Thursday Book Feature: The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter’s Memoir

By Mary Hiland

Copyright 2017.

 

In 2012, Mary Hiland, legally blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, was forced to move her 96-year-old  mother, blind, deaf, and suffering from dementia, to an assisted living facility. At the time, Mary was living in Columbus, Ohio, and her mother was miles away in Indiana.

After describing the circumstances necessitating this difficult decision, Mary explains how she, with the help of her son and daughter, orchestrated the move to a facility in Columbus, where Mary could more easily care for her mother. Although Mary wasn’t her mother’s personal caregiver, she was still responsible for her bank statements and laundry, making doctor and other appointments, and dealing with the facility staff.

She reminisces about her childhood and her relationship with her mother. She describes a trip they took through the British Isles years earlier when her mother was starting to go downhill.

Mary provides insight on what it’s like to be blind, answering many frequently asked questions by sighted people about how blind people do certain things. She tells several humorous anecdotes about mistakes she made as a result of her blindness, like the time she made chili with canned grapefruit instead of beans.

Mary describes the adjustment process her mother went through after leaving Indiana and all her friends and moving to the assisted living center in Ohio, where she lived for two and a half years before she passed. Her mother eventually made friends with other residents at the facility, even though she couldn’t remember their names. Mary describes the group activities in which she and her mother participated. She eventually started an unofficial red hat group there as an attempt to help her mother and other women at the facility become more socially involved.

Mary describes the healing power of music during this time. Her mother played the piano, and after moving to the assisted living facility, she often played for the residents. One gentleman even sang while she accompanied him. In the end, when her mother was in hospice care and could no longer play the piano, a music therapist brought a key board to her room and played and sang her favorite hymns.

Although I cared for my late husband Bill at home for six years before he passed, I could still relate to Mary’s emotions, especially her guilt. Throughout the book, she keeps saying she could have done things differently. Now that I think back on Bill’s life, I feel the same way. However, in the four years since his death, I’ve come to realize that thinking one could have done things differently doesn’t do any good now. I certainly hope Mary has come to realize this, too.

The scenes in the book where music played a role nearly moved me to tears. I was once a registered music therapist, working with nursing home residents. After Bill suffered his strokes, I couldn’t do for him, as a music therapist, what I could have done for other residents like Mary’s mother. I wish a music therapist could have been available to work with Bill on singing in order to improve his speech. During Bill’s last days, instead of me playing the guitar or holding his hand and singing his favorite songs, I wish a music therapist could have played a keyboard and sang songs while I held his hand and sang along.

This book is similar to my own memoir, My Ideal Partner, in which I explain how I met and married and then cared for Bill after he suffered his strokes until he passed away. We’ll all grow old eventually and may need to move to an assisted living facility or depend on someone to care for us in our last years. Therefore, I recommend reading both books for insights on life, aging, and disabilities.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Saturday Song: Wish I Knew You by the Revivalists

Thanks to REBIRTH OF LISA for inspiring me to post this song. My late husband Bill and I didn’t meet until the earlier part of this century. In the summer of 1984, I spent a weekend in Los Angeles, attending my uncle’s wedding. At the time, Bill was living in the area. He once told me he wished our paths had crossed back then. Now that he’s gone, I wonder what might have happened if we had met by chance that June weekend.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Saturday Song: My Sweet Lord by George Harrison

While living in Tucson, Arizona, Dad and I spent the summer of 1971 with Grandma here in Sheridan, Wyoming, so Dad could help with the family business after Grandpa passed. I was ten years old, and my Uncle Jon was in high school. When he wasn’t at football practice or with friends, he and I spent time together listening to music on his cassette player.

Here’s a George Harrison classic that was on one of his tapes. Although I was too young at the time to understand the song’s meaning, the chord progression, electric kazoo solo, and repeated words and phrases resonated with me, and they still do today. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Saturday Song: Amazing Grace–Scottish Bagpipes

Last week when I attended a concert by the U.S. Air Force band in a local park, I heard one lone bagpiper play “Amazing Grace.” He played it three times, and after the first time, I half expected the other band members to present bagpipes and play along with him, but of course they didn’t.

Nevertheless, that lone bagpipe took me back several months to January of this year when I visited my brother and his family in Florida. One day, we attended an epiphany ceremony at a local church where we heard a chorus of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” That was phenomenal.

My mother liked “Amazing Grace,” so I sang it acapela at her memorial service after she passed in 1999. However, she didn’t like bagpipes. Who knows why I’m so taken with this version, which is similar to what I heard in Florida? I hope you find it as moving as I do. Enjoy your Saturday.

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

Saturday Song: I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King

In the summer of 1971 when I was ten years old, my father and I traveled from our home in Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan, Wyoming. Grandpa Johnson passed away the winter before, and Grandma needed Dad to help her with the family business, at least for the summer. Johnson Novelty sold coin-operated machines such as jukeboxes, pool tables, vending machines, and video games to businesses in Sheridan and the surrounding area. We ended up moving to Sheridan a couple of years later.
That summer though, memorable events included a rodeo parade and a picnic in the mountains where an adult family friend and I discovered a cave. There were also numerous trips to bars and other establishments where Dad repaired and serviced machines. Of course I was too young to go into the bars.
I also spent many happy hours in the shop with a couple of girls down the street who were my age. We listened to music on a jukebox and played games. Pinball and bowling were two games where I had marginal success despite my limited vision.
The song below was one of many we played on the jukebox. Although I couldn’t understand what it was saying, I loved the beat. This version has a cool drum rift at the end that my younger brother Andy would have loved playing along with on his drum set when he was a kid. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

Saturday Song: Heart and Soul by Hoagy Carmichael

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Lessons Learned from Dad Re-Visited

Note: I’m re-blogging this post from June 2013. Dad passed away two months after this went live. Enjoy, and happy Father’s Day.

***

My fondest childhood memories are of Dad and me listening to music together. Dad loved to play the old standards on those scratchy long-playing records by such artists as Fats Waller and Nat King Cole. These songs taught me lessons that I’m pretty sure Dad wanted me to learn.

If “The Joint is Jumpin,” you’re going to get in trouble. No man will like you if “Your Feet’s Too Big.” You’d better “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” I also learned to appreciate “Seafood, Mama” but not until I was an adult.

Dad also tried to teach me the value of money. He thought he’d succeeded until I sold my wheelchair accessible van last month because Bill was gone, and I no longer needed it. George, who responded to my ad, asked if I could take a thousand dollars off the asking price because the switch on the back of the vehicle that automatically opened the doors to the lift didn’t work, and the lift needed to be re-sized to fit his electric wheelchair. Because he appeared to be in desperate need of this vehicle, I agreed. Dad was livid. He claimed that it wouldn’t have cost a thousand dollars to fix these problems, but what he didn’t understand was a lesson I didn’t learn from him.

Although money is important, being helped and passing on that good deed to another is more valuable. Several years ago, Bill and I really wanted a van we could use to go places at night and on weekends when the local paratransit service wasn’t running. We were lucky to find someone willing to sell us such a vehicle at a price we could afford. When George came to my home in response to my ad, I could tell right away he was in the position we were in several years ago. I didn’t really need that extra thousand dollars, and he needed the van.

I leave you now with another lesson I did learn from Dad via Louis Armstrong. Despite the hateful things going on around us, we live in a “Wonderful World.” To my dad and others reading this, I hope you have a special Father’s Day.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.