But I’ve Always Taken Care of Myself

You've spent your life taking care of others. You have worked, cleaned your home, cooked and raised children. Some days now, however, you have trouble performing the basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and walking. You may have trouble cleaning your home or remembering what medications you need to take and when. All of this can be frustrating. On good days you tell yourself you don't need help, but then a bad day arrives and you wonder where that independent person has disappeared to. You feel frustrated and maybe even scared. The truth is, however, that person is still there.

Needing Help As We Age

Our bodies and minds have always been at odds, and this is ever any more clear than when we reach a certain age. Our minds are still sharp, ready to enjoy our retirement and reap the rewards of all those hours of work but our bodies often say "Nope - I need to rest!" Simply doing the basic things necessary for living can make you so tired you have no energy left to do the things you want to do. You know you need help, but don't want to feel like your independence is being taken away. This is where moving to an assisted living facility can actually benefit you the most. You can't stop your body from aging, but you can make it possible that it doesn't stop you from enjoying this time of your life.

Changing Priorities As We Age

Doing all those daily living things is important. You need to be clean and fed and you need to keep up with medication. Being mobile is important because you don't want to spend the rest of your days in bed. This is where you get a chance to alter your priorities. When your children were young, you took care of these things for them. By doing this, you saw they were taken care of but had the time and energy to learn all they needed. As they grew, they began to do these things for themselves. They passed into a different stage of life ad priorities changed. This is what is happening now.

Your body is telling you that you have earned a break and have other things to concentrate on. You now have the time to read that stack of books you have been putting off for years. You have the chance to learn a new skill or simply take the time to enjoy doing nothing for a while. By allowing someone else to help you, you free up your time and energy. With help, you can concentrate on more than simply getting the necessities done. Think of it as earning the chance to get help after years of being the one who has given the help. Priorities have changed and now you can come first. You've spent years earning that right.

What Are My Options?

In assisted living, you are giving the chance to do as much as you are capable of doing. On your good days, you may want to shower yourself, with someone nearby just in case you need help. This is possible. However, on bad days, you don't have to put yourself at risk of falling or use up all your energy. Assisted living is there to assist you, not stop you from doing what you can. You still get to choose what clothing you want to wear, how you want your hair done (many assisted living facilities have a salon right on the premises) and can accompany your family on outings if you choose.

Activities are planned, exercise classes and arts classes are offered and sometimes field trips to special places are arranged. Do you have to participate? No. Assisted living is not a jail. The activities are designed to give residents a chance to enjoy things they may have wanted to all their lives, things that work and family took precedence over. You are not forced to do anything. But you can if you choose.

Take a Load Off

How many times over the years has it entered your mind how nice it would be to have someone else do the cooking, cleaning, and laundry? Remember how you used to dream about that? Well, that is no longer a dream, it is a reality. In a way, you have graduated into a position akin to royalty. You have earned the position of having all the mundane things in life taken care of so you can concentrate on the fun, entertaining, and enjoyable things. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

The Need to Feel Needed

Like many people, you may have thrived on the feeling that you were needed. Now, you feel that loss, but it doesn't need to be that way. Many people who enter assisted living find the time afforded them help them contribute in a deeper, very fulfilling way. You may choose to help repair toys for children who otherwise won't have a Christmas. Maybe you can now write that life story that will give others hope and help them make it through difficult times. Others use their artistic talents to fashion blankets for babies or the homeless. You will always be needed. You have simply moved into a position where you are needed by a different segment of society, one that is just as important. This is still a role that only you can fill.

Final Thoughts on Moving

Your body may seem to be fighting against you, but nature has a way of knowing that you won't slow down unless you have to. After years of doing for others, you may not know how to do for you. Your body is saying it is your time to shine. Assisted living isn't giving up your independence, it is moving into your own and allowing the part of you that has been pushed aside to shine through for the world to see.

Contributing Authors

Kelli Wilson, RN
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James Conte, RN, BS Nursing, BS Pharmacology
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    Miranda Booher, RN, ACLS Certified, BLS Certified, Tx Certified
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      Carolyn Falconer-Horne, Ph.D. Candidate
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