|Thelma and me, December 2006|
I’d agreed to drive eighty-four-year old Thelma one Saturday a month to a nursing home to visit her husband with Alzheimer’s. She’d injured her shoulders caring for him at home and now was a driving risk. During the drives, I found Thelma sharp, humorous, and a reader like me.
Then Thelma’s husband died. The volunteer drivers ceased contact with her. As much as I wanted to, how could I do the same? Just because her need was gone, how could I drop her? I sensed God wanted me to befriend her, and I was angry.
For over 10 years, I spent every other Saturday morning with Thelma while I was still working, and every Tuesday afternoon after I retired. She’d make me her yummy potato salad until she couldn’t, and I supplied her with Christian romance novels—and “tea & crumpets” too when her family later moved her in with them.
I knew she looked forward to my visits, and I received much joy from our friendship. God honored my faithfulness.
Near the end of those years with Thelma, John and I moved my mother-in-law suffering from dementia to live with us. It took much adjustment, but I appreciated her cheerfulness. I learned to be a kind listener to her repeated stories and to answer her repeated questions. And I saw what a faithful son my husband is when he later visited her daily in a nursing home.
Years after my mother-in-law’s death, I made two-week visits four times a year to my partially paralyzed mother in a Florida nursing home, supplementing my sister’s and brother’s care.
I’d thought keeping mental abilities preferable to suffering dementia, until I observed how demeaning life could sometimes be for my mentally sharp mother. But during my stays, I witnessed people she knew and didn’t know visit her. I appreciated others giving their time to my mother.
Now I have befriended two “Thelmas.” What I’ve learned from my earlier relationships with older ladies helps me be a good friend and enjoy these lovely women. Also, I can create richer older story characters.
Here are visiting tips:
- Some lonely “Thelmas” want more time than you can give. Tell them the amount of time you have and give them the choice of how you spend it, e.g. visiting or shopping.
- Be as consistent with your visits as possible. “Thelmas” look forward to them.
- Be consistent with the amount of time you spend with them so they can relax and not fear you’re going to leave.
- Spending at least an hour with “Thelmas” gives them time to enjoy conversations. Quick-greeting-small-talk-and-goodbye visits disappoint “Thelmas.”
- Listen more than talk. “Thelmas” have problems that you may be the only one to whom they can express them.
- Listen to “Thelmas’” complaints, but refrain from speaking against their family members.
- Embrace the stories “Thelmas” with dementia tell repeatedly. It’s what they want to talk about. Answer their repeated questions with the same understanding tone.
- If a “Thelma” with dementia seems agitated, redirect her to tell a story she enjoys telling.
- Many “Thelmas” with dementia love and recall hymns. Singing hymns calms them.
- If you take your “Thelma” to a gathering, look at her often, and listen when she speaks. Those in early stages of dementia can feel ignored.
- If “Thelmas” are hard of hearing, sit close and always face them when you speak.
- Laugh with your “Thelmas” often.
Years ago when Thelma lamented that she wished she could move as fast as I could and do the things for me that I did for her, I told her “You have ministered to others all your life, now it’s your job to allow me to have that honor with you.”
And it is an honor.
When has God called you to befriend an older person, and you’ve been blessed?
Zoe M. McCarthy believes the little known fact that opposites distract. Thus, she spins Christian contemporary romances entangling extreme opposites. Her tagline is: Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites. Now retired actuaries, Zoe and her husband evaluated the financial risks for insurance companies. Nick, in Zoe’s debut novel, Calculated Risk, is an actuary. Christian Fiction Online Magazine published two of her short stories. Zoe self-published two books of contemporary Christian short stories. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys leading workshops on the craft of writing; speaking about her faith; planning fun events for her 5 grandchildren; and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband, John.
Learn more about Zoe M. McCarthy at her website: http://zoemmccarthy.com
What happens when an analytical numbers man meets a mercurial marketing Rep? Romance is a calculated risk…
Jilted by the latest of her father’s choices of “real men,” Cisney Baldwin rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend with a sympathetic colleague and his family. Nick LeCrone is a man too much her opposite to interest her and too mild-mannered to make her overbearing father’s “list.” Now, Cisney fears Nick wants to take advantage of her vulnerable state over the holiday. Boy, is she wrong.
Nick wants little to do with Cisney. She drives him crazy with all her sticky notes and quirks. He extended an invitation because he felt sorry for her. Now he’s stuck, and to make matters worse, his family thinks she’s his perfect match. He’ll do what he can to keep his distance, but there’s just one problem—he’s starting to believe Cisney’s magnetism is stronger than he can resist.
Purchase links for Calculated Risk: http://zoemmccarthy.com/books