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Missing Home


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.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. November 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Posted by Lynda Maxwell

    I saw a funny speech by Mary Maxwell at a Home Instead Conference. But when I called the group in Houston, they could tell me nothing. It was on YOU TUBE. I've tried before to reach Y.T. But failed. Can you help?


    • November 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      Hi Lynda! You can find the video at Cat Koehler Home Instead


  2. November 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Posted by Jennifer

    We have the same situation. My mom is in a Memory Care unit, she says she understands why she is there and is glad to be there but still makes comments about being in prison. We have a disagreement among siblings as to whether or not she should be able to go out. Does anyone have an opinion on that? One of my sisters wants to take her to her house for Thanksgiving, my other sister thinks she should not "upset her routine" and leave her within those 4 walls.


  3. October 19, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Posted by Laura

    My mom is 81 and in aug we placed her in assisted living. She is so unhappy she crystal a lot she gets angry a lot and she is jus awful to be around this is her second year with Alzheimer's and she refuses to behave or join in activities and there's a lot to do,but mom is determined to be as difficult as possible she says terrible things to just second guessing decision maybe I should move her in with us,I just want her to be safe and happy and taken care of :(


    • October 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Posted by Dottie

      Sounds like she wants to be Home, and I can't blame her. You might have to get some part time help for her, if she moves back home with you. As a Private Nurse, I have also been In Charge of Nursing Facilities. I see her behavior all the time. She may be lonely, bored, confused. If I were there, I would take care of her! I wish you and her the best!!


  4. October 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Posted by Faye Coley

    I had to put my husband in a VA facility about 2 months ago.This was the hardness thing have ever done.But when I could not dress him,or any of the other things you have to do,it made me realize I had to do what was best for both of us.I visit several times a week.He is adjusting very well and I know he is getting cared for,therefore when I visit,we get to spend time together,and he is not getting upset with me .He was to the point where I was like a warden and not his wife.It is still very hard to leave him,and I cry nearly every day.Believe me if it were possible he would be home.but ever situation is different ,and we have to do what is best for everyone.


    • October 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      You are right, Faye. There is no one right answer that fits everyone. Doing what we can, when we can, for as long as we can is all we can do. It sounds like you did all of that and then some for your husband! He is lucky to have you! Cat


  5. October 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Posted by Nisha Singh

    I am a drop-in companion for seniors who live alone at home and in Long Term Care facilities. Most of the time they want to stay in their own homes but it becomes impossible due to them not eating regularly and falling among other things and mixing up their medications. Even though they may go into the best of facilities they are not happy due to missing their familiar surroundings. One of my seniors is refusing to go to any activities she would rather stay in her room so sad to see a once happy, busy, friendly lady sitting alone in her room. I try to get her out as much as possible along with her family members who visit often but she's told me over and over again she will never be happy in her new home..


  6. October 19, 2012 at 10:54 am | Posted by Katrina

    My grandma is still at home. I think a lot of their unhappiness is that they just can't come and go as they please. I try not to let me effect me anymore, we do all that we can do to be sure that she has everything that she needs, give her the choice to go with us when we go somewhere and a Companion that comes four days a week for three hours a day. You will beat yourself up trying to make them happy and it just is not possible :( I wish someone had an answer to their loneliness, you can not make people call or visit!


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