Today in the mail, I received a thank-you note from a nursing home resident who lives about a mile up the road. It was quite touching, as I had merely taken her a magazine and a muffin a few days prior. She told me that she “savored every bite” of that treat. Although I know in my heart that visits and little gifts are appreciated by the elderly, it seems this heartfelt thank-you note once again brought that fact to the forefront.
As my mother-in-law got older, she lived with my husband and me a few different times. A point came when she grew to be semi-handicapped and needed more assistance than we could provide. She decided that she wanted to move into a retirement nursing facility. We spent quite a bit of time finding a suitable one. The place she chose was about 90 miles away from where we lived. We made the decision to move to the same city in order to give her extra help and to be closer. We knew that she would enjoy coming to our place to visit. During our many trips to the home, it was easy to see how many of the residents would “light up” when we…or anyone else…would stop to talk, even for a few minutes. Just a simple “hello” seemed to mean so much.
Unfortunately, my mother-in-law passed away this year, and after a period of grieving, I returned to the home to check on a few of her friends. One of the attendants told me that I’d probably be surprised at the number of people who rarely received visitors. Some of them even have children living in the same city…or not that far away! That was tough to hear. What a shame that society often puts these old folks, who still have so much to give, on a shelf somewhere…seemingly out of the way.
I knew that one of the ladies, who seldom had visitors, was about to celebrate a birthday, so I took her a card and some candy. She made me feel as though I had given her a lump of gold! No, it doesn’t take much to please them. Even magazines and catalogs get quite a reaction. The residents say that although they don’t buy much anymore, they still love to look. Some homemade cookies can be a nice surprise. One of their favorite activities, actually, is just sitting outside enjoying the fresh air and having a conversation. There are groups of singers, piano players, volunteers and the like who regularly spend time at these types of facilities. That is wonderful; however, nothing can replace that one-on-one attention.
We all get busy, but generally are more than willing to donate an hour a month. I’m glad I made that decision. Do you know someone who is a shut-in? Perhaps you have an acquaintance in a retirement facility or know a person who lives alone. Maybe you’d just like to build a new friendship. You can truly make a difference in a life by simply calling or stopping to visit a senior. Even more importantly, you are giving yourself a gift. These older people have so much experience and knowledge. They’ve led interesting lives, peppered with details that are intriguing. Maybe you’ll decide to surprise a couple of nursing home residents or shut-ins sometime soon. Go ahead…make their day…and yours too.
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