LIFESTYLE Relationships  >  Celebrating Mother’s Day in a Nursing Home

Celebrating Mother’s Day in a Nursing Home

Celebrating Mother’s Day in a Nursing Home
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BY KITT WALSH

The last seven years of my mother’s life were spent bedridden in a nursing home. Luckily the facility was just up the street from my house, allowing me to visit often and, during her time there, no holiday meant more to her than Mother’s Day.

On that day, I learned to take special care to show Mom how much she meant in my life. I came to realize the special importance of noting the occasion when I saw how many of her fellow residents passed the day without so much as a call from their own children. It was a sad time for them. I didn’t understand their adult children’s neglect then and I do not now, but I made it a point to bring little gifts to my mother’s roommates every year.

For my own mother, I learned not to send a Hallmark card. I did buy a big card each year for her to display on her nightstand, but in it, I included a personal letter. True, I am a writer and you are not, but that doesn’t matter. Just like your mom thought that ceramic frog you painted for her in kindergarten was a work of art, so, too, will your mother treasure every word of anything you write.

I tried to point out, not only that I loved her, but why. I mentioned specific things she had done (inventing Littlest Angel bedtime stories, teaching me to knit and sew, bucking me up when I didn’t make cheerleader) that helped form the woman I became. (My own sons have picked up this tradition and now write me such missives. The byword in our family is “If you made mom cry, you’ve done well.”)

Even if you have a fractious relationship with your mother, I urge you to dig deep to find things to share about why you love her. You really do only get one mom and you don’t want to look back and regret letting any opportunity pass when she’s gone. Consider it avoiding future guilt.

If you are too far away to visit, send the letter, but be sure to also call her on that day. (Arrange with the staff for their help in making sure she can manage the phone at the specified time. If she is hard of hearing, make sure that bedside phone has an amplifier. ) Take your time with the call. Chat about what you are doing and what is up with the grandkids. Give her lots of details to hang onto in the lonely time after the call. (She will also use what you say to brag to other residents in the dining hall.)

I learned not to send flowers (they die depressingly and Mom had to lay their and watch them. It is not the nursing home staff’s job to tend to flowers.) Go for a small cactus arrangement. It will fit on a windowsill and not take up all the room on her bedside table. Tell your mom to ask an aide to throw water on it every now and again.

A great gift is a photo album (the kind with pages to flip through) chock full of new photos of you and her grandkids. I even made one filled with photos of her courtship with my Dad during WWII and all of her siblings and friends through the years. The true gift, then, was sitting down to listen to all the stories this brought up.

Other good presents include a small spray bottle of her favorite perfume (nursing homes, even clean ones, smell like nursing homes) and a pretty new robe (with her last name clearly written inside with permanent marker.) Skip the slippers, as they are a safety hazard on slick (often mopped) floors, but a selection of gripper socks (with her name in them) helps warm cold feet.

For every occasion, I brought her one of her favorite chocolate cupcakes and a miniature bottle of vodka (another of her favorites. Be sure to check to make sure this doesn’t interfere with any medications she’s taking. You might also check nursing home regulations, though I confess, those never mattered much to me.) I also sent a beautician friend of mine over to give Mom a haircut and perm on her Mother’s Day and handled the manicure and pedicure myself.

Of course the best gift you can give is time and attention. Your mother certainly gave both to you throughout your life. It is time to return that love.

 

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