Family

children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly

Family

Why I Take My Kids to the Nursing Home

March 1, 2019 by

When we were first married, Johann and I would spend Sunday afternoons playing bingo and chess with the residents of a local nursing home. But as our family grew, we had less and less time for others. Or so we initially thought.

I grew up when “parent” was a noun, not a verb. Dad didn’t parent. He was a parent. He did what he enjoyed and schlepped us along. This often meant visiting the elderly at nursing homes where we met a lot of people – a lot of very different people. I don’t know what changed, but now his grandchildren are being raised by parents who tend to overthink this “parenting” thing. However, the many times we’ve asked ourselves, “what do our kids really need?” we’ve realized that an integral part of childhood is interaction with older people. Luckily the opportunities abound. Recently we’ve started, about once a month, taking our kids to visit a nursing home just fifteen minutes down the road.

Our country doesn’t seem to have a very good track record of spending money on our youngest and our oldest and this nursing home is no exception. It looks, feels, and smells under-resourced. Though attentive and dedicated, the care-givers are short-staffed and the equipment is outdated.

It’s taken a while to get back into this outreach. On our first try, the kids were nervous and shy, and I was jumpy about them picking up contagious diseases. The funny smells, residents swaying around in slings, and the continuous seizures of those with severe disabilities was intimidating.

About thirty people came to the lounge to join us for a service. We read the Bible, sang, and made music. That is, mom and dad did. The kids were so busy processing the new sights, they didn’t sing a note and kept dropping their percussion instruments on the dirty floor. When I got up from the piano bench to leave, I found that my skirt was stuck to the grimy, ageing lacquer. Oh help, the two-year-old is sucking his thumb again. It’s actually his nap time. What are we doing here?

My paranoid thoughts were happily interrupted by Roberta. She was beaming and cooing at my son from her wheelchair. The lively peek-a-boo they played was punctuated occasionally, but not disrupted, by Roberta clutching her purse and musing aloud whether or not she needs to return to her room to see if there’s been a break-in. Then there was Elaine, a pint-size grandma regaling my eldest with stories about growing up in rural Pennsylvania almost a century ago.

It may not have looked like my idea of the promised kingdom, but it sure felt like it.

The love and warmth of the residents started to – finally – thaw my family out. Over time the kids have made good friends. They’ll even prepare for the visit by choosing Bible passages and songs they think their new-found friends will like. It gets better every time we go. Around Christmas the kids made ornaments and were handing them out like Santa Claus. But then, as my daughter reached the front row of recliners and wheelchairs with her shopping bag of ornaments, the situation got awkward. Vincent has such severe spasms he wears something that looks like a net to keep him contained and comfortable. She held out the shiny paper star, but the continuous movement got the better of his hand and he kept missing, even though his eyes were shining with delight and thankfulness. Finally, she laid the star on the armrest of his chair and he rewarded her with a huge smile.

It was hard to leave that day. There were the usual tears, and as we got back into the car, we could see them standing at the window, waving.

 “…and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics and paralytics and he cured them.” This passage comes right at the end of Matthew 4 when Jesus is looking out over the crowds of the sick and disabled, just before he launches into the Beatitudes and tells them the most incredible news ever: theirs is the kingdom. I imagined Jesus looking out over the rec lounge on the second floor of this nursing home. It may not have looked like my idea of the promised kingdom, but it sure felt like it.

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About the author

Jordanna

Jordanna Bazeley

Jordanna Bazeley lives at Spring Valley Community with her husband, Johann, and their four children, as well as Kizzie the...

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