My husband and I have faced many health challenges. In May, I was in acute heart failure and had open heart surgery. Now I have a pig valve in my heart and it seems to be working efficiently. This is a welcome change because I am my disabled husband’s caregiver.
Almost a year ago, he fell to the floor and fractured his pelvis in three places. A paid caregiver was with him at the time. Though I don’t know how the accident happened, my husband says he thought he was transferring from his bed to a shower chair, only the chair wasn’t behind him.
Relatives advised us to move to a retirement community with support services. Researching communities took months. In our hometown, the demand for this housing exceeds the supply. Most retirement communities were full.
Then we heard of a vacancy in a community we toured years ago. In fact, we put down a deposit. We visited the vacant apartment, liked the views, and decided to move in. Then the real work–culling possessions and renovating the apartment–began. I made most of the decisions.
As I was doing this, I realized that choosing a retirement community is also about choosing a place to live and die. This realization became clear when I met with administration and had the final tour. Part of the tour was seeing the picture frame where photos of the newly deceased are displayed.
This brought back memories of my father-in-law. Dad died here at age 98 1/2 years of age. Family members followed Dad’s wishes and we didn’t have a public memorial service for him. Instead, we had a private memorial, ate Dad’s favorite foods, and watched family movies.
We’ve lived in the retirement community a month and are slowly adjusting to group living. Do I want to die here? This question is still being answered, yet I know some important things. I know administration cares about the residents. I know kind, caring people live here. I know friends and strangers comfort each other. I know the community has a continuum of care.
Before I had open heart surgery, I planned my memorial service. The plans included a display of the books I’ve written, choir music, hymns. and a synopsis of my life. I emailed the plan to our minister. “Thank you,” he replied. “I wish more people did this.”
Moving into a retirement community involves a series of adjustments. My husband and I are making these adjustments together. We are blessed to be alive, be here together, and love one another more each day.
If you are thinking about moving into a retirement community, please allow enough lead-time and do your research. Does it offer a continuum of care? What are the fees? Are the residents happy? Do I want to live here? Do I want to die here? Have I planned my memorial service?
Love has many forms. Planning for the end of your life is an act of love. Your answers are a gift for family members and will make their lives easier.Tags: end of life, memorial service