People talk about the fact that there are thousands of people in nursing homes across our country who are living out the ends of their lives alone. Families have left/dumped/dropped-off relatives in order to have someone else take care of them. Others are visited sporadically. Still more have turned into ornery individuals who no one WANTS to visit. As you think about volunteer opportunities that your entire family will benefit from and even be deemed a tad enjoyable, think about spending time at an area skilled nursing facility (read: nursing home). Not all nursing homes smell, not all of them have inattentive people caring for the residents and almost every one of those facilities would appreciate your presence.
Think about Dad having fishing or golf conversations with an older gentleman who hasn’t had that level of stimulating conversation in ages. Think about the daughter who could talk about fashion to the one woman in the nursing facility dressed to the nines (the same woman who wonders why everyone around her is so poorly attired!). Also keep in mind the video-fixated son who can talk about conquering the flag (figuratively for him, reality for a war veteran). Last, the Mom who can relate to another individual who was responsible for raising his/her own children during a recession, subject to massive couponing and budgeting.
There are programs that allow pet owners to bring their small-medium sized animals to the residential home so that all there can reap the benefits of unconditional love–if only for 30 minutes. There is a program middle school children can participate in which allows an interesting connection with those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. It requires middle schoolers to read aloud to them. It’s a safe environment that engenders learning and connection. With the majority of nursing homes advertising dementia units, this is an ideal place to put into place the Sweet Readers concept, if not the actual Sweet Readers program. There doesn’t have to be a prescribed program–you can sit and knit, watch television, massage their hands (if okay with them), walk with them through the facility–whatever. It’s about spending time.
National Nursing Home Week, National Volunteer Day/Week, National WHATEVER are all times for you, us, me to do something.
Do it. Spend some time with people who have provided us a history to read about. Take an opportunity to laugh with someone who tells the same funny story over and over again. You’ll feel better for it.