When a relative enters an assisted living facility, other family members become more acutely aware of some of the things that confront them. How long before you find yourself in similar circumstances?
Can you imagine losing some of your freedom of movement? Your legs won't work without the help of a cane, wheels or a power chair. You now need a walker just to move about your living quarters. Things you once could easily accomplish are now suddenly impossible. It is difficult to plug your power chair into the electrical source, to keep all of your medications straight, and to bathe and dress yourself.
Just getting to the dining room and up to a table for lunch seems insurmountable; the fear of falling always looms. People and wheels have become more important to you than ever before in your life. No, you cannot drive your automobile anymore; and, without someone to help, you cannot reach your doctor, dentist, hairdresser or family contacts.
Pills have taken control of your early morning or pre-bedtime hours. It costs more and more to keep those bottles filled and the pesky caps won't open as easily as they once did. You gag trying to swallow a dozen pills in the morning and another half-dozen in the evening.
Why won't your key open your mailbox? Is it the arthritis in your hands and fingers, or is something wrong with the key? Why is your mailbox now filled with ads from Liberty, the Diabetes Association, or The Scooter Store? Insurance companies offer new policies reminding you that "you can't be turned down." The word has gotten out that you are in assisted living; scam artists and telemarketers come out of the woodwork like termites on a warm spring day. People are asking you for donations to "worthy causes"; or, through unsolicited telephone calls, they are trying to get your personal information.
The fact that you might be in a power chair, incontinent, and suffering from circulation problems, or osteoarthritis is of little concern to those who would exploit and take advantage of you. You are vulnerable; a target to all who prey upon the disabled and elderly.
Once you had your own home and now you are among strangers. For a price, someone will be there for you when medical emergencies arise. Even in an institution, no one wants you saying, "I fell and I can't get up." You'll have some kind of lifeline, be it a small box or a device to wear around your neck. Just push a button and someone will respond to your needs.
Things you never wanted to think about or face will arise and confront you. Estate planning, funeral arrangements, wills, a healthy diet, some way to get some exercise. You will watch your calories and fat intake and try to keep additional health problems from your door.
Speaking of doors, when was your last visit from family and friends? How many helping hands have been offered? It is bad to find yourself alone most of the time; however, you soon realize your life must go on as best it can under the circumstances. You have to stay as active as possible and booked. Go to church, play bridge, attend social events. Keep smiling and, remember it was the entertainer George Burns who said he had to stay healthy and couldn't die "because I'm booked."
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Sunday.