My gran played a big role in my life throughout my childhood and I spent a while living with her in Blackpool when I was small. Later, she moved from Lancashire to Milton Keynes so she could be closer to us in London. But this still wasn’t close enough so my family eventually moved to Milton Keynes as well. She made the move in 1985 and has lived in the same house for the last 28 years.
While she’s always been fiercely independent, and despite very limited mobility due to arthritis in her knees, she’s always chosen to stay put in her home. A few weeks ago though, she announced that it was time for her to move. While this came as a surprise it was also a huge relief. She’s going to move in with my parents once they’ve made some alterations to their home to make it more accessible and comfortable for her.
Most of the rest of this post is an open letter to my gran and to anyone else who’s taken the big decision to move out of their home because it no longer meets their needs.
I have very fond memories of being with you in your home. Of turning your living room into an elaborate complex of tents, of sitting on the kitchen worktop while you washed me in the sink, of trying to lie still while you sang me to sleep. Later on I remember, when you had cable TV installed and I was bursting with excitement about it, how you patiently insisted that I did my homework first before watching anything.
The home you created is one where everybody’s always been made to feel welcome and comfortable. But it’s you that made it a home, not the rooms themselves.
I understand the creeping realisation that your home is no longer comfortable for you. I remember how being on my own where I used to live gradually stopped feeling normal and started feeling frightening. I don’t know if you’ve ever got stuck on the floor or had a near miss on the stairs, and I don’t imagine you’d tell us if you did, but I know I hid a lot of how hard I was finding things from those who cared about me.
I found ways to manage of course, to live in just one room, to crawl on my hands and knees or push things across the floor, and to stay indoors and watch the days drift past. I was waiting for things to get better. I allowed a list of excuses and meaningless statements to muddle my mind whenever I started thinking about moving:
• Things aren’t that bad yet
• Moving would be such a big upheaval
• Why go through all the bother when it’ll probably get easier again soon
• Ground floor flats are so gloomy, and much less secure
• Now’s not a good time – perhaps in a few months
But I was lucky to have friends and family who challenged my thinking and supported me with the practicalities. There’s not been a moment since taking that step when I’ve regretted the decision or wished I’d waited longer. It was only when I moved that I realised how truly restricted and unsafe I’d been.
I felt so pleased when I heard you’d made the same choice. Lots of the adaptations that my parents are making will be really helpful for me too and I can’t wait for you to show me how to use the stair lift. It’ll be great to have you there as part of their household and it’ll make it an even better place for all of us.
Grandma, I hope you already know that by choosing to move and asking for help you won’t be losing your independence, you’ll be gaining more freedom and choice. You’ll only have to ask when you need something, or whenever problems need to be sorted out.
You’ve spent your whole life caring for other people in many different capacities. I’ve never forgotten the immense care and love you gave to me. It’s present with me always and has helped shape who I am. So when you need care we’re all here to help you.
Wishing you loads of happiness and with loads of love,
(P.S. please stroke the cat for me.)
For anyone facing a similar situation whatever the circumstances, being frightened by the thought of a big change is only natural, but don’t let that stop you from making a decision that might open up the world for you in a new way.
I’m really pleased I chose to move when I did, and that I didn’t wait for a crisis to make the decision for me.