May is Older Americans Month. So I am going to focus on the Older Americans who influenced my life!
My mother's mother had a stroke in 1960 at the age of 50. She was able to remain in her home with care from the family and a caregiver for 10 years. However she eventually had to go to a nursing home. She lived in a nursing home for 25 years.
Since the day I was born, I always knew her as the grandmother who lived in a nursing home. That was my normal. We would visit on weekends and holidays like this is what every other family did. However what I realized is that not every other family did that.
I remember this woman who she lived with at the home was always dolled up and sitting near the nurses station watching and talking with all the visitors. She was like the unofficial welcoming committee! As I look back now, I wonder did she have family who visited her? Was she just a social person? Or did she sit up front looking all pretty because she had no visitors.
Many families we work with feel nursing home guilt. They feel guilty because they had to move their mom or dad there. If there is any dementia involved, they probably forget when you visit and accuse you of never coming, even though you are there on a regular basis. It is a horrible feeling and so many families experience it. All I can say is, don't feel guilty. You moved them there for a reason - safety reasons, medical reasons, wandering reasons. Whatever the reason, you felt it was the best place for them.
On the other end of the spectrum if you have never spent anytime in a nursing home, I would encourage you to volunteer for period of time. It can be scary for some people because usually most people who live there are sick, however there are a lot of residents who just cannot live at home anymore. These are people who love to have visitors and truly enjoy the social interaction.
So in honor of Older Americans Month, what can you do to share some of your time with a senior? Volunteer a few hours helping out with the activities department. Offer to bring your child's Girl Scout Troop by for a visit. Ask if they allow pets and bring your dog by for a friendly visit. There are many ways that you can make an impact on a seniors life. So call your local nursing home and ask what they need help with! You will be glad you did.
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