When dad first moved into his current assisted living facility (ALF) community after mom passed away, he isolated himself in his room. Almost 2 years ago, he was just starting to be more social by sitting in the television lounge when he became very ill and was hospitalized and then released to a nursing home.
After he returned to his ALF after this illness, he isolated himself in his room again for several months. Then he began to sit in the lounge and watch the people go by as he had done before his illness. Over time he became more and more social, spending more of each day in the lounge. Soon he met a woman and they often sat together in the lounge. Dad enjoyed “Mary’s” company and often said that she helped make the time pass.
However, recently, I hadn’t seen Mary for awhile. In fact in the past 2 weeks, I saw 2 other ladies sitting by dad. One day, out of curiosity, I asked one of the activity directors what happened to Mary. He told me that Mary had moved to the other building — to the Memory Care Unit. I was surprised. I hadn’t seen any reason for Mary to move. She was no different the last time I saw her than she had been the first time.
I realized that Mary was a lot younger than dad, and perhaps she had early onset Dementia. I know she couldn’t remember where she used to live nor where her family lived now. She was always pleasant and didn’t seem disruptive. Except, of course, for her tendency to sit with different men at various times and thus make the other men jealous. See “An Incident Report — Assisted Living“.
This past week when I went to visit dad, he wasn’t sitting in the lounge where he usually sits. I walked down to his room and found he was sitting in the room next door to his, talking to the lady who lived there. She was enjoying his company and asked me to join them. I had seen her in the lounge and at activities many times before. She is much closer to dad’s age. Instead, dad got up and said he would join me in his room. He told the other woman he would see her later. The other woman seemed to have only 2 chairs in the living area, but she had offered to get me a chair, so maybe one was in a closet. In any case, dad moved to his own room and we talked for the 40 minutes left until lunch.
Earlier in the week dad had been sitting by a different woman in the lounge. She was talking a lot to him though he didn’t seem to be saying anything back to her. I wasn’t sure if he welcomed her conversation or not, though now I think he didn’t mind. That day, I sat near dad and we talked and soon the lady moved somewhere else. I didn’t realize at that time that dad was “now available” because Mary had moved on.
Over two years ago when dad first moved into this ALF, many of the women took immediate notice of him and began to say hello. At that time, he was still grieving and pretty withdrawn, and rarely responded to others. Now that dad has adjusted to Assisted Living, he is much more social. I feel like he has made significant progress in the past few years. I hope he continues to sit by and talk to many of the other residents.
I think it was Mary who “broke the ice” with dad and got him to communicate more and to go to many of the ALF activities. But now that he has come out of his shell, he seems willing to continue to participate even with Mary no longer present. Dad hasn’t said anything about missing Mary. I don’t know if he realizes she is gone for good or how much he remembers of his time spent with her. But I am glad he is ready to move on to relationships with other residents.