Have a Drink! Mom's Retirement Home Trial Stay Was a Bust.

Have your parents ever done a trial stay at a retirement home? It can be a very interesting experience for them and for you. You may think, "This place is great! The woman at the front desk is so nice and mom really likes her. With mom's broken wrist this will be the perfect place for her to rest and regain her strength. She might even decide to move in!"

And after much discussion and digression, your mom finally agrees to test out the local retirement home. But just because she decides to try it doesn’t mean she’ll decide to like it. Or that she’ll decide to stay. In fact, you may find that while she’s testing the retirement home (and changing her mind most every day), your frustration leads you to test the latest selections from the liquor store.

The bedspread is lovely

For the first few days everything seems to work. Mom is amazed at the thoughtful staff, she’s crazy about her room and one of the residents turns out to be an old friend from church. And the bedspread is lovely. By day three or four you’re hearing all about the fantastic food and the pleasant dinner companions at her table. She’s seriously considering what it would be like to live here full time.


Then another week passes and it begins: the food is too spicy, it is upsetting her stomach and they don’t have anything else. The A/C in her room is too cold, she can’t get her usual TV channels and the bedspread is much too heavy. It’s high school all over again and your mom sounds like a spoiled brat.  Drink!

Personal assistants

Now it's the third week and her comments about the wonderful staff increase exponentially. That may be because they are at her side night and day —even though this is an independent living retirement community. Mom is supposed to be doing more things for herself in order to regain her strength but you'd never know it. For some reason she cannot brush her teeth even though it's her left wrist that's broken and she’s right-handed. She's gotten the staff (her new personal assistants) to do it.  And, you've been running errands for her almost every day and when you're not, she's calling to 'chat' and invite you to dinner. Drink!

I’m not myself

Another week goes by and the respite stay is extended because mom “couldn’t really go home with my wrist like this” (i.e. without her personal staff to accompany her).

But soon a new element is added to the mix; mom doesn’t feel like ‘herself’' and she feels a bit depressed. Turns out that even though she eats with her church friend and her posse, she doesn’t do much afterwards but go to her room. She attends some of the activities but she doesn’t really engage. Even she is surprised by this lack of involvement. Another day passes and again she complains that she's not herself.

The happy bachelor

What exactly does "not herself" mean? Your dad meanwhile is exactly himself at home; he’s doing exactly as he likes and enjoying his newfound bachelorhood immensely.  One day he even said he was too busy (driving around town with the license he should no longer have) to visit your mother. This pleased or hurt her—it’s hard to tell which. Drink!


Four weeks have now passed and it’s time for mom to come home. The staff has politely told both of you that they can’t continue to cater to her like this because they have lots of other residents to assist.

No man's land

Congratulations. You have entered the no-man’s land portion of the retirement home trial stay. Is this a dead end? Will mom and dad ever move? They clearly can’t manage another winter at home. This initiative that began on such a positive note, looks like a dismal and expensive failure. Drink!

No. It’s not really time to drink; it’s time to think. Encourage mom to get some therapy. Scrap that idea—make mom get some therapy and find out what’s at the bottom of her uncharacteristically anti-social behaviour.  Everyone’s disappointed but first you need answers.

You can never tell how a trial stay will turn out until you’ve experienced it. That’s why it’s called a trial. For you it certainly was but it was also a trial in many ways for your mom. Encourage her to talk about her feelings. Hopefully you'll get some answers before you return to the liquor store.


Related articles:

Men and depression: Seven things you need to know now

The real deal: Life at Seasons Retirement Homes

Sunrise Men's Club: A night out with the boys

VIDEO: Life in a retirement home. What's it really like?

I've moved into a retirement residence - now what?

Have you done a trial stay at a retirement home? Share your experiences in the Comments below.


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