Visiting a nursing home is a good place to spread the joy of the Lord any time of year. The mission field of the nursing home is great place to introduce children to sharing the love of Christ in tangible ways. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
~ Prepare children ahead of time for seeing adults in wheelchairs and beds. Explain that some adults may not feel well today while others will be happy. Often, women residents have baby dolls they proudly show-off or guard closely. The reason is they still have lots of love to give — even to baby dolls. The simplest explanation of a nursing home for my young children has been that it is a place where we get to visit lots of boys’ and girls’ grandparents. They understood this definition and were pleased to get to visit all the grandparents.
~ Call the facility activities director. Let the director know when you plan to visit, what you will bring (goodies, cards, gifts), and what you would like to do (visit, sing, pass out items). The director can tell you how many residents live in the facility and the best day and time for their schedule.
~ When making goodies try to make them sugar-free ( and possibly nut-free). The nursing home my family visits told me it was okay to bring sweets — a little bit will not bother anyone. The director went around with us and alerted us to who could and could not have the baked items.
~ Get everyone involved. My family teamed with another family on our last visit. Our friends made homemade cards while my 14-year-old son became a baker and made two homemade pound cakes plus brownies. We put individual slices of the baked goodies in Ziploc sandwich baggies. During the visit, the girls took turns passing everything out
~ Prepare to sing. Residents love singing.
~ Often the greatest gift is time and it is especially true in a nursing home. Mary Kay Ash said when she met a woman she always pictured her with a sign around her neck reading “make me feel special.” See each resident with that sign around his or her neck.
~ Ask to meet those who do not have family or visitors. These are dear ones who need to experience the love of Christ in a real way. Loneliness and depression are issues many senior adults face, especially when estranged from friends and family. For Christmas make goody bags of hard candy, colorful socks, book, blanket, or other items based on their needs (ask the director). Ask if you can decorate their room for Christmas. Take a nativity and a small tree with ornaments (handmade ones by the children are loved) to bring cheer to a plain room.
~ Follow the director’s lead. There will be those whose minds are in another world. They can upset or startle young children. Follow the director’s lead when they steer away from a resident or room. For our family, children ages 6 and up do well. Younger children, especially toddlers and babies, may become tired. Residents love babies but find it hard to understand why they cannot hold your baby and often become upset.
~ Shake hands, pat backs, give hugs. The power of touch is tremendous — especially to those who may not have felt a hug in a long time.
~ Share the Gospel and encourage the saints. Beforehand read salvation scriptures to your children, explaining the opportunity may arise to witness. Tell the children to be respectful of the situation and stand quietly praying to themselves for the Lord to open hearts and minds to His Word as you share the Gospel.
~ Pray with residents for any concerns. This is a wonderful time for children to take part in praying with others.
~ Encourage the staff. Ask if they have any prayer needs. Take along extra goodies for them too.
~ The need within nursing homes for caring people to visit and share the love of Christ is immense. The joy you spread will be nothing compared to the joy you will receive by ministering to these dear souls. Make visiting the nursing home routine for you and your family and be prepared to be used in a mighty way by God in the lives of many.