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Grandpa's Story

Henry, my grandpa, was born in 1920 and grew up in a family that fled from the landlord in the middle of the night to avoid paying rent during the Great Depression. Grandpa moved into his own home in 1954 and preferred to remain there until he passed away because home provided a sanctum of stability and comfort. After my grandmother died in 2001, Grandpa decided that he could care for himself in spite of a multitude of chronic illnesses.

We set up Life Alert. My mother, Gerre, invited him often for dinner when he still drove and brought him meals when he finally stopped driving. My mother took him to the grocery store, the barber, the doctor, the emergency room, and the drug store while she simultaneously had to be a mother and professional. He fell many times. My family brought in a stair glide to enable him to sleep in his upstairs bedroom. They put in handrails and removed throw rugs. They hired a cleaning lady. Grandpa almost died in 2003 from aspirating pneumonia and spent time in various nursing homes. He rallied and returned to his beloved home but he was so lonely. When my mother called and asked him about his day, he responded, “Where is there to go? What is there to do?”

Every time my mother mentioned that it was time to consider moving to independent living where he would have good nutrition and develop some friendships, he waved his hand in dismissal. Looking at the accumulation of stuff acquired in 50 years of never throwing anything away, he would tell her that it was too difficult, too overwhelming. Anything that didn’t require food could remain in his home and so it did. In 2005, Grandpa was hospitalized 7 times for COPD and aspirating pneumonia. He refused to cooperate with the doctors’ orders and was released from the hospital only to return again to the emergency room, sometimes on the same day. He had another stint in the nursing home where my mother spoke often about the urgency of moving to a safer place. He continued to resist, presenting her with a list of reasons why he couldn’t afford to move. Every reason centered on an expense that he would no longer have once he sold the home. In desperation, he finally said, “I’m just not a social person!” 

He ultimately agreed to temporarily move to a model apartment at a nearby retirement community with his desk and clothes. Grandpa’s desk symbolized control because it’s where he paid bills and reviewed investments. Moving Grandpa’s desk to the respite made all the difference in his willingness to try something new. After three days he told my mother that he’d like to stay. In the next few years, he enjoyed good meals, friendships, and fewer hospitalizations. Grandpa even told my mother, “you saved my life.”

In many ways, independent living provided my Grandpa with a social experience and camaraderie he had not experienced since he was a young man. Grandpa spent most birthdays with his family during his adult life. When my mother asked him one year about what he wanted to do for his birthday, he responded by saying that “I would like to be with my friends.”

This inspired my mother to start Senior Move Services because she wanted to help other people achieve the same quality of life that my Grandpa enjoyed.