The Nursing Home
“Alright girls, it’s time to get ready,” I announced to my two daughters. “We are going to the nursing home to visit your Great Grandmother.”
As I got my one-year-old daughter Lucy dressed, her three-year-old sister, Eva came up to me and said timidly,
“I don’t want to go.”
“Why?” I asked.
To be honest I could understand how she felt. Their Great Grandmother suffers from Dementia. I knew that when we arrived, she would not recognise me and would probably introduce me to my own husband like she always did. She also gets confused as to who the girls belonged to. I understand the confusion this must cause the girls, but I also understand how much she would like company.
It took me back to my childhood when my father would take me to visit my Great Grandmother on Sundays. Every time we would visit her little house in the country it was stuffy, dark and full of out-of-date furniture. I remember thinking that my Great Grandmother hugged me too tight, pinching my cheeks so hard that it ached for a few seconds after she let go. She lived into her 90’s and spoke too loud with a Scottish accent that I found hard to understand, even though she had lived in Canada most of her life. I remember watching the old grandfather clock on the fireplace ticking away. The minutes seemed to pass so slowly. I was an only child and there was nothing to play with when I was there. The candies in the crystal candy dish were melted together and looked as though they had been there for ages, but I ate them anyway.
As I reflected on my own experiences, instead of losing my temper or just placing my demands upon Eva, I said,
“I know how you feel, but although it may be a bit boring for you, it will be very exciting for her. She is 97-years-old, and she doesn’t get very many visitors, especially cute ones like you.”
Eva still looked slightly annoyed, but I could see she was thinking about what I said.
“I don’t want her to feel lonely,” she eventually responded. Then reluctantly giving me a little hug.
Although their Great Grandmother got confused, she still loved seeing the girls dance around the room in their dresses and chat with her. So, I knew the visit was worth it. When we arrived at the Nursing Home, we were all greeted by a smiling and very excited Great Grandmother. This time she had been anticipating our visit and looked like she had put a lot of effort into getting herself ready. Her black-dyed hair was styled perfectly, and she had lots of mauve lipstick and matching eye shadow on. She also had numerous purple necklaces around her neck and the room was filled with the scent of her perfume. She looked adorable and certainly did not look her age! Eva ran to her and gave her a big hug. Her grandmother looked as pleased as punch.
After about fifteen minutes of sitting in the room little Lucy, only 12 months old, started getting restless and was in desperate need of a wander. I kept one eye on her as she waddled out of the room and down the hall. I let her explore and practise her new-found skill of walking as she stumbled her way into another room. When I followed her in, I discovered that she was in the common lounge area. This is where many of the residents were cohabiting. Even though there were books on the shelf and the television was on, many of them were looking longingly out the window with sad expressions on their faces. However, when they noticed Lucy, suddenly they began to come to life. Many of them started to sit up straight, smile and show excitement at the presence of the young visitor.
The cool part was that I was able to observe what was happening from the doorway. One man, who was deep in thought gazing out the window gingerly got up on his feet to greet little Lucy, who wobbled towards him on her unsteady legs. He began asking me how old she was and her name. The whole room livened up even more when Eva walked in with her Great Grandmother, who was being pushed in a wheelchair by my husband. Everybody started sharing stories of their own grandchildren with us.
When I buckled Eva into her car seat she said,
“Mummy, I feel good because I made Great Grandma happy today. I also made some new friends”
After that visit, I made a point to always go into the common lounge area with my girls when we visited the nursing home.