Spending time with those in need is something worth doing, says Horsham Down’s Claudia Aalderink.
Every week I visit a friend at a local rest home to offer company and relief from the daily routine. A routine that means nothing more than trying to make it through the day and on to the next.
It is heartbreaking to realise that this once hard working, vibrant and active member of society has been diminished to someone waiting until the next meal is served. Their life is a mere fragment of what it used to be.
Cherished belongings frame the room, photographs of family members on the wall, that favourite chair, a little table, a television. Not much more can fit in the room and it makes you think about the importance of material things in life.
A day in Care Department of the rest home is very structured. It needs to be because it gives the staff a clear guideline of what needs to happen and when. The people living in this part of the rest home in turn have an idea of what will come next. There is not much room for extras or one-on-one time with a resident, other than helping them in the morning when they get dressed, go to the toilet or need help with a meal. It is hard for staff to work under such a strict time schedule with hardly any time to engage with the people and take time for a chat.
I am always pleased to see the friendly faces light up when I get off the elevator. The people seem happy to see me, or anyone I suppose. Some stare at me with a distant look from their big recliner in the lounge, where they wait for anything to happen, others recognise me and wave happily back, some grasp the opportunity and start an elaborate conversation about what they are doing or who came to visit them and others just smile at me with an empty look of uncertainty and wonder where they might have met me before.
This particular rest home is very luxurious and has made a great effort in trying to provide the best care possible. It has everything you can imagine. A spa, a gym, a café, big lounge seats, lots of them, a pool table, a dance floor, even an outdoor bowling green. But looking at all this you could wonder if that is really what these people need? Wouldn’t they rather have someone come over and talk to them every now and then, play a game, read the paper to produce some sense of keeping up to date with life, someone to take them for a drive and enjoy the joy of eating an ice cream and making a mess. Life doesn’t have to be so complicated and all these people really need is to be part of that bigger whole called life.
The circle of life creates this situation and it is something we will all face at some stage but for now, we can try to ensure anyone staying in a rest home is able to enjoy some company. There are many volunteer options available, you can visit with your small pet for some cuddle therapy. Small exciting changes in the every day routine can make an enormous difference for these people and it will make them happy, even if it is for a short time.
Isn’t that what we all want in the end?
Want to give a helping hand? Check this website for more information.
Claudia is also the featured artist of the month at the Garden Art Studio in Cambridge. More here.