My friend just booked a respite stay for her mom. She is a mother of two young boys and full time caregiver to her aging mom. Recently my friend renovated her home to accommodate her mom who was downsizing out of her own apartment. She redesigned their den into a 1st floor bedroom with an adjoining walk in shower. She was even proactive enough to install a "doorbell" next in her mom's new room. It rings up to the master bedroom if she is ever in need of assistance through the midnight hours.
The cold months have been hard on my friend as she has felt trapped in the caregiving role with little opportunity for the occasional walk to clear her head or garden to escape to for some quiet. I am sure it has been even harder on her mom, who is also trapped inside the home with no where to go and nothing to do.
After some long and hard deliberation my friend decided to look into respite for her mom. Just a week to start off with so they can both have some time apart and recuperate. Maybe another week in the late spring for the same reason. Eventually her mom will be comfortable staying at the respite for a longer duration during my friends summer vacation.
My friend told me of the winding staircase and mahogany wood in the entrance way of the assisted living facility where the respite will take place. "It is so beautiful... like a hotel," she stated, "... makes me want to stay there!" Without thinking, I blurted out, "You realize the winding staircase is for you, not for her."
Baffled my friend tilted her head in confusion. Without picking up on the hint I continued, "The beauty of it makes you feel better. It helps with your guilt."
My friend took my rudeness in stride, we said our goodbyes and I wished her good luck... offering my advise anytime. It wasn't until my car ride home that I realized how cold and insensitive I had been. I still hold fast to my opinion that any care facility should be considered with a scrutinizing eye, whether it is for long term care or respite. Beauty and glamour can distract, especially for a long-term-care-virgin, however my approach in listening to my friends real needs was in poor taste.
As the day passed and I considered our exchange further, trying to rationalize that I was right for saying what I said, it occurred to me that perhaps the winding staircase does benefit the older adult staying in the facility too. Maybe for someone like my friend's mom, this will be her first time living "away from home" and the ambiance of a fancy hotel is comforting. Maybe the mahogany wood trim and perfectly manicured holiday decorations give my friend's mom a sense of royalty which matches her ideal for a place she has always wanted to live . Maybe she has "rich taste" and this fits the bill.
Regardless, I did not consider the ambiance as an added feature for an older adult who is being displaced, and in search of comfort. I always viewed it as a distraction from care. Yet, how can you help care for anyone if they feel uncomfortable? How can you meet someones needs unless you break down their resistance to your help? How can you improve quality of life if you don't make someone feel special?
So, in closing, I admit that I was wrong. I should have listened better, shut up more and hugged longer. I should have kept my opinionated agenda to myself and simply offered an ear to bend anytime she needed it. Advice is worth only what you pay for it, and in this case, mine was free. I have since taken the perspective that many parties can benefit from a winding staircase, including family, friends and the person who calls it HOME.