Today’s article is another installment in Brother P.’s column, “Lessons From the Nursing Home.”
My job is walking the residents of a nursing home, and sometimes they just don’t want to walk — or even get out of bed for that matter. Sometimes their resistance is due to pain or fear of the struggle that they might have to go through when standing and walking. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know me. So, my job changes from being a people walker to being a people encourager, educator, annoyer, cheerleader … whatever seems to work at the time.
Residents who have dementia often can’t be encouraged or educated into the walk. They often don’t really care that walking is good for their bones, lungs, circulation, strength, etc. They just know that I am trying to get them to do something that they don’t want to.
One thing that I’ve found to be particularly effective is love. If I talk to them in love, if I’m concerned for their concerns, focused on their needs, talking about what they want to talk about, then they will often agree to the walk. And you want to know what’s even more interesting? They often forget the fact that we walked, they always forget my name, sometimes they forget that they just had lunch 20 minutes ago, but they very often remember that they liked me —even forgetting that I was the one making them take the walk that they really didn’t want to in the first place!
I wonder if God made the part of our brain that understands love more resistant to dementia and maybe more resistant to everyday forgetfulness. I know that when someone shows me love it has an impact. Maybe your job isn’t to walk people with dementia, but I wonder if there is somewhere in your life that could be better handled by love.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.