Dad also says he is happy . . . but I am not so sure.

By Steve Moran

I have this friend — well actually two friends — Bob, who is in his 80s, and his daughter, Marlene, who I am pretty sure is in her 50s. A number of months ago, Bob’s wife of more than 50 years died, and he and his family decided it was time for him to move out of the family home and into an assisted living community.

The Usual Stuff

They toured a number of communities near the daughters home, looked at all the usual stuff — location, amenities and price — then made a choice. Dad has now been there about 4 months and the daughter is very happy. She can and does visit regularly. Dad has all his regular physical needs taken care of — he eats well, bathes regularly, takes his meds when he is supposed to.

Dad also says he is happy . . . but I am not so sure.

The Problem

One could argue that if daughter is happy and dad is happy, that is the perfect situation. But what if the only reason they are happy is because they cannot see that it could be better, that it could be a lot better. I am fearful that from the mutual perspective of Bob and his daughter, all Bob has to look forward to is the hereafter. He has nothing to live for, really no reason to live.

Here Is How I Know

Every week when I see Bob at church I ask him how his week was and he tells me that nothing happened in his life that week, not since he moved into his senior living community.  As I talked to his daughter about this, she tells me the staff is great. They are in his unit several times a day, checking on him. They invite him to activities but he is just not interested. So what else can they do?

Start Asking

I am pretty sure that as long as the community continues to ask Bob to come be a participant in activities nothing will change. After all, that is all they can do. Except that maybe the approach, at least for Bob, is completely wrong.

I would propose with great certainty that if Bob were asked to help with some activity he would be glad to get involved. It is just that asking residents to do anything is so way outside our current paradigm of thinking when it comes to life enrichment.

Better Than Ever

We do great things in our industry but it is likely that we could do better helping our residents living longer, purposeful happier lives. An important part of that could be putting more energy into asking for help and less into offering help.