Monday, October 29, 2012

Blog 49: The Lonely And Forgotten, My First Day As A Volunteer

Today I started my first day as a volunteer at a local nursing home.  I job shadowed a woman whose job is to push a juice cart down the halls and offer juice and cookies to the residents.  When she is finished with that, she wheels them into the dining hall for lunch.  This was a good way for me to go into all of the rooms and see the people and get an idea of who resides there.

The woman I was working with has been doing this job for six years.  She is 84 years old and rides a bus to and from the nursing home, spending $8 a day on bus fare.  She told me she is getting tired of the bus, and I started thinking to myself that maybe I can pick her up on the days I go there.  Her husband was a resident and passed away at this very place.  One of the staff told me she is getting very confused and she has fallen a few times.  This is her job though, and she takes it very seriously.  Clearly, this is what she lives for.

I would like to say that this isn't a totally new experience for me.  About 12-14 years ago, I had organized a small group of junior high school students for weekly visits to a local nursing home near the school.  It was a very rewarding experience for the students, as well as for me.   I had sign up sheets and it became a very popular thing for the kids to want to do, and this program continued for two years.  I'd have to say that just as the kids couldn't wait to go to the rooms of their favorite residents, I was the same way!  We had one to one visits as well as planned group activities where the students worked with the residents on art projects, playing the piano, playing board games and cards, and singing songs with them.  That was such a wonderful memory for me, and I have heard from some of my students today, that they still think of that time.

Back to today, one thing I noticed about this nursing home is that everyone uses a wheelchair, and many of them look to be in their final stages of life.   This is what many nursing homes are like, though.  There were a few people that struck a chord with me.  One woman was sitting in her wheelchair by the window.  She had very long, gray hair, and it was all matted in the back.  She spoke rather well, but I could soon tell she is suffering with some sort of dementia.  She was watching a couple of Mexican workers doing some repair work outside and she said that one of them is her son and he comes there everyday to see her through the window.  Neither of the men seemed to pay any attention to her, yet she was marveling at her 'son'.   I'm sure he was not her son,  aside from the fact that he didn't notice her, she is caucasian.

Another man was sitting in the assisted dining hall, in his wheelchair and facing the wall.  I didn't notice what he was watching, as I was more interested in meeting him.  He said he would like some juice.  He is one of the residents that needs some thickening agent in the juice, so I made it for him and placed it in his hands.  I glanced at the wall he was facing to see what he was watching on the television, and saw that there was nothing there but a blank wall.  That made me sad.  I think he's going to be one of the men I'm going to want to spend time with.  But I don't know how responsive he is yet.

Then there was a woman laying in her bed, who seemed rather weak, but was able to speak with some effort.  She looked very sickly, but not too old.  She told me she was 58 years old.  That's only two years older than me!  I don't know her story yet.  It made me count my blessings that even though I am right under her in years, I am still very active and able to enjoy my life.

One more person I want to tell you about is a woman who was sitting in her wheelchair, holding and admiring a little doll.  I knelt by her and asked her what the baby's name is.  She didn't have any teeth in.  She seemed to want to say something but all she did was smile when I spoke to her.  I put the doll's hat on and this little old woman smiled back at me.

This facility is a nice place and seems to have a lot of staff moving about, tending to the residents.  As with all nursing homes, there are certain odors that just go with the territory.  I am pretty sure I can get used to that.  There might be a bit of a communication problem with some of the residents because they only speak Spanish, and for those people, I guess hand gestures and hugs will have to do.  I'll take it one day at a time, and learn as I go.

I'm sure that there will be lots of interesting stories to tell, but obviously this blog is about my mom, so I don't intend to share too much about my volunteer work on this site.  I think that visiting these residents will help me feel like I am doing something to help someone, since I am not able to be there on a regular basis for my mom.   I'm hoping, somehow, this will help me deal with that.

It's really sad seeing people who are at the end of their lives.  I have the desire and feel that it's important for me to contribute to my community, and I can't think of a better way to do it than this.  I hope that it works out, and that it will be a good thing for all.  It's going to take some strength on my part, but I believe I have it.

"Dear Lord, please wrap your arms around those who are hurting today and let them know that you love them."


  1. So glad you are there to give them a smile and be a friendly face for them. Bless you.

  2. It is wonderful that you are doing this for the residents. The title for this post is very fitting. So often, the elderly are forgotten and put into nursing homes with little comfort and love. I am sure that you wish most to be visiting the home that your mother resides in, but I think it is a very kind thing that you are doing. Our Heavenly Father will surely appreciate that you are caring for His people.