Up until a few years ago I never thought that one of my grandparents would be in a nursing home. I had always been lucky to have them healthy. However, this changed about a year ago when my grandfather had a mini-stroke, which caused him to require extra care my grandmother could not provide. Watching my family deal with my grandfather made me aware of the care and services the elderly need and has made me realize how important it is to volunteer at a local nursing home.
My grandfather's stroke affected his legs and his memory, which made it difficult for him to walk. My grandfather first used a cane, but his legs became too weak, so he tried a walker, but this lasted only a month. Not only could he not walk or take care of himself, but also he began to stay up at night and fall out of bed.
My family started looking into nursing homes. It took us weeks before finally deciding. Unfortunately he will have to stay there until he improves, both mentally and physically.
Since summer I have volunteered at his nursing home because I saw how lonely some of the residents were. I volunteered two days a week during the summer, which I have continued. I have learned many things about nursing homes and the factors to consider when choosing one, including the residents' quality of life, the care received, the environment surrounding them, and the nursing home's payment policy.
I have been working with the recreation director, who plans activities for the residents. I have painted the women's nails and read them letters from their children. Also, I have helped with special days like Ice Cream Day, Summer Picnic Day, and Clown Around Day. For each we create special word scrambles. I also have taken patients for walks. We also have birthday parties and exercise days.
Through my volunteering I have made a new friend - Irene. She has family, but they live faraway and cannot come to visit often. Our friendship grew through the summer. She grew up in Shelton and lived in Milford before she came to the home. She has two sons who seldom visit. Her grandchildren, however, do visit every weekend. Through our conversations, I have found two unusual connections. Her sons graduated from Jonathan Law High School where my mother teaches, and like me, she was a cheerleader in high school.
I have had many good experiences both volunteering and visiting my grandfather. My volunteer experience has shown me that I can bring joy to older people. Everyone will have to face having parents and grandparents growing older and becoming dependent on their children. Dealing with this situation has made me a stronger and more caring person. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.