After an agonizing period of decision-making, my two sisters and I checked my mom into an assisted living facility. The day we took her to her new apartment, we kept sensing we’d experienced it all before.
This made no sense until one sister exclaimed, “I know what it is—it’s just like dropping a kid off at camp!” I don’t want to seem disrespectful to the aging in the least, after all we are the next generation headed toward assisted living, but the similarities are poignantly amazing.
Seeing an attractive woman seated in the hallway, we steered our mom in that direction. “She looks nice, Mom. Why don’t we go over and meet her? Maybe she plays bridge.” How like the efforts parents make to ensure their children make new friends at camp.
Concerns and complaints about the food in the dining hall are certainly similar, as is the clothing situation. My mother-in-law was in assisted living in our hometown, so I was the one charged with trying to keep up with all her laundry—a frustrating and fruitless endeavor. The only solution was to make sure her name was boldly imprinted on every single piece of clothing, sheet or pillowcase—just like at camp.
We expect our kids to participate in camp activities, and we hope our moms in assisted living will engage as well. In an effort to encourage my mom-in-law, I decided to join in one of the activities. Several times I called and reminded her that I was coming on Monday for the apple butter festival. I entered her room with a cheerful, “Hi! I’m here for the festival. Are you ready to go?” She replied, “I’m not going to that. Why are you going?” In this, as in many aspects of what my ninety-year-old friend mistakenly calls “assumed living,” it helps to keep a sense of humor.
But there are serious comparisons, too. We entrust our children to the care of camp counselors, but we can’t help but wonder if they are alright in the middle of the night. How often I woke up wondering if my mother and mother-in-law were truly safe. Was someone sneaking into their rooms to rob them of their few personal possessions? Had they fallen out of bed unable to call for help? At such times, whether with kids at camp or moms in assisted living, the best thing we can do is pray. In both cases, we send them off with our good intentions—and a whole lot of faith.