19 Jun 2013

Although we live in a society that honors youth, it is God’s command to honor the elderly. Often older people are seen as burdens instead of blessings. It is important to realize that these men and women are someone’s sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

Over the last eleven years in our own nursing home ministry, we have not seen many visitors (at least during the week). Some residents may not even have family living in the same state. Sometimes the only touch residents receive is when they are given meds or helped medically. Most health care workers are just too busy. Volunteers make a valuable contribution in this area. My girls have been hugging and touching elderly people since they were small. There is a healing power in touch.

But this wasn’t always the case.

At the nursing home where my firstborn and I visited my grandmother, there was a wheelchair-bound lady who would often scream at the top of her lungs. Being distressed, sometimes she would scream angrily, but other times she would yell for help. The screaming seemed constant, and the nurses appeared to ignore her for the most part. It was very sad to witness. My four-year-old would be frozen in terror as this woman would shriek at her before I could intervene. She would have nightmares and would beg not to visit her great-grandmother.

I talked to my daughter about her fear of this woman. I explained to her that the woman was scared and lonely. I suggested to my daughter that she draw a picture for this woman. I explained that the lady may scream at her and even went over some possible scenarios of what might happen when she gave her the picture. I wasn’t sure what would happen. The woman was so touched; she accepted it gratefully, almost surprised that anyone would give her attention. She stopped yelling, for the moment, anyway. My daughter’s nightmares stopped. I will never forget the look on my daughters face when she made a difference in that lady’s life. Her fear was gone. It was compassion that had made the difference. This experience was the inspiration for my wanting to start some kind of ministry that we, as homeschoolers, could do in our own area.

Why take the time to spend with the elderly? As a normal homeschool family, we have way too many things on our plate as it is. However, we have found, by consequence, several ways our nursing home ministry has benefited our lives and has become a part of our lives.

Benefits of a Nursing Home Ministry

  1. My children and I are learning from an older generation. Both my parents and grandparents have passed away. Time we spend with these sweet friends is precious and in some ways I adopt them as my elderly parents. A nursing home ministry allows you to meet all kinds of different people. God makes beautiful people.“The oldest trees often bear the sweetest fruit.”
    German Proverb
  2. Volunteering has taught us just how important it is to be needed. Once, on our routine scouting through the home to find participants for our activity that month, I came across a lady who was uncomfortably slumped, dozing in her wheelchair. I gently woke her and asked her if she would like to join us. With a soft dejected voice, tears in her eyes and dramatic hand gestures, she replied exasperated, “I just need to do something!” She was well cared for, but she was bored beyond what I can imagine. She felt useless. How hopeless life would be to feel useless. Many people in nursing homes just need to feel loved and needed. The gift of your time is a bright spot for them.“No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning.” Barbara de Angelis
  3. Encouraging these men and women has proven valuable to me and my girls by stretching us out of our comfort zones. It has caused us to grow. Some residents are lonely or depressed. We compliment them, hug them and get on their eye level and talk to them. Volunteering your time helps you to see your own life from a different perspective. Things that may have been bothering me when I walk into the nursing home do not seem quite as important when I walk out. We are blessed as we bless others.”In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
  4. In volunteering through this ministry, our kids are learning what real honor and respect for the elderly looks like. It is different than just telling them about honor or reading a Bible verse. The learning comes through the doing. I learn, too.”Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:9-10“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32
  5. Visiting and honoring the elderly is something God has asked us to do. It is teaching not only my children but me to be obedient.”Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
  6. Loving people with our time is teaching all of us how to love unconditionally. Loving another human being for no other reason than to love them is a selfless act. When your children witness your unconditional love and see what it can do for people, they develop this gift of loving unconditionally as well.“Time is the most precious gift one can give. Each moment is unique because it will never happen again…the gift of your time spent with others is the ultimate display of unconditional love.”
    Robert W. Merriweather
  7. Kids learn to interact not only with peers but also with people of all ages, backgrounds, and history. This is truly an experience and one we would not get if we did not participate in this ministry. misunderstood aspect of homeschooling is that homeschoolers are not well socialized. Addressing that criticism could be another article entirely, but I would like to mention that socialization does not occur in a room full of peers. True socialization is relating to many people in society. And in a changing society, relating well to the older generation will be needed more and more. When you consider the number of baby boomers, you can see why.According to the US Census Bureau, “The US population age 65 and over is expected to double in size within the next 25 years. By 2030, almost 1-out-of-5 Americans―some 72 million people―will be 65 years or older. The age group 85 and older is now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.”
  8. Learning to share the love of Jesus Christ with the elderly (or anyone) is a valuable skill. with residents is a powerful gift that is both given and received. This past year, one lady I met was upset about being in the nursing home. She was brand new, on oxygen and clearly distressed and confused. She felt abandoned. My children and I prayed over her right then and a peace washed over her. She stopped visibly fretting. I felt this peace, too, and so did another family that prayed with us.following week, she died. I will never forget that.”Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

When you look deep into the eyes of an elderly person, you are looking into the window of your own soul. You are looking at yourself. We pass nursing homes and don’t even glance their way. I hope I am not forgotten too.

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these.” Dr. Robert H. Goddard