Yesterday I received a call from the scheduler at Community Nurses to go visit a 95 year old woman in her home. When I got to the address the house was no more than a shack. There was a mangy looking dog tied out front. I thought about getting back in my car and going home, but thought this is the kind of people Mother Theresa would of served. This was my Calcutta. I slowly got out of the care and approached the dog with my hand open so she could smell me. I sighed a breath of relief when she began wagging her tail and was friendly. I knocked on the door and slowly opened it when no one answered. When I entered the house there was a Pomeranian and a Poodle secured to the legs of chairs with leashes. They were yipping, but also seemed friendly.
I said hello and introduced myself to the woman sitting alone on the sofa. She told me she lived in the same house for over 50 years and asked how old I thought she was. I guessed 85 and was corrected. She replied, “I am ninety five years old.”
I asked “Did you expect to live this long.” She answered "With God all things are possible." She told me she could sing hymns and asked if I would like to hear her sing. I retrieved a tattered hymnal from the Methodist church from a drawer and she sang with pride "How Great Thou Art." When she came to the refrain: When Christ shall come, With shouts of acclamation, And take me home, What joy shall fill my heart” she raised her hand and was smiling ear to ear. She then sang two of my favorite hymns, "The Old Rugged Cross" and "In The Garden." I listened in amazement as she sang with pride not caring whether or not she was singing in tune.
At noon I warmed up a TV dinner in the microwave for her lunch and did some light chores. We played the board game Sorry together according to her rules. After each of us won a game, she said she was ready for a nap. I helped her put her feet up and covered her with a white, blue and pink afghan she crocheted. I asked her if she would like me to read to her from the Bible that was on the stand next to the couch. She requested that I read Psalm 1, 23 and the last. While I was reading she closed her eyes and once in a while would look up at me and smile and then close her eyes again.
When I began working with the elderly, a friend told me that older people are like babies, they eat, sleep, eat and sleep and I found this to be true. I thought about the contrast of taking care of one elderly person verses trying to attend to 35 residents. I rarely had time to spend one on one with any of them. It was heartwarming to see how content this woman was compared to the elderly residents at the personal care home, all because she was home, sweet home.