My good friend and I used to joke about looking forward to moving into assisted living when we got old. Someone would cook our meals, we wouldn’t have a house to clean and there would probably be rocking chairs to sit on and while the hours away. “What’s not to love?” we’d say as we watched our 9 kids running like bats out of hell back and forth in between our houses .
But as I watch my mom and my step-dad age, the true magnitude of, and resistance to, the idea of leaving your home is becoming ever clearer and much more understandable. It’s actually a horrible, gut wrenching move- usually made with your back against the wall and no clear alternative in view. The other, more difficult, reality is that while one spouse is probably in dire need of the extra care at a facility, the other is probably not.
The reality is that couples rarely decline in tandem, and it has been sobering, and honestly deeply depressing, seeing the toll that deteriorating health exacts on relationships.
The unrelenting physical and psychological strain of caregiving among senior citizens has truly been a shocker for me. It is impossible to overstate the round-the-clock demands of chronic illness once it becomes the houseguest that never leaves. And in the end it is this often overwhelming responsibility that will ultimately convince the healthier partner that it is indeed time to let go of most of their earthly possessions and live where assistance is offered.
But oh, that decision is so, so tough.