Visiting the nursing home isn’t always easy. Can you leave your own troubles behind, to tend to the troubles of the people you visit? Are you afraid to shout into deaf ears, to look into blind eyes, and to hold hands with someone who isn’t physically attractive?
Nursing Home outreach is one of the most challenging fields of volunteering. Can you be one of the brave ones, who accepts the challenge to visit those who society has shut away?
If you fear death and don’t want that fear intensified by seeing it on many faces where I live, don’t come.
If strange behavior bothers you, don’t come. Some of us have receded from reality. Some reality is too painful to face.
If you find it difficult to communicate with people who can’t immediately give you a warm positive response, don’t come.
If you would feel uncomfortable shouting into my deaf ears or talking to my unfocusing eyes, don’t come.
If you have problems that need to be solved, don’t come. Stay home and solve them, don’t come share them with me. I have my own problems that overwhelm me. I can’t help you.
If you expect that I can return your first smile and invite you to sit down for a stimulating conversation, don’t come. I might just as likely frown at you and make you feel unwanted.
But if you could understand how I feel deep down inside, you’d not feel rejected. You’d somehow know that I need your friendship even more than if I could smile and welcome you.
I have no one. My family and friends are gone; I’ve outlived them all. There’s no one to give me the 24-hour nursing care I now need. I understood this when I came here, and I’ve told myself many times that this nursing home is the only place for me.
But I’ve ached with loneliness so long that I now feel only bitterness. This is why I may not smile at you at first, if you come. I hope God can forgive me; I can’t seem to feel otherwise.
I don’t think I really matter as a person anymore. I can do very little for myself and nothing for others. Modern drugs have kept me alive beyond my years of usefulness.
My world has been reduced to monotonous meals on trays in bed, pills for pain at regular intervals and services of nurses for my bodily functions. Having to let others take care of my simplest needs drains me of my dignity as a human being.
Now that you may understand how I feel –
Can you come to see me and keep coming so that I can dare to trust you not to desert me? I have nothing to offer you except my memories, and often they’re confused. But perhaps if I can share them out loud, I can begin to think more clearly.
Have you the patience to hear out my bitterness until I’ve emptied myself of it? Can you bring news of what goes on outside this place to reinstate reality to me before it’s too late – before the shell of senility enshrouds me?
Can you come to give me something to think about besides myself; my narrow world, and my death? If not, don’t come.
But if you don’t come, please pray to God that He may move the heart of someone who can come to visit me. He knows that I need a friend.
By Myrth Hudgins
reprinted with kind permission of The Sonshine Society