A very successful couple, Maggie and Joe, well into their 80s, had never spent more than 2 weeks apart in their 58 years of marriage.
And as they grew older together in the home they had built some 40 years ago, they determined that they should consider other suitable living arrangements rather than stay in their nearly 4,000 square foot well-appointed residence.
They searched around for months, discussing the challenges of giving up a home they had raised five children in versus what services might be available in some extended higher-end care environment. They finally decided to make a move.
So they sold their home, moved into an independent living facility about 70 miles away and into a quite large two bedroom apartment. Soon after, the Maggie had a stroke, a relatively mild one but still was something that needed attention for a short while.
After some 10 days in the hospital, she would be released with her doctor's permission to return back home to be with her husband and companion. But the administrators at the facility determined that she could not return back "home" as they determined she needed more attentive care including extensive physical therapy, much more than what her doctor had recommended and placed her in a full service nursing care environment, . . . away from her Joe.
Maggie and Joe were heart broken being apart. And though Joe could walk the two long blocks across the facility campus to see his Maggie once or twice a day for the next 6 months, it wasn't like having her around the house. He so missed that in-person 24/7 companionship he had experienced with Maggie but no longer would they share a bed.
Four weeks ago, Maggie attempted to get out of her bed in the nursing home to go to the bathroom. She slipped on the floor just inside the bathroom. She died from hitting her head on the toilet. Staff did not find her body for three hours and sadly,....didn't notify Joe about what happened.
He showed up the next morning to visit Maggie only to discover she was gone, literally.
Joe is now alone. Alone in an environment that is far from what he and Maggie shared together previously. Joe tries to remember life with Maggie by going thru old picture books, many filled with fading Polaroid photos of trips, of family and of their home. He is filled with grief for loosing his wife, as one can imagine, but he also contemplates about how life might have turned out had they stayed in their own home, perhaps turning that third bedroom into a space for a caregiver to watch over the two of them. He blames himself for the decision to move.
Aging in place is not about just safety and security in a home with few barriers. It is about maintaining ones independence, choosing how life should be and who you should be with in those later years.