Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Good Deeds

“I will . . . help other people every day” was a part of the motto that I spoke in unison with my fellow Girl Scouts at our weekly meetings many years ago. It must have become ingrained in my psyche along with the common axiom that encourages us to do a good deed every day. It wasn’t hard to accomplish when I was working, but now? Not so much.

One of my favorite jobs was being a home health nurse, not one who gave IV meds and did other medical stuff but one who primarily visited and chatted. Since I have been blessed with the “gift of gab” I didn’t mind walking into a stranger's house and spending up to an hour in conversation with them. Remembering that, Monday I went to the church and offered to visit some shut ins. The pastor gave me a list of folks, all old and with varying degrees of health problems, and he placed dots by the four who got fewer visitors than the others.

Yesterday afternoon I went to visit two of them, women who were in nursing homes but who still had some of their wits about them. The first was only 77 but failing and in a wheelchair. She, a former nurse and nursing teacher, and her husband, a former attorney who was ambulatory but “confused” as she put it, share a room. He paced about the halls and did not join us. She seemed quite depressed and was slow to speak, but I could tell she was able to pull the correct information out of her brain, all but the name of her granddaughter. That concerned her. She sustained a worried stare at granddaughter’s smiling photograph speaking an occasional “I can’t believe I forgot her name,” until eventually her soft voice said, “Christina. Her name’s Christina.” What relief!

The next woman I visited was older but more quick witted and had had a series of back and heart problems that pretty much confined her to bed. Some of the staff came in while I was there, and I could tell she had established a supportive relationship with them unlike the quiet first woman.

One of the biggest things I learned when I was a home health nurse was the importance of family, especially to the old and isolated. Neither of these women had much family, and if for no other reason, I believe my visit made them feel a little special. And of course I was glad to have done my good deed for the day. Maybe I will get to the other two who are housebound soon and knock out today's good deed.

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