About Carlton Plaza San Jose
A Resident’s View: by Hettie Lou Downing
I became a “take charge” person the year I turned 10 and my mother’s delicate health dictated that I become her substitute. I left home at age 16 to attend the university and became self-supporting. The lessons I learned from “take charge” employment were probably the most valuable part of my education. My years as the wife of a widely-diversified farmer, as an innovative teacher and an internationally-traveled leader in the field of adult literacy, offered many more “take charge” experiences. Nowhere was there space for me to consider what might happen when I would no longer be able to take charge.
That day happened suddenly with no advance warning. A TIA (transient ischemic attach) paralyzed my neck and shoulder muscles. Driving would no longer be an option for me. Neither would living alone.
I had driven past Carlton Plaza San Jose twice a day while it was being built, but I certainly wasn’t going to live in ANY old folks home. Unfortunately, with my TIA, my choices were limited so I surrendered my pretty little condo, my almost-new Buick, my piano and allowed myself to be moved into Carlton Plaza, kicking, screaming and dragging my heels. I went through the painful grief period, and then moved into my new life. That was more than nine years ago.
Both pairs of my grandparents, moved in with first one and then another of their adult children. Like them, I could have given up my personal belongings and isolate myself in different homes, each too far for visits from former friends. Instead, I brought my treasured possessions with me to Carlton where I am still a part of the same neighborhood I have been in since 1938.
Neither privacy nor opportunities for interesting activities were available to my grandparents, nor are they in convalescent hospitals and group homes. Here I can choose to be alone or enjoy companionship. I can also choose a familiar activity or experience new and exciting ones that enrich my life. Especially, I can appreciate the difference between solitude and loneliness.
I have been freed from more than seven decades of bondage to household chores. What a joy to enter my apartment once a week to find it vacuumed, dusted, and aired, and with clean bedding and bathroom accessories! ( A funny little side-note: In the laundry room they have washed 14 socks (7 pairs) a week, 52 weeks a year, for more than 8 years, a total of almost 6,000 socks, and the washing machine has not yet eaten a one of them!)
I have been released from the obligation of time-consuming meal-planning and grocery-shopping, from the dullness of eating alone. Here I can order from a splendiferous variety of items that are pleasing to my palate and wholesome for my body. I dine in an attractive atmosphere with good friends who share life stories, laughter and tears. And I don’t have to wash dishes afterward!
I miss not being able to hop into my car at will and just take off. However, transportation is provided to us for church services, for medical appointments, for a variety of shopping and excursions. And I don’t have to buy gas or pay for car insurance.
As a former farm daughter and farm wife, I miss not having a plot of enriched soil that I can turn over for planting things. But every apartment has widened windowsills, where I set my pots of ivy and fern. Walking around the he building I enjoy seasonal color, the sparkle from the fountain, and a pleasant variety of lovely trees – oh, the wonderful trees! I can still be a farm girl and get dirt under my fingernails!
Most important of all, I think, is that convalescent hospitals and group homes concentrate on physical care. Carlton Plaza takes the holistic approach. There are staff members whose primary responsibility is physical care, but others challenge and encourage us to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I have appreciated that very much. And my kids and adult grandkids think this is a very special “place for Mom.”
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