You Matter, Too
In the time my wife has been in the nursing home, one glaring and tragic fact has continuously assailed my conscience, and I have decided to do something about it.
Of the approximately 20 residents in the same memory care ward as my wife, she is the ONLY one who gets daily visits. I’m there for breakfast every day, dinner at least five days each week, and very often in the middle of the night, just to check up on her. A select few of the other residents get the rare occasional visit from family or clergy, and one daughter who was visiting daily at dinnertime when Jacquelynn first arrived hasn’t been in at all in over a month now.
Most get none at all. Weeks and months (and years?) pass without a single human who doesn’t work for the facility paying them any heed whatsoever.
No one to sit and watch television with them. No one to share a meal. No one to simply show them that they matter at all. No one to just sit and hold their hand.
Not one soul to tell them “I love you”.
Everyone deserves to know that they matter, that they’re important to someone.
Thus the genesis of what I’m tentatively calling Project: You Matter, Too.
The concept here is to provide companionship and personal support to those many nursing-home-bound people who have no one else. So many have simply been “dumped” in these facilities either by uncaring or too-distant families, or simply have no one left to visit them, care about them, and to remind them that they truly matter. Everyone deserves to know that they are important to someone, that someone loves them.
This is more than having an occasional volunteer drop in on random residents and spending time with them; this is a commitment of time to spend with a particular human being who has no one else. To get to know them, have meals with them, watch television with them; simply and monumentally to befriend and care about them, and to ensure that they feel loved and appreciated. We will develop lasting relationships, touching hearts and brightening lives.
Training will be required in how to deal with dementia patients; how best to approach them and interact with them; what not to say is as important as what you do say, although each individual is as unique in their illness as they were in their health. Flexibility and intelligence are vital, but a loving and empathic heart is the most essential, invaluable tool of all. Volunteers will be paired with residents on a trial basis until they “hit it off” with someone, then they will be matched for longer-term interaction. Visits will ideally be several times weekly, and on a regular, predictable schedule as routine can be very important to some dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers.
This will not require medical training, as volunteers will not accompany residents outside the environment of the facility but will rather visit them in their familiar surroundings, providing the closest thing many such people get to family. Rather than attempting to remind them of better days behind, we will be making their todays brighter and more meaningful.
We will be reminding them that they matter, too.
This is a call for help. I need the input of business people, of people familiar with non-profits and start-ups. I need the advice of health care professionals, especially those with experience in geriatrics and dementia. I desperately need legal advice. And I can’t pay a cent.
I need open hearts willing to share their expertise and experience to help these souls who have been set aside or forgotten by whatever family they may have. No one deserves to be put on a shelf and left behind.
Thank you in advance,