This visit itself was lovely, and at the same time it stirred the thick emotional soup bubbling in my family life in these past few weeks. My grandparents have just moved to a nursing home, and those transitions are never easy. I can't visit my grandparents as often as I would like. However, trusting in the goodness of the universe, I truly believe that by doing what I can in my town, others will do so where my grandparents live. Things balance out, I pray.
I prepared a basket of goodies: cucumber-rosemary sandwiches, dried cherry scones, and fresh cantaloupe, along with a thermos of fresh mint tea. I included a pretty tablecloth (wrapping the goods in the basket), nice napkins and real teacups and saucers.
I see a need for lots of us to take up hampers and go visiting with our elders. (Some of you do this already, and to you, I raise my cup!) There is so much we can learn about what it means to be human from being with people in their final years.
Here are some visiting tips that I've gleaned from others who work with the elderly:
- Bring a focal point, something related to the person's interests. For example, I took a copy of Veranda magazine because it featured pictures from Monet's Giverny. My friend and her husband are passionate art fans. They worked as docents at the local art museum. (We once enjoyed a private tour from them!) Having a focal point can help ease the conversation, if needed.
- Offer to read the paper or write correspondence as he/she dictates.
- Before taking any food or tea, ask about dietary restrictions.
- Be flexible. Sometimes folks have good days; sometimes not. Be emotionally prepared for and OK with either.
- Get centered before the visit begins. Be aware of what your emotional (and physical) triggers are. For example, I am still processing the experience from my grandparents' recent transition. By acknowledging my own concerns, I can be fully, consciously, present in the moment and attentive to my friend's needs.
- Recognize the power of being present. The thing I find hard about visiting with the elderly is that I can't fix much. I can fluff a pillow or add a blanket, but I can't fix this person's physical or emotional pain. What I can do, and what is so incredibly powerful, is to be there and be present to her experience. I can listen and acknowledge who the person is and what he feels. And I can pour a cup of love.