Any of you that have read a few of my blog posts know that I volunteer each week at a nursing home. I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, it just kind of happened. I work though the Southern Maine Agency on Aging. My original assignments were to visit elderly people in their homes to provide them some company and perhaps pick up their mail or prescriptions, or groceries. One of them was a lovely 96 year old lady named Bea. Unlike most of my other clients however, Bea refused to acknowledge her age and wanted me to take her shopping and to go on walks. This continued until she suffered a fall and could no longer live independently, and was moved into the nursing home. By then we were fast friends so I continued to visit her every week until, at the ripe young age of 102, she left us.
It was then that I realized how much I had enjoyed my visits and that I would miss them almost as much as I missed her. So I made the decision to continue my trips to the home and spend some time with anyone that wanted some company. That is when I met Ada. Ada and Hazel share a room, so initially I would spend time talking to both. However, today, Hazel is not doing well and sleeps a lot, so I have continued to visit Ada. Both are in their nineties and while Hazel is beginning to struggle, Ada is as sharp as a tack with a razor wit. If you want to know anything about what is happening in the home, Ada can probably tell you. Everything from whats good on the dinner menu to who passed away last week. I suspect she has always been a strong woman who doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. Some might even be a little put off by her demeanor.
I usually show up around one in the afternoon. That way I won’t interfere with their lunch. The last few times I have found Ada in her wheelchair, outside her room with a lady named Nelly. I asked Ada about her and this is what she told me.
Nelly suffered a stroke a couple of years ago that robbed her of the use of her left arm and her ability to speak. A few months ago, a young man visited her and sat holding her hand and saying “I love you Grandma.” He has never been back. However, since then, Nellie has started to make some noises. The only distinguishable word she says is “I”. So each day after lunch, Ada goes out in her wheelchair and sits next to Nellie, holding her right hand and talking to her. Ada said I don’t know how much she comprehends, but she has a very strong grip and sometimes squeezes my hand.
Maybe it’s just me, but this gave me a whole new perspective on ‘caring’. I realized I have been guilty of tunnel vision. That being, if you need care, you are not also capable of giving it. Here is a lady, who in her latter years herself, quietly exhibits every day that there is no age limit on compassion. A lesson that is right there in front of me, in front of everyone, every day. I wonder how many people notice, or ‘care’.