Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away I got married. In an assisted living facility. My mother lived there. We couldn’t bring her to our wedding, so we brought our wedding to her, a decision I will never regret.
My new in-laws weren’t there for the ceremony. We worried that they’d gotten lost or stuck in traffic. When they arrived for the reception (different location), we breathed a sigh of relief. “Sorry,” my new mother-in-law said. “Nursing homes creep us out.” Hearing that made me sad, and kind of irritated I admit. But I reassured her we understood, we were glad they came to the reception and offered her a piece of wedding cake.
There was absolutely nothing “creepy” about my mom’s assisted living facility. It was a vibrant community of charming residents of all ages, abilities, and walks of life. It was staffed by compassionate, hardworking, and good-natured, often hilarious, professionals. It was immaculate, brightly lit, beautifully appointed, and fresh smelling. Yet, my in-laws chose to avoid even stepping inside. I get it. For them, I guess it was too hard a reality to face.
Since then, through my work with Heart ‘n Home, I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit several such communities in Central Oregon. Each time, I am charmed. I am uplifted. I am educated. I am more resilient, more accepting of my own mortality, more appreciative of my current reality, without thought or concern for my future reality.
September 13-19 is National Assisted Living Week, sponsored by the National Center for Assisted Living, and I encourage you to participate in some way — especially if, like my in-laws (actually, EX-in-laws now), just the mere thought of stepping inside such a community “creeps you out.”
The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Nourishing Life: Mind, Body, Spirit” and “celebrates the countless ways assisted living caregivers nurture the whole resident… conversely, residents nourish the lives of team members and volunteers by, with the support of loved ones, sharing their inspiring lives.”