Saturday, August 09, 2008

August Tea: Tea and Sympathy

My August tea party theme is about sharing a cup of tea and sympathy with the elderly. Yesterday, I took a "hamper" to a nursing home and visited with a friend who has recently been living there.

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.


Linda Jennings said...

This is a lovely post, Stephanie!

Marilyn Miller said...

That is so perfect. What a special treat for those that received your love. Thanks for sharing.

sweetcakes said...

Steph, I can't wait to hear all about your visit. That's so wonderful of you to go see our friend. I heard that the nursing home she is staying in is one of the best. I'll be interested to hear more.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful servant's heart you have, Stephanie. This is a very profound post. Blessings on you!

artandtea said...

Hi Steph,
When I was much younger, I worked in a nursing home. I know from personal experience how much a visit with someone who cares means to the folks who live there. What a wonderful thing to do! Thanks for sharing your experience.
I hope all goes well with your grandparents' transition to their new living situation. Sending positive, light filled thoughts to you and to them...

Jennifer said...

We need more in the world like you, Steph. I love your tips and I love your writing.

Anonymous said...

Hello Steph,

What importance the elderly have for us. We so frequently get so busy in our own lives and forget about others.

Our dear ones sometimes have days that seem unbearable for want of companionship. We do need to make time to make a phone call or spare an extra half hour when we are running errands to stop and visit a relative or an old neighbor.

They truly appreciate these acts of kindness. I have found a multigenerational tea party to do wonders for the elderly and for the young ones. The children gain such a wealth of experience and hear such wonderful stories, and a bit of brightness is brought into the elderly persons life that will be fondly remembered forever.

Steph said...

Thank you, all, for your kind wishes and ideas!

Rosemary said...

Beautiful post Steph. Great suggestions and thoughts for hosting a tea with a friend at a nursing home. You are inspirational.

Angela McRae said...

What a generous thing to do! I am challenged by your thoughtfulness!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm just now catching up on your blog! (Lola is sleeping!) I loved this post, and I thought it was very honest and heartwarming. I think it is wonderful that you made this visit, too. I know it wasn't easy! Love ya,

The Vintage Rose said...

Thanks for the visiting tips!