"Oh, Babsy! Am I glad to see you!" said my aged mother as she scooted herself to a sitting position in bed. I visited Mother often in the care center where she lived, and she always greeted me with the same statement. It amazed me how her eyes would light up when I came in the room, and she would smile sweetly as she readied herself to enjoy a chat.
After a hectic day at the office, I often felt so weary that all I wanted to do was go home and go to bed. However, keeping scheduled visits with Mother was important since routine gives an elderly person a sense of security. Occasionally, she didn't recognize me, but even so, my being there was important.
Caregivers told me how vital it is for elderly people to know others care enough to spend a little time with them. Even if they can't remember the name of the person visiting them, the interaction brings them comfort on some level.
As Christians, we know it's important to visit shut-ins. Sometimes family members go with the intent of enriching them with Bible reading and prayer, which is important. However, we can also minister to shut-ins by just sharing with them events of our daily life. If they are bedridden, their world is extremely limited, so hearing about the most mundane activities helps them to feel they are a part of life.
My mother seldom added much to our talk, and I was never a sparkling conversationalist, so finding something to discuss was a challenge. Because of her advancing age, reminiscing about years gone by would sometimes confuse her, so I attempted to keep our conversation in the present. My daily life was of little interest in my estimation, but I found myself chattering about the smallest event as though it was newsworthy. One day I said, "Mother, I must bore you to tears with my endless chatter about nothing."
She sat there with her hands folded on her lap and smiled, "I just enjoy hearing you talk."
My heart ached. She spoke the words of a loving mother whose greatest joy is just seeing her child and hearing her voice. I also knew that it meant she was hungry to hear about life and to have someone care enough to spend time with her.
The elderly often must live in a care center or assisted-living arrangement of some type. Family members have good intentions to visit on a regular basis, but as time passes, visits often become sporadic, then only on birthdays and Christmas. Some stop going altogether.
Shut-ins are sometimes more helpless than children, and are often afraid and lonely. We have an opportunity to lavish our love, attention, and prayers on these precious ones who are in the last phase of their lives.
Even if you don't hear, "Am I glad to see you!" or the person has forgotten your name and how you fit in the family, you know that her heart is warmed with your presence and that she takes comfort in your words. There are many demands on our daily schedules, and it often stretches us to take care of the immediate necessities of our spouse and children. However, we must make time for our shut-ins, the forgotten ones.