’s house on their route. She had a little sign she made that said, “Cary Alert.” She posted the sign outside her house when she needed our son, Cary, to stop on his way home from school to help her with something. Being the only grandson, Cary had to do the heavy lifting for his Memama. The girls stopped by often too. Miranda, especially, stopped by to draw with her grandmother. Miranda called her Meama. Meama sparked an interest in art that grew deeply in Miranda. Miranda will graduate in December with her graduate degree in art education.
I cooked meals for Mama and froze them for her to eat at her pleasure. I also helped her with whatever chores she needed to have me do, including taking her to doctors’ appointments and clothes shopping. I tried to fulfill Mama’s social needs too, but I worked full time and had three children. She was very sweet, but she was very lonely. Eventually, we both knew she needed to interact with more people much more often.
Eventually, Mama and I decided that she would be better off living in a retirement facility. We chose a popular one with our church, and Mama loved the social prospects of her future. She had to downsize, once again, to live in a studio apartment. She never gave a look back. She enthusiastically embraced her future in her new environment.
Mama loved her life in her retirement home. She had some down times, of course. After a bad drug interaction, she seemed to slip into a poor mind state, completely brought on by the drug interaction, which enhanced the depression side of her bipolar disorder. We had to move her to the assisted living section of the facility, which was a disappointing and demeaning experience. She came back though! They called her Lazarus. She made a true comeback from the assisted living to the independent living facility. She was elated to be back. She loved her time with her friends in the dining room and her independence in her apartment. Until one day, she suffered a massive stroke, and everything changed for all of us. A few days later, she was gone.
In retrospect, I wish I had pushed for Mama to move to the retirement home earlier. She would have had more years of fun with friends. I don’t think she would have moved earlier, though. She filled a role for my children by being someone who loved them close by. We loved having her close.
Timing is different for everyone. Some people need the security of staying in their homes. Others need the stimuli of living in a more active lifestyle. The key is to stay in touch with the needs of your loved ones.