My father had lived in his home for 45 years. He was losing his memory quickly and becoming more confused every day. Loneliness, eating microwave dinners and spending hours in front of the television were all taking their toll. He struggled daily to get by. Dad was the most gregarious person who loved football and sailing. Now, he had no friends, and no one around to whom he made sense. He spent most of his time by himself wondering where he was. He was living in the most elegant home on the beach and had absolutely no quality of life.
Finally, it came time to move him to a secured Alzheimer’s community. We chose the Madrona House. I, of course wanted the best for him. A beautiful private room, a garden, lots of windows…his own furniture.
There was a surprise in store for me. “You might consider a Companion Suite,” the Leasing Director said. “A shared room? My father hasn’t had a roommate since the Navy! The Director looked at me, and after a long pause, very gently, she said, “You know, your father has never lived alone. He lived in his parents’ house…then lived with your mom for 55 years. Even in the Navy, he was never alone. No wonder he is not doing well. He is probably lonely and looking for an old friend. A companion suite would be perfect for him.”
Well, she was so right. My husband and I took him there the next day. I kept thinking…what will I tell him? How will I explain the other man? What if they hate each other? What if, what if?
We walked into the building. Dad smiled at everyone, shook hands, laughed at a few of his own bad jokes and found the path to his new room. We set up his part of the suite nicely with all his own things. We urged him in and there was Martin…the roommate. I held my breath.
“What are you doing here?” Daddy asked him. The rest, as they say, is history.
He got the best care and twice as much of it. Every time the staff went to help Martin they checked in on Dad. Whenever activities began, Martin urged my dad to go with him. They talked about the Navy, complained about their aches and pains, and laughed a lot. They always made sure the other had a sweater and neither was ever late for a meal again. It was perfect. Martin was the best and last friend my father remembered having.
There is little to be gained from living by yourself at 85. Companionship is vital to our spirit. We were not put on this earth to be alone. The staff at Madrona House knew that well before I did. They gave my father the greatest gift; one we all hope for: quality of life until the end.