lifestyle

Assisted Living Facilities: Helping People Age in Safety and Style

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Elderly@TroyPattee and I lived in a 350 square-foot walk-out apartment on Aspen Drive just up the road from Park City when we first got married. Our small bedroom didn't have any windows and barely fit our queen-sized bed. The dresser only fit in the closet. We didn't have a dishwasher or a washer and a dryer. But in the kitchen/dining room/family room area we had two walls lined with windows that extended halfway up the wall to the ceiling and a fireplace right in the middle. We loved our cozy, yet humble abode, especially since it was nestled in trees, greenery which wasn't so common in the other parts in Utah where we had previously lived. Our favorite part though? Our land lady.

Jeanne was about 70-years-old when we moved in, but seemed more like she was 50. Now, she's 82 and still beautiful!

Her white hair was always perfectly done. Her laugh was contagious. She taught me to love beans and to appreciate the small and simple things in life. Soon, we began to eat with her, wash our clothes in her house, and yes...sometimes, we even dragged some dishes upstairs to wash in her dishwasher.

When we entered her house, we'd often find her on her exercise machine. Or, we'd walk into an empty house. She'd be climbing the Summit Park hills without breaking a sweat or breathing hard. In the winter, she'd be skiing at Sundance with her friends in the neighborhood. At almost 30-years-old and with 40 years between us, I couldn't keep up with her.

She fell fast in love with Troy. He loved snow and so her request to shovel the long, half-circle driveway was only playtime for him. He'd get out with the snow blower at sometimes 4:00 a.m. to be able to adequately remove the snow before he had to go to work. Then he'd return home to build snow forts in our front yard. He was in seventh heaven and she adopted him as a third son.

They decided together to put up Christmas lights on her tall A-framed house and she held his ankles as he dangled out the window to string them up on the highest point.

We've now been married 14 years, but have always kept up our friendship with Jeanne.

A few years ago, we started hearing stories of Jeanne falling while out on walks. It was hard to imagine that just a few years ago she was skiing with ease. I couldn't wrap my head around how fragile she'd become and what that would mean for her life.

She called the other day and told Troy that she was in bad shape and was finally considering moving into an assisted living facility. The news was both earth shattering and relieving. Earth shattering, because for the first time, I truly understood that Jeanne has exceeded life expectancy and that she may not be around a lot longer. And relieving, because she'll be in good hands, in a place she feels comfortable, where many of her friends live, and as luck would have it, much closer to our house.

So, now a new phase of our lives with Jeanne begins. We're excited to take our kids to visit "grandma Jeanne" weekly and help them come to know the woman who has been such a positive addition to our lives over the past 14 years.

I remember being a teen and thinking that I would never put my mom in "one of these places." I don't know if times have changed. I don't know if assisted living facilities are a step up from the nursing homes of my teenage years. Or, maybe I've come to see how fragile life can become and that sometimes, being in a happy, beautiful environment with the care of on-site nurses and doctors is a great way to age both in safety and style with friends and loved ones close by.

What are ways to help your loved ones age with the care they need? What are your thoughts on assisted living facilities, in-home nursing help, or other resources?
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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.

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