Raising a caregiver

Filed under: Places To Go

On Thursday nights, Jared, Sara, and I volunteer at a local nursing home for a couple of hours. Jared and Sara are too little to help -- though they both want to help push the wheelchairs -- but the residents love to see them. Even if we did nothing else, just the kids being there would make a difference. Mostly, however, we bring people to the evening concert and bingo game and then hang out with some of the residents who don't attend the activities. Later, we help pass out snacks after the concert and help people get back to their rooms.

It's good exercise -- we walk a lot -- and it teaches the kids not to be afraid of older people or people with disabilities. A lot of the people there have wonderful stories to tell and lessons to teach.There are, however, a fair number of people with Alzheimer's. Some of the higher functioning folks do come to the concerts, although sometimes they need someone to reassure them that they are where they are supposed to be and that they will be able to get home.

Last Thursday night, one of these patients was indeed having some difficulty in the unfamiliar -- to her -- surroundings of the lobby where they hold the concert. She was scared and the only thing that could calm her was the presence of the activities director, a familiar face for her. Unfortunately, she had other issues to deal with, so I stayed with the resident -- a difficult task with a two-year-old trying to escape -- to keep her calm. When the concert was over, she became more and more upset and we decided she needed to be taken home right then, instead of waiting for the juice and cookies.

So, I carried Sara in one arm and pushed her wheelchair with the other, as Jared walked alongside. She was still very upset, but I could tell that Jared's presence was comforting to her. Even though Jared has been going nearly his whole life, he still gets shy sometimes with residents he doesn't know. Still, he's an empathetic kid, so I asked him if he would hold the lady's hand as we walked along. He gently took her hand and they held hands all the way back to her room -- about a half a block from one building to another. It definitely helped her calm down; she was able to focus on Jared rather than her confusion. As for Jared, he seemed genuinely worried about her.

Once she got to her floor and recognized the familiar setting, she was much happier. She thanked us for taking her home, but really, I owe her my thanks for giving Jared a chance to learn to help others. When we were back in the elevator, I thanked Jared and told him how much it helped the resident to be able to hold his hand. It was a very good experience for him, perhaps one of the best he's ever had there. I've been hanging out at this facility for about seven years now; I'm hoping that Jared and Sara, having pretty much grown up there, will continue volunteering their whole life.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.