Tonight we went back to volunteer at Chesterbrook Residences, the assisted living community where my husband’s mother spent her last two years. Our experience with this facility was stellar, and we both want to give something back because of how much support we received when Mother lived there,
The two of us arrived in time for supper, assisting in the dining room for over two hours. We helped residents choose food and get seated. Throughout the dinner hour we parked walkers in out-of-the-way places, scooped ice cream for dessert, and served coffee, tea, and drinks. (Many people seem to need a lot of encouragement to drink liquids.)
Our plan is to volunteer at dinner every other Friday, and tonight was great fun.
Although it has been over six weeks since Mother died, many residents still remember her fondly and told us how much they miss her. A few have already forgotten who she is but vaguely recognized us. However, lots of people, staff members and residents, greeted us like old friends. We observed that some of the residents seemed to have aged in the seven weeks we have been away. When Mother was alive we were at Chesterbrook almost every day, so incremental health and aging changes were less noticeable. Of course some folks have not changed at all.
As I walked around the dining room chatting with residents, I was continuously reminded of the range of experiences and the great wealth of knowledge in the room — filled with individuals who have achieved, travelled, and lived rich lives. All now need some level of assistance, but living at Chesterbrook enables them to remain in their apartments with nurses always nearby. From time-to-time one senses how frustrating the getting old process feels to them.
The Chesterbrook community was a gift to our family. It enabled Mother to live semi-independently in a caring community, surrounded by her own possessions, less than five minutes from our house. There was plenty for her to do and a staff that was and is dedicated and enthusiastic.We were able to eat with her and have her to our house for meals on a regular basis. The three of us enjoyed going out together to restaurants and concerts for most of the two years. When she needed extra assistance, we were able to hire aides so she could remain in her Chesterbrook apartment.
We each wore one of Mother’s aprons while we were on the job in the dining room.