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Spirituality ... Faith - The Word


Alone in the Home

by Stephen E. Yon - Minister

Over the years I have been in ministry I have often talked to people about nursing homes. Most of the conversations tend to be very negative. It is clear most people do not want to be “confined” to a nursing home preferring to stay at home at nearly any cost. Walking through a nursing home can be depressing. Residents can be observed in very sorry states lying in their beds, wandering the hallways, sitting in lobbies or waiting in their wheelchairs for the dining hall to be opened. There are occasions when the sights, sounds and odors overwhelm visitors to the “home.”

The day comes for many who find they are unable to care for themselves nor can they find anyone willing or able to provide needed care to them. Reluctantly the decision to move to a nursing home is made. One of their greatest fears has become a reality. On the day of the move nearly everything changes.

The surrounding is unfamiliar; rules are to put into place, the freedom to make choices is significantly reduced. Old friends are not around nor are the family. The resident feels alone and abandoned though surrounded by strangers who control much of their life.

I was making my weekly visit to a parishioner who was “confined” in a nursing home. She was sad, certainly clinically depressed. In our conversations she readily confided how alone and abandoned she felt. She did not want to leave her room for anything. She refused to take part in any activities. She refused to eat in the dining hall because the sight of her fellow residents struggling to eat “disgusted” her. Over a period of two years I never observed her with another resident. I watched her become more bitter, more depressed, and weaker. One morning I walked into her room and she was no longer with us.

During my two year visits to the nursing home I was introduced to another resident of the same home. She was 99 years old, confined to a wheel chair, but very much alive. The first time I met her she was very friendly, talkative, and constantly displaying a subtle humor which delighted me. I noticed a sign on the back of her wheelchair that read, “Dot’s Dragster.” At the end of our first meeting Dot asked me to come and visit again.

The following week I visited her for about an hour. During that visit a man came into her room. I noticed Dot was happy to see him. He appeared to be about 60 years of age. He made some comment about her seeing someone (me) behind his back. Dot laughed and said, “Maybe one man is not enough for me!” He laughed as he disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. Within a few minutes a lady wheeled through the door. Apologizing for the interruption the woman asked Dot when she was heading for dinner as everyone was waiting. I excused myself promising to return. As I left her room I observed four people patiently waiting in the hallway for Dot. It was time for dinner.

I could not help but notice the difference between the two women I had visited in the same nursing home. One alone; the other surrounded by friends. One was sad, bitter, depressed; the other happy, and full of life. It was clear to me that Dot made a choice soon after she moved to the nursing home. She chose to make adjustments. If her old friends were no longer near, then she would make new friends. If she no longer had the freedom to make choices in everything, then she sought to make choices where she could. She chose to make new friends. She chose to participate in activities. She chose to be cheerful and upbeat. Dot found herself surrounded by friends who cared about her; and she was no longer alone.

Dot has lived all of her life as a Christian. In her faith she understands the importance of loving God with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength. She also understands the need to love others. There are times when she is sad, but never bitter. In times of sadness she places her hope and trust in God to help her find the way to find happiness in the midst of her struggles. In loving her neighbor she has perhaps accidently received the benefits of her faith. The help she calls out for comes in the form of people who love her, people who return the love she in faith has given to them.


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