With macular degeneration, she is legally blind and can see only shapes before her and some detail from her peripheral vision. She is deaf in one ear and has 12% hearing in the other--boosted to perhaps 25% by her hearing aid. She uses her hands and memory a lot. My brother and I always make sure we put things back to exactly where they were if we use something.
I don't know what it would be like if Mom moved into a retirement home. She'd have to start all over in an unfamiliar environment. She'd be less independent. She'd have less to do. Mom cleans now, knows where the vacuum is. She wipes the table and counters, washes some dishes. She washes and dresses herself. She makes herself peanut butter and crackers or an ice cream cone. She's a pretty spunky, independent lady.
She says, "You've got to keep moving. If you sit down, you'll never get up."
I think being at home is what makes Mom more independent. My brother stays with her and does a great deal to help, but he always leaves Mom something to do. It's part of her daily routine. When I come to visit, I use more pots and pans than Mom and my brother do; they use the microwave a lot. I suspect that when I leave, Mom washes the pots and pans again to make sure they're clean--and that's okay.
We go shopping, and the flat floors of the supermarkets let her get some good exercise as long as she holds onto the cart or onto my arm. She needs vacuum bags and I bring her a pack of three. She sends me back for another pack. We go to the hair stylist, and Mom makes sure she gets the senior discount. She amazes my cousin, whom she hasn't seen in over twenty years, by remembering her birthday.
A great deal of Mom's active life is centered around her familiar environment. My dad passed away recently after a year in a nursing home. Part of Mom's routine was to visit regularly. She always came home, though, and always had her cleaning to do. Home is her safe haven.
"I do a lot by touch," she says, and that includes cubing the spuds we've cooked to make potato salad and cutting up the cantaloupe that we buy on our trip to the store. Sure, I have to eat around some green spots from the cantaloupe rind, but that's an insignificant price to pay for providing my mom a sense of place and purpose.
There's no place like home. It's where we belong, where we feel safe. As my dad used to say, it's where you can scratch where it itches. It's where Mom as much as possible continues to live the life she's always led--and that continuity is important.
Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved