June Patchett enjoys a visit to the gardens at Pleasant Meadows Senior Living in Chrisman. A former science teacher, June enjoys the garden and talking about the plants. (Photos by Ruth Patchett/The Prairie Press)

Past memories in full bloom

When my first iris plants started to bloom, I decided to become an iris thief. Many of the homes in our area have iris blooming and I figured if I cut just one. Who would know one was missing? The reason for wanting a different iris from a different home is because I wanted to take all the different colors I could find and put them in a bouquet for my mother-in-law, June Patchett. June is now a resident at Pleasant Meadows. I figured we could then talk about where I had picked each different variety and she could reminisce about what she knew about the particular place I had picked them. 

Since I am not from around here I’ve always found it interesting to learn about the history of people who lived here before. This is probably one of the reasons I enjoy reading columns by Roger Stanley and Allen Englebright and I loved talking to Butch Parrish. Butch knew so much about the family history of many people. If you want to learn something now is the time to get it first hand from one who has experienced it.

June is 95 years, soon to be 96 in August, and has always loved flowers. The three different iris that bloom where I live are because she either planted them a long time ago when she lived here or because she gave them to me to plant. When I brought her some Lily of the Valley that were blooming the other day she talked about the neighbor who had given them to her and how she had planted them a good 45 years ago. Past memories are always good to discuss as older people usually have a much better long-term memory than a short term. 

Are you wondering where this article is going? I do tend to ramble on but my point is, it is so important to visit and talk to friends and family in our care facilities. Don’t just wait for a special occasion such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthday or holiday to visit someone. Even just a brief visit will perk up their day. You likely will find you are the one who gains the most. Older people have amazing stories to tell and time to talk to you.

If you find it is hard to visit with some older people bring along pictures of the past. You may not even know who is in the picture but they may. You might also want to bring a book and read with them. June and I have recently read, “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron. I would read a chapter at each visit and we laughed, cried and talked about dogs. When we were finished she even suggested we read it again but I decided we would read the sequel next, which we are now doing. After we finish we plan to read another dog book and yes, June has always liked dogs.  Some gerontology experts suggest reading short books or children’s books because older adults may not have the stamina to enjoy a longer story. The main point is being there and showing you care. 

Many people think the only thing older people like to do is play bingo. June hates bingo and rarely does she play. If you are a bingo fan, volunteer to help at nursing homes with bingo. Some older residents need help because they may not be able to easily reach the top numbers on their card or can’t easily find the numbers. With your help, you get the thrill of seeing them win and you are winner as well by doing something good for others. The staff always appreciates extra help and the residents love seeing a new face.

Something else, which is a wonderful gift, is to take someone outside to just breathe the fresh air. You will have to check with the staff before doing this. It can be so refreshing just to be outside, especially during the pleasant days of spring. Many people need a one-on-one aide for this and if you can give them a helping hand more people can enjoy being outside. I think the landscaping at Pleasant Meadows is the most beautiful around. I love to go outside with June just to admire it. June taught biology in addition to home economics so she is very knowledgeable about plants, trees and birds and each outdoor time spent with her means a mini science lesson.

According to my daughter, who is a social director at a five-star nursing/assisted living facility in Missouri and has her masters in gerontology, patients who have families that are constantly involved in their care and asking questions tend to receive better care. I am not suggesting the staff doesn’t try to do the best job for everyone but if you are there checking on your loved one you can point out items that may have been overlooked. Even if you cannot visit, call. June knows if it is Wednesday, Christina, her granddaughter, will be calling. It is something she looks forward to and has for the last several years, even long before she entered Pleasant Meadows. 

Mother’s Day is Sunday and if you’re lucky enough to still have your mom count your Blessings. My own mother has been gone for several years and I still think of her and all she taught me. If you are considering where to take Mom for dinner or what kind of gift to buy her: chocolate-jewelry-flowers-etc. let me give you another idea she will love. Spend more time with her and not just on Mother’s Day. Help her with some little task she is no longer able to do herself. Now is the time for give back, for all the things she did for you. 

Happy Mother’s Day. 

The Prairie Press

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