I ask her the same question every time I see her. And every time, she gives me the same response. It's moved beyond the curious, and into the routine.
"What's new with you?"
"Nothing. Just the same four walls."
When the family convinced my grandmother it was time to leave the home she had loved for decades and decades for the safety and convenience of an assisted living facility, one of the selling points was the social activities.
No longer would she have to depend on the television and random drop-ins of family to keep her company. She would have friends, entertainment, company at meals, and more fun.
Now, nearly two years later, she has yet to take advantage of that selling point. My grandmother routinely complains how lonely and bored she is, yet she is surrounded with people and things to do. I struggled to understand how cleaning the many closets and rooms of her home could be better than having daily card games, bingo, a library filled with books and puzzles, companions at meal time, and regular outings.
I tried going with her to activities, hoping she would see that if she took that first fearful step of just getting there, she would actually enjoy herself. It didn't work. We recently spent some time in library, and my grandmother noted she had never been there before. When the family mentioned she should come down and work on a puzzle, or read a book, she grumbled a little and thought she might satisfy us with a "We'll see."
It became clear that she isn't bored, she's simply unhappy. She would be fine looking at the same four walls, as long as they were her four walls.
Like my grandmother, I wasn't a fan of moving her from her home, but ultimately, it wasn't up to me. The decision crushed my husband and me who promised my grandmother we wouldn't let anyone move her if she wasn't ready. Looking back, it was a promise we shouldn't have made. Or perhaps we should have fought harder to keep her at home. I offered my family another option - bringing a caregiver into her home. It fell on deaf ears.
There is no going back to her home. The family sold it last spring. But I can't help but think that she would be happier and maybe even healthier if she were sitting in her rocker next to her big picture window, chatting with her neighbors on her covered porch, and baking cookies in her kitchen. And I can't help but think we may have lost a little bit of her when she lost her home.
Maybe it's time I find a new question to ask.
Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.