The View from the Mountains: Keeping the family circle complete
By Jean Brody
When I asked one resident here at Brookdale how she felt that first day she moved into her little apartment, she threw her head back and laughed.
“Jean,” she answered, “I laugh now, but then it wasn’t one bit funny. My family took my cat from me, put my condo up for sale and literally brought me here and left. It was weeks before they had time to come again.”
Knowing the extreme importance of family and friends coming often to visit the resident, I started off this interview by completely forgetting my professional air and said, “Holy good grief, that is horrible! Who helped you get settled and take you to buy stuff you needed?”
No longer laughing she said, “Nobody. And they still don’t come hardly ever. The girls who work here always help me.”
I purposely chose next to talk with a man who has been living here for about six years and whose daughter still visits him several times a week. Anything he needs or wants, she gets it, including decorating his front door to match the season.
For the most part the residents here at Brookdale have family and friends who are faithful visitors.
I don’t have the faintest idea what I would do if my family didn’t come to visit, shopped for my needs, called me every single day and listened to me when I vent about feeling bad or when I’m just discouraged about getting old. But they do listen and they let me cry.
As I started to think about all of this, one of my beliefs kept coming back to me. Remember when I wrote about my seeing life as a circle? My Native American friend Coyote explained to me we begin life completely dependent and naked. Our family takes care of us as we begin to grow and learn to be independent. We start on life’s circle right then.
During this life’s circle, we make friends, we’re educated, buy and collect things. When we reach middle age, things begin to change and by the three quarters mark in the circle, we begin going downhill physically and mentally. Because of this, we start to need other people more. Then comes the day the help of others is just not pleasant but necessary.
That is when families start investigating assisted living facilities. In other words, the more we weaken for any number of reasons, the more care we must have. For the most part, families are way too busy with their children to bring us into their homes. We don’t expect you to.
So they research, find the best place and here’s where problems can begin. Why? It’s because the loved ones who put us there don’t understand their part is not over just because their loved one has a room or little apartment and is fed and cared for.
I cannot stress this enough. The time all of this life changing takes place is when family is needed like never before.
You are the connection we have with the world. We don’t usually drive by then, are dependent on walkers, canes or wheelchairs. Without you, we have no independence. You are our connection. We are then on that last part of the circle.
The subject of our mortality becomes more real at this time because it’s all around us. It is a difficult stage of everyone’s life and no one should feel alone as necessary decisions are made. I know that the older I get, the more I need the love of family and friends.
Sure, certain decisions should be made but more important to me are the sweet times spent together with loved ones remembering things that happened in my life and theirs. I cherish the gift of time loved ones choose to give me and I can assure you we all feel this way.
Did you know that most of us old folks feel like a burden to our families? We truly do not like to ask you, our family, to do things for us. We wish more than anything we could take care of ourselves. If you can be there for us without making us feel a burden, you are giving us a true love gift.
As I continued asking our residents about having their loved ones stay close, one lady said, “Actually once I started raising my four kids, I don’t think I ever felt lonely. Guess I was too busy. But I found out how lonely really feels as I got old.”
She smiled broadly. As she turned away, she told me she had a wonderful daughter who comes and sits and eats with her a lot. I love to hear this.
Oh my, I can see all sides of this circle now and right in the middle of it is loneliness. What I am trying to stress is as we age and reach the top of the circle once again, we are as dependent on others just as we were at the start of our journey.
If you are our family or someone who loves us, stay close to us. Listen to us as we tell you about our life and the people in it and what we did.
Maybe you’ve known us your whole life so make certain you tell us what our life has meant to you. Tell us you love us. May the circle be unbroken.
The view from the mountain is wondrous.
Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.