Even at an early age, children/babies can be such blessings to the old. I know this and even wrote about it a few years back (How to Bless by Baby), but recently I was reminded of how I need to bring my children to visit the elderly more often. Yes, they see their great grandma all the time, but there are other people within a mile’s range of house that can be blessed through my children. Really, there’s no reason we should keep all their smiles and cuteness to ourselves.
So I know…the idea of visiting an assisted living facility or nursing home is not really what most parents would choose to do on their day off. I get it. A lot of nursing homes don’t smell good and it can be depressing being around so many sick and frail people. Here are my FAQs on this topic. Please do share any suggestions or comments!
- What do you do if you as an adult don’t like visiting nursing homes?
Yes, the smell of nursing homes, at least the ones that are not as well maintained can be pretty unpleasant at times. My first tip is to think about the fact that the residents you are visiting probably are not so thrilled about living in a nursing home either. You can come and go, but they are staying there for much more than a short visit, far longer than 24 hours. They probably did not want to move in if they had a choice and likely they are grieving the loss of independence, privacy, relationships and more. Most have transitioned from their homes to a room, which they may have to share with a stranger even. As humans, we love comfort, but consider taking a risk and stepping out of your comfort zone (for even 10 minutes) realizing that even a short and minimal effort visit can really brighten another person’s day.
2. What are your suggestions for bringing children to visit seniors?
- Short visit are okay (for adults and children!) In college, I used to visit the nursing home near campus and sometimes would only have time to visit two residents, for 5 minutes each. What I found was that the frequency of visits is sometimes more important than the length of your visit. Visiting someone in itself shows that you care. Short can be very sweet.
- Use the lollipop strategy aka just make it fun and special for your kids to visit the elderly. Last week, I brought my kids (ages 3 and 1) to visit an elderly man who they do not know at all. Along the way, we met three other friends and got the attention of pretty much every resident that we passed. While my 3 year old daughter is typically shy to strangers, I made the trip fun simply by giving her a lollipop. It made her more cheerful which is always nice and now after visiting a number of times, I can see that she is more comfortable with new people and this surrounding.
- Allow for noise. With two young children, it is quite hard to avoid crying, but I’ve found that though we might assume people want quiet, sometimes the sound of cries can be a treasure for the old and sick. It can spark memories of their parenting days and I think it is just a blessing when people who are near the end of their life hear young vibrant life in their midst. A few months back, I brought my son to visit a family friend in her last weeks of life. Baby Samuel was only 1 and was asleep in his carseat during my entire visit. As I was about to leave my friend’s home, Samuel woke up and started crying really loud. My first instinct was to grab my things and leave but as I was picking up my things to jet out of the house, one of the helpers came downstairs saying that my friend’s mom, who was barely speaking requested to see baby. Baby Samuel just had to sit in her presence. Sometimes all you have to do is bring your children in the presence of the old. And that little effort can bring such joy to someone’s day.
When we go, I tell my daughter that when people just SEE her it makes them happy. So I encourage her to smile, tell her to say to residents when she sees them remembering that her little self can really brighten these “grandparents'” days!
More FAQs another time? Feel free to send in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org For now, I’m excited for December!