Common Sense Health: Giving Away a Lifetime Is Bittersweet Medicine

We find ourselves in the midst of change. During this 100th trip around the sun, it’s finally time for a move to a retirement residence. While the comforts and care of an elegant assisted-living community are welcome, the upheaval is overwhelming! It’s hard to say goodbye to the family home of nearly 50 years. When children and grandchildren visit to savour the memories together, they just as eagerly eye the furniture and appliances!

The truth is, being able to give away a lifetime of treasured possessions is a luxury we are grateful to enjoy. Looking around the world, a lot of people would give an arm and a leg to have what we have. For anyone though, there is something universal about the feelings that come with making a final move.

Years ago, a favourite Gifford-Jones book was called The Doctor Game. It explained how you can find the best doctor in your area, how to tell a good (or bad) doctor, how to avoid unnecessary surgery, how to be a good patient and how to make the best – and avoid the worst – of the doctor you choose.  The Doctor Game was full of practical advice on surgery, on talking about sex with your doctor, on getting the truth from your doctor, on fads and phobias, x-rays, cancer, and virtually every medical concern.

Now, it has occurred to us, we have enough material for a new opus. Choosing where and how to live life’s final chapter is a very different game. If you believe the people marketing retirement homes, you’d think you’ve died and gone to heaven. They call it “lifestyle options” but that feels a bit pedantic when the choices are between easy-access showers and wheelchair ramps.

What are the most important considerations? There is a litany of them. Building up your arsenal of patience is a must. Whatever happened to the days when people used to answer the phone? Our experience is not unique to retirement residences. There’s either a shortage of workers or younger generations just don’t like the phone as much as older people do. Now, if you have a question, you may as well ask Google than hope to find a live person at the ready.

What did the resident nurse warn us about moving in? Weight gain is the common problem from the high-caloric food on the mouth-watering daily menu. We’ll be mindful of that. But we also relish the idea of dinners with family and friends that other people prepare.

The bathroom is a dangerous place in any home. Mixing up medications and slipping on wet floors are two common threats. Our concern was the accessible shower. We’d love to hear from you. Is it better to have the safety of a shower door with a handle for holding on, or just a shower curtain and no door in case someone needs to lend a hand with bathing in later years?

What about the social scene? This we await with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. “Don’t make friends too rapidly,” was the experienced advice of a family member who previously made a similar move. But how delightful it was when on a recent visit to our prospective new home, residents greeted us warmly. We hope, among them, there will be ship captains, professors, and maybe an old doctor or two.

Nietzsche, the German philosopher and keen observer of humankind, said, “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.” Here’s hoping a few of them will be our new neighbours!

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One Comment

  1. Daughter of elderly parents

    Speaking from the perspective of my parents, neither of those shower options are safe. The best kind and the kind that should be in every retirement home are those walk in bath/shower types that has a bench and a half door that closes and seals in the water (the kind advertised on TV). That way assistance can be easily given when needed. Shower curtains are a hazard and so are shower doors. Shower doors move and aren’t stable to grab onto.

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