I love the activities director at my mom’s nursing home for the variety of ways she finds to expand the lives of the residents, from bringing in musicians to having a banana split social, to loading up those who are able to go for a country drive. One of the things I find depressing about the idea of nursing home residency is what I see as the shrinkage of a life. I compare my life – my ability to get in a car and run around town, shop for food I want at the grocery store (within my budget), go for a walk, have pets – to my mom’s situation of spending most of her time within the same building, her choices curtailed.
I see it as part of my job description to help her keep connections to the outside world and to help grow her life experiences into something bigger than the walls of one building. This doesn’t have to be a major undertaking on my part. Little things can go a long way.
Mom has her own phone, with large numbers, but she can’t seem to manage making a phone call on her own any more. She gets flustered by the need to dial “9” for an outside line, and then loses her place while dialing, forgetting which numbers she’s pressed already. It’s easy enough, when I’m visiting, for me to ask her whom she’d like to call today, and then put the call through for her.
Since she was unable to go to my son’s piano recital, I got permission to let him come play his pieces on the piano at the nursing home, so she could see him perform. As a bonus, several residents heard the music and managed to get into the piano area, so he ended up with an audience.
Most recently, I decided my mom should have the opportunity to try a latte at least once in her life. She’s never had much in the way of spare cash lying around, and spending on a frou-frou coffee drink was far outside the realm of anything she’d consider. But I thought she’d like it, so I drove through Starbucks on my way to see her and picked up one for each of us. See what I did there? That way it was us doing something together, rather than her feeling I was getting her something extra or expensive. She verified what I expected – she’d never had one before. But she liked it. She kept saying, “That’s so good.”
Finally, she admitted that maybe she wouldn’t feel too bad about the money spent if I wanted to bring her another one some time, though she insisted I should take it out of her bank account. I’m not going to take it from her money, and I won’t tell her how expensive it is. But I will be happy knowing you can still have new experiences at the age of 87.