A huge black face just inches in front of mine woke me from a nap here Respite Care. It was the face of a massive dog who belongs to one of the workers. The management allows staff to bring well behaved dogs to work with them. The dog is a hi-breed cross between a Bernese mountain dog, a standard poodle and I think a black lab. Her name is Carol and she's only one year old and an expert at checking out smells around the room while her owner does my bidding. At the end of her shift Carol's mom makes the rounds to all the dog-friendly rooms before going home so we inmates can say good night to the lovable, goofy dog who has quite the wardrobe.
Turns out respite care in the continuing care complex is really just a glorified room in assistance living only with occupational therapy and physical therapy brought in with a goal of getting me back in my own apartment. They originally said I'd be here 4-6 weeks but it's looking more like 2 or 3---fingers crossed---before l'll be able to meet the criteria that I have to meet. That involves being able to get in and out of bed by myself which is the hardest thing so far with my broken ribs but I'm doing it. And I need to be able to do all my own bathroom issues by myself which I'm already there. The physical therapist says I'm 95% there in terms of walking safely. She's already made an appointment with my niece to take me over to my apartment to evaluate what changes I'll need there. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to get a new mattress or box springs to lower my bed.
I thought while I'm here I might as well put on my investigative reporter hat and figure out what makes assisted living livable for those who have to stay. That's how I found myself sitting in a circle of 12 other residences singing 'When the Saints Come Marching Home' while stampimg my feet up and down on the floor and clapping my hands and doing all the others stuff that you might expect a music therapist to be leading residences to do in places like this. I've seen three of the musical therapists who work for the CCC and they are good musicians and singers. They've found a way to use their talents for good...and probably a more stable income than they'd get singing in bars. Some rich guy or organization provides a grant for their wages. I'm not sure but I suspect grant writing is a big deal around a continuing care complex that's a non-profit. I know they got grants to get a defibrillator over in one of the buildings and a superior germ/air cleaner for public spaces that cost over twenty grand.
As I sat in that circle while the young woman sang and played a guitar, though, I couldn't help wondering how the heck I got here and so suddenly. If someone told me I was gonna be staying here for the rest of my life with only 4 walls to stare at for most of the day I'd probably be just as cantankerous as my brother has been from time to time. I talked to a woman who has been here for 7 months and I asked her if it was a hard adjustment and she said, "No. I was ready to come but that doesn't mean it wasn't painful. I still had to leave a lifetime of memories behind in my house. But I was no longer safe there and I knew it." My brother with his short-term memory issues doesn't remember that he wasn't safe at home, so acceptance for him, rolls like waves out at sea---sometimes angry, sometimes calm. And I imagine sometimes he's also fearful, I know I've been flirting with that particular F word with the sudden loss of control in my life and having to depend on the good graces of others.
Not everyone there is as articulate as the woman I talked to up above. At lunch I sat at a table with 3 others and they were pleasant and curious about the new kid on the block. But when I asked what others did before retiring---a common ice breaker in independent living---none of them could come up with the answers. I felt really bad that I asked. But there was a sisterhood there for sure, of residents looking out for each other other. Making sure the ones who couldn't speak very loud but needed the attention of an aid got that attention, of making sure other people's walkers were parked out of the way and different little things that are very sweet moments. That tells me that no matter what stage of life we're in we're going to find humanity and compassion. Looking For the sweet moments in life has proven to be a little easier New Years resolution than I thought it would be.
I'll end this post with story I can't wait to tell everyone back at independent living. They have a shower room here where they take you twice a week to get hosed down like a poodle at a doggie foo-foo spa. I was in there tonight standing naked as The day I was born when the door opened and in walks a woman who I knew from independent living. It was 9:30 PM and she was looking for the exercise class that meets at 9:30 AM. Thankfully She didn't even seem to notice that I was naked because she couldn't believe she had to go back to bed again. "I had my breakfast and everything!" she said. "That was your bedtime snack," the shower attending replied. So many people have seen me naked since Friday the thirteenth when I fell that it didn't even freak me out to be having that conversation. I just told myself it was going to make good blog fodder.