The facility where my mother lives is suddenly flooded by families I’ve never seen before, lugging in bags toppling out of their arms, filled with food and gifts.
It’s wonderful to see them congregating where their loved ones are “stuck”, bringing their liveliness, loudness, and festivities through the suddenly congested doorways. I like watching them turn the lonely halls into a frenzied holiday chaos- the kids running everywhere- families remembering their grandparents/parents, and giving what they can of themselves.
It’s also disconcerting. Most of them have no idea how incredibly hard it can be on the residents to go from the extreme of quiet boredom to the burst of this scene, and then abruptly back again. And I know how empty it will be again once the holidays are over, and all the life they bring to the residence will be an echo.
Reminds me once again that it feels so wrong to separate older people from LIFE, and that I so much yearn to see more intergenerational and holistic elder care sprouting up. And that maybe since I still don’t see it happening in our area, perhaps that’s going to evolve into a more dedicated personal mission……
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Since Mom was scared to go out to my car in the snow, she and I ditched our special holiday meal plans and went for a stroll through the different halls, watching the families and their affairs. A middle aged woman with a wrinkled brow rushed up and said to me,
“Are you in charge of the Memory Care people?”
I said, no, but that I knew the residents might be able to help if there was an issue, since we were in another area and none of those staff were around. Observing her face, I was worried that someone needed medical attention. She dragged me away from Mom, who was struggling a bit with her walker, and pointed to a man sitting and smiling in the party area, which is open and attached to the main entrance of the building.
“It’s him,” she said. “He’s not supposed to be there.”
“He’s not from Memory Care,” I said. “That area’s locked and their alarm would have gone off if he got out.”
“Well, he’s confused, because he’s not supposed to be at our party. Who can help me?”
I went to get my mom seated, then found a staff member to help the distraught woman. I couldn’t help but notice that the old man wasn’t eating their food or bothering them- just sitting and enjoying the ambiance and the company. He must have come from the assisted living section, where people are free to come and go as they please. He probably is on the verge of moving to memory care, I guessed.
This little story was almost too metaphorical and ironic for me, on Christmas.
If Christmas is anything, I hope we can remind ourselves and each other about its origins: inviting in the lonely strangers, not worrying too much about where they came from or why they appeared in our lives, but taking the time to give them a little shelter, peace, and comfort, if only for a short while.