By Sharon R. McMurray
reaction was “He can’t live alone.” How could he
manage without her? She was his companion in the house
they bought the year after they married nearly sixty years
ago. A typical homemaker from the 50s era, she cooked for
him, washed the laundry, managed the finances, later drove
him where he needed to go, and did a hundred other things.
Dad couldn’t live alone primarily because the stroke he
suffered nearly 15 years ago resulted in major right side
weakness. During the ensuing years, he began to depend
upon a leg brace and cane to walk and he gradually lost most
of the use of his right hand. He reluctantly gave up
driving two years ago. And we knew he would be lonely.
So we began
visiting local senior citizen and assisted living complexes,
thinking they would provide not only the basic necessities
like his meals and clean laundry, but more importantly,
companionship and social interaction as well. Our plan
was to narrow the choices to three, give him the opportunity
to visit all three and let him decide where to live.
we visited were bright and clean, some livelier than others,
with lots of seniors living in them. They were filled
mostly with women, because women tend to live longer than
men. It became clear that, despite his physical handicap,
Dad was far too well for an assisted living facility.
However, one of the problems with many of the senior
apartment complexes (as well as assisted living facilities)
was their sheer size – the walk to the dining room would
exhaust him. And, he would be moving in with complete
began to dawn on us that maybe Dad could stay in his own
we discovered he had a network of friends in his
neighborhood who were visiting him regularly, walking with
him, and bringing him things like a plant for the front
porch, a pumpkin in the fall, a meal or a dessert.
his home, we realized it was a manageable size at about
1,200 square feet, and Dad knew every inch of it. We
just needed to make it as safe and convenient as possible
for him, so he could live independently.
measure of comfort for everyone was the alarm Dad agreed to
wear. He can press the button if he needs assistance,
and the monitoring company calls one of his children and
sends EMS immediately.
and most important change, was the bathroom renovation.
Because of his right side weakness, Dad can’t maneuver his
leg to get into the tub to shower, so he would go down
stairs to the basement where there was a walk-in shower.
That was a terrible accident waiting to happen.
We hired a
contractor who was certified by the National Association of
Home Builders as an aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) to
rebuild the first-floor bathroom. He installed a
walk-in shower with grab bars and a hand-held shower; new
lighting; and made the doorway, vanity and toilet wheelchair
accessible, if that need ever comes up in the future.