“Mom, please, no, please don’t make me go. Those places make me sick to my stomach.”
I begged and pleaded with my mom as she grabbed her purse and replied, “You’re going. Get in the car.”
I wasn’t trying to be a whiny kid, but every time I stepped into a hospital or nursing home, I felt nauseous. I was the kid who passed out during an x-ray for scoliosis in 6th grade and when getting shots for a missions trip in 11th grade.
My mom, however, would have none of it. “Just take a deep breath, and you’ll be fine.”
My childhood is filled with memories of visiting our elderly relatives in the hospital, nursing homes, or in their homes. Mom not only made regular visits to family, she also visited members of our church who were stuck at home due to illness or the lack of physical ability to leave the house.
My Dad and I often would do magic shows at local nursing homes. (What, you didn’t know that about me?!) We’d perform a half hour of magic, juggling, and ventriloquism for the residents. I’m not sure how much they caught or understood, but it must have been a welcome change of routine.
Now that I’m the parent, it has become a natural part of our routine to take our kids with us to visit elderly relatives. We continually remind them how blessed they are to have such good memories of so many great-grandparents. I’m thankful my mom forced me to tough it out with my anxiety, because as an adult, memories of my great-great aunts and great grandparents are some of my most treasured.
This holiday season, here are 4 simple ways to care for the elderly in your family and community.
Whether it’s a phone call, a handwritten letter, or sending pictures, be sure to include the elderly in your holiday updates. Send a little extra note in your card, maybe include an extra couple pictures, or have your kids send drawings or notes too. Let them know you see them, think of them, and love them, no matter how far away you might live.
Over the years, we’ve loved using the Postagram app that takes pictures from our phones and sends them in the mail as postcards. On a regular basis, we’ll snap a fun photo of the kids or the dogs, or a special activity we’ve done and have it sent to all the great grandparents. Their fridges are dotted with these fun little photo postcards we’ve sent over the years.
Take advantage of Skype or FaceTime to include elderly relatives in family gatherings, concerts or plays they might not be able to physically attend.
If at all possible, work a visit into your holiday travels. My grandmother lives in an assisted living facility halfway between our home and my parents. Whenever we make the 5-hour trek to my parents’ house, we plan to take her to lunch or stay for a couple hour visit. We’ve even made her place the gathering spot for holidays. One year we and my parents reserved hotel rooms in the town where Grandma lives. We had our Christmas get together in the lobby of the hotel and then took Grandma out for a special party at my aunt’s house nearby.
3. Get Creative
My children’s piano teacher holds piano recitals at a local assisted living facility. The facility has a piano in the lobby area, and we drag in chairs and set up snacks. A number of residents join us for the recital and snacks afterward. During the Christmas recital last year, it was fun to hear a number of the residents quietly sing along to the Christmas carols the students played.
Whenever we visit my Grandma, I remind the kids to take their piano books. They’ll play their most recent songs for her on the baby grand piano in the lobby, and a number of the residents will sit and listen too. There’s always a small, applauding crowd by the time they finish.
Call a local nursing home or assisted living facility and find out who doesn’t get regular visits. See if you can bring flowers, carol in the hallways, or drop off a tray of cookies for the residents. Maybe they’ll allow your kids to perform a special play or do a music program. Maybe you could host a tea party. The options are endless!
Are pets allowed? Maybe they’d love a visit with your furry family members too. (My Grandma loooves when we bring our dogs with us!)
Make sure you pray for the elderly in your community this holiday. Send written out prayers in your letters or text messages. Pray with them in person when you go visit. Ask God to help them know they are seen and loved and not forgotten. Ask Him to help them see the purpose and value their lives have in this season. Ask God to help you show your love and value for them.
Do you have anything you’d add to this list? How do you love and care for the elderly in your family and community?
Giveaway! Leave a comment below to win a copy of Cynthia Ruchti’s new book “As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love and Change.”
As My Parents Age: a helpful resource for caregivers
As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love and Change by Cynthia Ruchti is a beautiful and encouraging book for anyone with aging parents. It’s not a “how to” but rather a “me too” filled with insight and wisdom from the experiences of others, Scripture, and poetry.
November is national caregiving month. Pick up a copy for yourself or a friend as a gift. It’s a beautiful, hard-bound book, with short, engaging chapters. Skip around the book to read the topics you’re facing now, or read it cover to cover as a devotional type of reading.
Also, please check out the prayers for the Elderly and Caregivers in Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community.
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