The year was 1949. Izzy and Dean, high school sweethearts, married quickly after graduation preparing for Dean to leave for the Korean War. They had such plans. The years would bring a full and wonderful life rich with love, laughter and yes…many unplanned turns. On their life journey, they were so busy with the business of living, the last thing on their mind was what would happen when they were old. What would happen when they needed a little of care. Dean was the lucky one. He died at 70 – surrounded by his family in his own bed on the family farm. Izzy had to go on, when all she wanted to do was to lay down and die right along side him. What would happen now for Izzy is like so many others. She was alone. Life had changed suddenly.
Gone was the daily chatter and arguments. The house was utterly silent.
Izzy deteriorated emotionally and physically a little bit at a time and her care needs increased at the same pace. Slowly. Night driving became problematic, shopping became too much for her to lug items from the garage to the house. She started needing outside help to clean her house and get her groceries and eventually to make her meals. All the while she stayed in her and Dean’s home. She didn’t feel she could abandon “them” by leaving.
Izzy’s children talked to her about moving to an apartment in town. The answer was no. Over time, she needed help with bathing and getting to the bathroom on time. They suggested an assisted living – someplace where she could be in her own apartment, meals would be provided and she could have assistance with her personal care needs. Best of all, she would not be alone. The answer was still no.
The years went by and it was not pleasant. This was not at all in Izzy and Dean’s plan. She was now 80 years old. Ten years had passed since Dean had died. Her world had become very small. Now she didn’t leave the house except to see the doctor. Her days were spent in her recliner with her medications on the table beside her chair. Her TV was her constant companion with daily visits from one of her children, grandchildren or one of the home care providers – a nurse who would check her lungs and vitals, a homemaker who would clean her house and make her meals. She started to lose weight and hospice eventually replaced the home care. Her family so wished that Izzy would consider moving to an assisted living, but she would have none of it. She did finally agree to a Lifeline unit, an emergency response system.
When Izzy was walking to the kitchen one day, she just lost all steam and couldn’t go any more. She collapsed and fell to the floor. Her daughter found her lying there later that same day. Izzy had not used her Lifeline to call for emergency help. This event led to Izzy going into a full fledged nursing home. She had the additional support of hospice seeing her there, off and on over the next three years.
Life is not zero to hundred. It’s also not zero to hundred for long term care. There are so many steps along the way. We understand that everyone’s plan and story is unique to them. Families matter and it’s important that folks know that there is all kinds of help out there so you don’t have to navigate it alone.
On March 8th GolderCare’s Senior Empowerment series will be facilitating an in depth discussion It's Not Zero to 100 - Different Levels of Living [Independent, Assisted Living and Nursing Care], all free and open to the public.