Jane and her husband had moved to a continuing care community pretty many years ago. They had a spacious apartment with an excellent view. They quickly became involved in beaucoup activities. It was a good move!
Then Jane's husband, who was considerably older than Jane, passed away. And then Jane herself developed a deteriorating neurologic condition. And so a few months ago, she had to move from her apartment to the medical unit at the community, completely by-passing the personal care interval. Joe and I hadn't seen Jane since the December before the pandemic began, so it's been more than a year and a half.
We had heard from a family member that Jane was now using a wheelchair most of the time, so I made a quilt of the right size for her to cover her legs when it gets colder. I used fabrics with flowers (48 different ones!) and coordinating solids; she has always loved flowers and, in fact, before retirement worked in the local flower shop.
We had a nice visit with our friend and then were on our way to the feed and grain store for oiled sunflower seeds, each of us deep in thought about Jane's situation.
She's so frail and thin, so shaky and so often unable to complete a thought. But still with her lovely smile, still her same relational self, asking, as she always did, "How are your kids? How are the grandchildren?"
Jane's room is a single, which is great, but it's pretty small. With the wheelchair at the right angle for the television, the guest chair was wedged between the bed and the window. I perched on the edge of it and Joe stood. The guest chair was utilitarian and the chest of drawers wasn't anything I remembered from Jane's apartment. There was a plain green bedspread that didn't look like Jane's taste. When we left, I could see identical furnishings in the other rooms. "Bleak" is too strong a word; "uniform" and "institutional" are more accurate. I guess I had been thinking about personal care, where a person is able to bring a small amount of furniture from the apartment. The personnel we interacted with were helpful and cheerful and the aides we passed in the hall were pleasant; I am sure Jane is receiving excellent care. I don't know how much interaction she has with her neighbors or whether there are a communal dining room and organized activities.
Jane and her hubby had no children. But she has a devoted brother and spectacular sister and a whole boatload of nieces and nephews who adore her. I can't imagine that she lacks for visitors. The complex has a reputation for excellent food. So, all things considered, Jane's quality of life is probably as good as it could be.
But still. The visit was a reminder that we are all getting older, and that things don't always go the way we would have planned.