Tag Archives: nursing home

The Least of These

When my daughter Lillie was about a year old, we decided to “adopt” a grandparent at a nearby nursing home. For the next nine months or so, we visited Mr. Roy, and then he passed away. We waited about a year, then started visiting another resident of the home, Mrs. McCall. We saw her once a week or so for about two and a half years, until she, too, passed away. Though sometimes the visits were hard, I still felt as if it was a good experience for the children.

Since then, we’ve continued to visit the nursing home, though only once a month. Now we go more to entertain the residents, filling a 30-minute activity slot with the children singing and playing musical instruments. Sometimes it’s just my four children and myself; other times, friends are able to join us, and we have quite a large group. After everyone has finished, we spend a few moments going around and greeting and hugging the residents who are there.

Though I know visiting the nursing home is a good service opportunity for our family, I often wonder what sort of impact our visits really have. After all, it’s just 30 minutes out of our month. This week, I’ve been reflecting on it even more.

A close friend of my family in another state has been in a nursing home since early this year. Over the years, her family has drained her finances, leaving her penniless, and though she could function at home with only minimal assistance, they aren’t willing to take her in. They won’t even come to visit her. When my mom, sister, and I went to visit her after Easter, she told all the nurses that we were “her people.”

Yesterday she went into the hospital, and again, no family members came to see this 94-year-old great-great-grandmother. Fortunately, my mother was able to go, as was another close friend.

Though I wish we could go to see her too, I’m glad we are at least able to do what we do. While some residents have family that care, others have no one. So even if it’s just a short program or a visit once a week, time spent with the residents is meaningful. It does make a difference.

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.  Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

A Week of Recitals

This week happens to be a week of recitals for our family. On Wednesday, we’re joining with other homeschooling families to perform for the residents of the local nursing home. The children will play musical instruments, sing, and recite scripture and poems. On Friday, we’ll go to the local college, where Cassie’s flute teacher (a music major there) will accompany her as she plays her solo in front of other students at the school. Saturday is the big piano recital at a nearby church, where John and Lillie will each play two pieces they’ve been working on for the past few months.

I’m not sure how all of these events made it into the same week, but I am sure that I want my children to participate in all of them. Ever since they were small, I’ve tried to take advantage of any opportunity to have them stand in front of an audience and perform. They’ve sung in church on Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and any other day the pastor has asked the children to sing. They’ve recited poetry at talent shows and 4-H Fun Day. They’ve performed in skits and plays.

Do they enjoy it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes they whine and want to quit, but I have them do it anyway. I was involved in music in school, and I understand what it’s like to be anxious when you have to perform in front of others. Even today, I become nervous when I have to speak in front of a group, even a group of people I know well. But I also know it’s a great life-skill to have, and that the more you do it — the more you practice — the easier it is to do. Sometimes the children will mess up. Sometimes they’ll make mistakes. Sometimes they’ll perform perfectly. But every time is a learning experience.

Our friend, Mrs. McCall

For more than two years, my children and I made weekly visits to an area nursing home to see our friend, Virginia McCall.

We didn’t know Mrs. McCall before starting our visits. I had wanted the children to be involved in a service activity, so I called the activities director of the nursing home and asked if there was someone we could “adopt” – someone who needed extra company. And then we met Mrs. McCall.

At first, I thought this would just be an opportunity for the children to do a good deed, and in the process learn how to communicate to older adults, especially those in poor health. What I didn’t realize when we started, though, was how much Mrs. McCall would bless us.

Often when we visited, the children would tell her about their week and what they’d been doing. Sometimes they would show her a new toy or photos from our latest trip. But when we started asking about her childhood, we discovered something new, as she shared with us a history rich in hard work and strong values.

One day this past fall, when we went for our usual visit, the receptionist at the front desk told us Mrs. McCall was in the hospital – she had suffered a stroke. She was doing well for a few days, then took a turn for the worst, so I loaded up the children and we headed out to see her. When we arrived, she wasn’t responding. I talked to her a little, and each of the children held her hand and said “hello.” It was actually good-bye, because about an hour after we left, she passed away. I believe she was waiting to hear from the children, and then she was ready to go.

Mrs. McCall lived a good, full life to the age of 92.  While my original intention for visiting had been to enrich her life, I discovered through our visits that she had greatly enriched ours. By being with her, my children learned compassion, friendship, and generosity; by talking with her, they learned thankfulness, diligence, and contentment. Thank you, Mrs. McCall.