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)