This month it will be one year since my Mother-in-Law (MIL) moved into an aged care facility. At 90-years-old, she had celebrated her 90th birthday and 70th wedding anniversary in the same week.
Within two weeks, her husband had died, she developed shingles – which are very painful – and she felt completely lost.
Life had lost its purpose and the pain from the shingles, combined with the feeling of great loss, resulted in her being hospitalised with the possibility of death. The doctors advised that we moved her to an aged care home which is something she never wanted to do.
This can be such a traumatic time for both the parent and the child. My husband had to organise her move, try to make her feel positive about the changes as well as cope with his own ‘guilt’ of placing his mother in care.
Fast forward one year and she is a totally different person.
When she arrived at the aged care facility, my MIL started in a shared ward. As she improved though, she was moved to a room of her own.
Having always been a social person, she soon made friends, and combined with the caring staff and extensive activities program, her quality of life did a 360-degree turn.
Her personality changed from negative and always looking for a medical issue within herself, to becoming very popular, friendly and the ‘life of the party.’
Her life is so full of activities, we now must make an ‘appointment’ to see her. My MIL is trying new things which she never would have experienced if she had stayed in her home.
Looking back over that one year, I realised I have learned some valuable life lessons from my Mother-In-Law.
Even though we may not like change, it is a part of life. Accepting and embracing change brings happiness and contentment to our lives. My MIL was scared and overwhelmed but she overcame the fear and embraced her new lifestyle.
Waking each day, knowing that there is a purpose in life is vital for young and old alike. However, when we retire, it becomes even more important.
Without a reason to get out of bed each day, life can become tiresome. Inadvertently, health is affected if days stretch out ahead with nothing to fill the time and with nothing to look forward to.
Participating in life and connecting with others has been medically proven to assist with good mental health and well-being. Loneliness can lead to depression and isolation, especially as we age.
Connecting with others through activities and conversation helps us to feel as part of a community which can provide emotional support.
I have seen my MIL try new activities and learn new skills such as painting, armchair yoga and even going to the gym. Using our cognitive and motor skills helps to delay illness such as dementia and keeps our minds active and alert.
Although topics such as death or illness are not pleasant, they are a fact of life. As such, we need to discuss and document what our wishes are before the event.
I recently heard a TED podcast discussing death and why we should plan and document exactly what we want to happen in the future. This does not only pertain to our death but also to our medical wishes if we become ill.
Even moving to an aged care facility brought stress and anxiety to both my MIL and my husband, especially trying to work out the financial side of things and finding a place in a suitable facility.
Having a clear plan in place will make life easier during these difficult and emotional times.
In the latter years, my MIL had become quite self-centred which can happen to many of us as we age. Being surrounded by others who are perhaps not as healthy or spritely as she is, has made her realise that her life is not as bad as she thought, and she is now grateful for all she has.
The best thing of all is that my MIL has a constant smile on her face. She is happy and has rediscovered life at 91, proving you are never too old!
Do you have parents who are in a similar situation? How did you cope and what did you learn from the experience? Please join the conversation below.