Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Ministry of Visitation

The subject of age seems to be cropping up in conversations more often lately. Many of our friends have crossed the age 65 landmark. Dan will be 70 this month and I am 1 1/2 years behind. My Dad, who had wise observations, said  he  tries to have friends in the younger generation. That way they will outlive him.

I think what my Dad was really saying is that he wanted someone to talk to as he grew old. Dad died at age 96 and he did have younger friends and he enjoyed being around them.

Wednesday of last week, Carolyn, Rita and I attended a Brownbag Lunch Series at the Theo and Alfred M. Landon Center on Aging at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Dennis Jones, Pastor, Hospice Chaplin and former dairy farmer led the program entitled, "Ministry of Visitation." It was well done, uplifting and informative.

I’ve  felt a need for some time to be more active in visitation. Memories of Dad, and all of our parents and other family members for that matter, delighted in our visits. We would see that sparkle in their eyes, a smile, always wanting us to sit a while and talk. This is something that I need to do now, be supportive to those who are not that much older. But, knocking on a door and sitting a spell can be daunting especially a person who is nearly a stranger.

Pastor Jones told us early on in his presentation that if we undertake the ministry of visitation, we need to be ready to reach out to any who are undergoing health issues, difficulties in their lives or those unable to be mobile any longer. We should be ready to visit anyone. With that said, here are ten suggestions for visitations.

1. Plan the visit. Call ahead and set a time. Gifts may not be appropriate and be careful about food. Make sure the caregivers or staff know who you are and include them in your visit. Sometimes they have needs as well. If visiting for church, report back to pastor with prayer concerns if requested. Remember always use discretion and personal respect. Practice basic safety if there is limited mobility. Always wash hands before the visit.

2. If there is a new diagnosis or major change "I am sorry this is happening to you" is a way to start. Then let the person take the direction they want to go. Some may want to talk and some may not.

3. If you do not know the person you are visiting, introduce yourself, talk about something immediate such as weather, picture on the wall, book on table, etc. Listen. Listen. Listen Everyone has different needs.

4. Be Sensitive.  Do not talk about things they cannot participate in unless they seem interested. Be generous with touch, a hug or hold hands if that pleases. If not touch, do something that shows you care. Take something to read out load. Newspapers are good because articles are short. Be careful with religion, but if they are open, short easy to understand devotions are good.

5. Dementia or confusion. Talk, they might understand more than you think. Music is soothing.

6. How to handle silence. Favorite television show, take a computer and find a YouTube video of interest. Find something to tap into who they are.

7. How often and how long? Frequency should be based on need. Length, no less than 5 minutes, no more than an hour.

8. Make notes for reference next visit. Add reminders of things you want to bring. Note what seemed helpful and not so helpful.

9. Everyone likes to get mail. Send a follow up note. Can use email  (personal note here) but elders and children especially like getting personal letters.

10. Finally, do not use a visitation as a therapy for yourself. You are there to talk to and listen to the person you are visiting. Once again, be a good listener.

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