Visiting Old Men at Holiday Time with Spirit

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I visit my Dad and my Uncle, both at the same nursing home, twice a week. They are both in a rut, angry and never have a pleasant word for me. I try to talk football or something in the news but they just do not respond. Come on – a suggestion please!

OK, here it is…think snow! Hey Christmas time is the perfect time to just be. Not to try to be anything but you. I would suggest a trip to the large hardware store and get some outside decor for holidays. Buy the long extension cord and the two deers and a tree that lights up and then place them on the lawn where your Dad and Uncle can enjoy them at night, or where the whole place can see them in the evening during dinner. That will light up the place and make both the guys feel special that you were the one to do the work!

Take them a few catalogs and give them a gift certificate for each so they can buy a gift for you or each other. Just because someone is sick or confused does not mean they do not want to enjoy the holiday time, if they are given a way to do it.

If they can go for a quick zip around town to see the lights…get it in line. It may take a little time getting them warm and tucked into the car, but the drive around town and to the drive through for ice cream or a hamburger will give them a lift like you would not believe.

There are fun new picture displays that you can load and they will be continually turning the pictures around like a slide show. How about flipping for one and load it with old pictures and new pictures.

Do you have a dog? If you know they love animals…give your dog a bath and take him in with a bow around his neck and have him carrying some great home made cookies. Lots of men in adult homes like to have a nice “drink” each week. As a matter of fact some places have an open bar on Fridays just for that purpose. You can always bring along a couple of beers that you three guys can enjoy together. (Obviously ask the home first so the rules are OK with with the liquor.) I have asked doctors about this a few times and each of them have said that in less the situation is really difficult – a drink to celebrate is not going to put anyone over the edge on their meds. It simply needs to have common sense attached to the event.

Bring in your computer and show them Google Earth and let them see their old homes and your house and their friend’s home on the screen. This is so much fun for seniors. I have been going over older homes that they lived in years before and they love the online visit. Now that Google has the drive by curb camera view, it is really a kick.

Take in one of your friends and play a game of cards or dominos. Do it all together and make it a “guy night”. What they love about this is the feeling they still have value and life is still fun. You can take in your DVD player or small computer and watch a movie together. You bring the popcorn and they get to watch a special you saved or a movie they would enjoy. I find anything in the second world war era is a joy for guys. They love to review that history stuff, and they love “how to” shows. It may be hard for them to follow a full game of football, but you might find a good review of twenty years ago on the NFL channel that will hold their attention in little snippets.

Most of all…just go. Even if you sit there and do your email, you are there. Let them know, “I am here because I want to be”.

By the way…picture albums, picture books, and old magazines with things they love to talk about are perfect for a quick review while you’re there. Guys love cookies, if you don’t bake – ask a lady in the neighborhood, at work, or from church to make you some old fashioned cookies that guys love. She will know which ones really hit the button –  you give her a five and she makes cookies…easy exchange!

Hope this helps…I know they may seem like nasty old men, but they just need to have someone giving them a good – bad time – and they will turn around. Do not take the words personally, they’re in the now and their life is reduced to the four walls around them. If you come and just let them see a glance of the world outside with your ideas and things to do together…it will brighten them up, even if they do not admit it! Part of being an old guy…is having fun with a frown on your face. It makes life more of a challenge, but they’re worth it. And if you are visiting twice a week…you are worth it too!

Thank you for your care to the seniors in your life. Please visit my website and enjoy other ideas and tips

 Enjoy your holiday, francy Dickinson


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