In just a few days, an elderly friend of mine will begin her residency at a convalescent center. It’s a reasonably efficient and caring place, and the care that residents receive is rated highly.
This move won’t be easy for my friend: This will feel like “the last place” she’ll live. Most likely she will be institutionalized there until the time of her death. This is still another step-down: From her original home to an assisted living facility’s several levels of increasing care—and now to this place where “home” has shrunken to the size of a shared room. Sparse surroundings compared to the rich environment of her present apartment, and a very real putting-aside most of the possessions that have previously given her some measure of joy in life.
I’ve known other folks for whom their last place was a dreaded location, a certain sign of impending frailty and death. Not what they had in mind when they thought they could grow old and die in the comforts of their own homes. Not what their loved ones would have preferred, either.
As we age toward frailty, moving to any last place is a distinct possibility, if for no other reason than our increasing need for specialized, around-the-clock care. If we remain in our own homes, well-being is still possible: In-home caregivers and therapists can provide some elements of skilled nursing. Institutions may seem foreboding, but they can also be the best place to find intensive nurture.
How can my friend live fully at this stage in life, in this last place before her Heavenly home? Right now I’m not entirely sure, but I am certain of this: I’m going to help make this a dwelling place where she can reside with continuing joy, spirituality and meaning.