Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The very frail elderly

Rock Baptist church sends in groups of volunteers to run little services and chat to the residents at two nearby nursing homes. The one that Kate and I visit is very much the last stop for most people there. Most residents are unable to walk, some are almost totally physically incapacitated, many are experiencing serious mental difficulties, whether that's memory loss, confusion, dementia, or apparent inability to communicate verbally.

On Sunday we learned of the death of another of the ladies who had been coming along to the services. There are in fact a mere handful of people left from when we started visiting this home in 2005.

There are a great many things that trouble me about this method of 'caring' for the elderly in our society. Too many to discuss coherently here. There is a great deal that is very upsetting, unpleasant and ennervating about the place.

I often wonder what good we accomplish there in our 2-weekly visits.

However, there are encouragements - moments of actually connecting with some of the residents, and occasions when we do see that we have brought them some joy. Touch is important, and so is the simple giving of time and attention to people starved of both. Little things like getting a certain cheese for a resident. And we are able to sing with them, and tell them of the hope found in Christ. Remarkably, while I almost never look forward to going, I am usually sad to leave once I've got there.

There was also a lot of encouragement at a recent conference held in London about ministry among the elderly. Quite a few of us (aged from 28 to 70!) from Rock went down for the day. Shame that so few young people attended, but wonderful that so many (older) people were there.