Journey Mercies . . . Leaving Home
The thought of leaving home wasn’t something I wanted to think about, nor was it something I figured I would ever have to do. I was 60 years old and had lived in the same house for 28 years. It was my home and I didn’t want to leave it or my family. What was I doing? I was on another journey . . . moving closer to work.
Do you remember the first time you left home – really left home? Were you young, and just moving into your first apartment, excited for your new beginning? Were you accepted into the college of your dreams and getting to move across the nation? Did you enlist in the Military, feeling you wanted to be part of the greater good and then scared to death of what you had just committed to?
Now it seems many more people are making big moves. You can be forced to leave because you’ve lost your job and your home is up-side down. Maybe your adult children are moving back in, or maybe you have made the decision to care for your parents in your home. The “sandwich generation” is more prevalent now than ever before.
Perhaps you now find yourself in a season of life where you are faced with the difficult and most often heartbreaking task of talking to your parents about moving out of their lifelong residence to a place where they will receive better care.
We may move many times in the course of a lifetime, but for our older parents, this can mean not only leaving their physical home, but maybe leaving family and friends. They may be forced to give up their independence by losing their driving privileges. It may mean they are leaving home for good. How then, can we help them transition comfortably and more importantly, with their dignity in tact?
In my comings and goings with healthcare and senior care professionals, I have realized that there are many wonderful resources to help us manage and care for ourselves, as well as our parents. This has given me such an appreciation for those who are in the trenches helping our aging parents live better, live longer, and live with dignity.
Here are three well known resources that are excellent beginnings for finding the right care for your parents:
• The Council on Aging Orange County a non-profit provides Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy (HICAP) Friendly Visitor programs and training; Case Management for disabled adults and the frail elderly, Ombudsman services, professional education for seniors and those who care for them and many other services.
• The Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County provides a comprehensive suite of programs and services – at no charge – to meet the myriad and evolving needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other related illnesses. They are there for the patient, families, caregivers, and the larger community. It’s a remarkable program.
• Age Well Senior Services based in Laguna Woods provides critical programs, services and resources to seniors primarily in South Orange County.
Being 60 and making this move was scary but my daughters were there supporting and encouraging me and we even visited the “active seniors” apartment complex together. It was 620 square feet of what I called “nothing”. They called it “downsizing”. My transition was heartbreaking. I left three of my four children and 7 of my 9 grandchildren when I packed my things. Instead of coming home to a house full of life and laughter, I came home to silence. It was only 40 miles away, but it might as well have been 400. I remember thinking as I sat in my apartment, “ if I don’t call someone, I won’t have another conversation until I get to work in the morning.”
But I survived that transition. In fact, I’m thriving.
For someone who never thought they would live alone, much less make Orange County their permanent residence, I surprised myself by purchasing a home in the Laguna Woods Village, and I’m thrilled. It’s more than I could have imagined, and perfect for this next season of my life.
In the beginning, leaving home was not what I wanted, but it turned out to be just what I needed. It gave me the opportunity to live independently and nurture some wonderful friendships. It also gave me the strength and wisdom to decide exactly what I wanted in a home, how safe I wanted to be, and what activities I could enjoy over the next decade or two. Right now, I’m living my best life!
I’d love to hear your story . . .what season of life are you “moving” into or “leaving”?
• At what stage of your move are you in?
• What do you suppose your conversation might be like with your parent(s)?
• What move brought you or your parent the most joy?
• What move would be the most difficult?