Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 5th, Southridge Retirement Center hosted a Mother's Day Luncheon.  Guests were invited.  I attended with Mam-ma Polly.  Because of the guests, the seating arrangements were something of a "fruit basket turnover," so we were seated at a different table than the one where Mam-ma usually dines.  Our table companions were a lady named Maxine, and a very nice gentleman from our community, Captain Claude Shaw.  Capt. Shaw is retired Navy, and he is a delightful man who has worked hard for several philanthropic organizations in our area.  After his retirement, he spent hours tending 105 rose bushes in his yard... and sharing the bounty with shut-ins and others throughout the community.  He was always buying bud vases at thrift stores and garage sales to use as vessels for his beautiful flower deliveries.

My Mam-ma Polly and me.
Before the lunch began, Mam-ma and I walked around and snapped some photos of her with a few of her closest friends.  One lady who was a guest of Mam-ma's friend, Mrs. Viola, snapped our photo, too!

Mam-ma's friend - Mrs. Viola - with her guest, Shirley.

Mam-ma Polly with her dear friend, Mrs. Viola.
My grandmother with her table-mates, Mrs. Evelyn
(a lifelong friend of our family), and Mrs. Ruth Garner
(my third-grade teacher, and a dear friend, as well).
The tables were set with tablecloths, nice appointments, vases of red roses and purple flowers picked from the beds that grace the facility grounds, place cards at each setting, and more.  Each mother received a carnation tied with a ribbon, and we all got candy kisses.  The meal included Waldorf salad, fried chicken, mixed squash, navy beans (which my grandmother calls "white soup beans" - and loves!), cornbread, and peanut butter pie.  The staff was busy serving coffee, tea, and water... and everything was quite lovely.

For the first time, my grandmother didn't have a SINGLE complaint!  The closest she came was telling me that she could not chew the apples in her salad.  Everything went well... she looked beautiful, the food was delicious, and the conversation was engaging.  Mam-ma had a great time visiting with Capt. Shaw... and long-time friends were seated at the adjacent table, so she visited with them, as well.

I realize that today could be altogether different.  Mam-ma is, after all, halfway to 99!  But I felt like we had significantly turned a corner yesterday.  I saw her engaged and active in her new surroundings.  I saw how the staff reacted to her as one of their more able-bodied - and clearheaded - residents.  They adore her... and she loves that!  Her needs are more than being met, and that is a huge comfort to me. 

Hopefully this trend will continue, and we can enjoy the next few years with each other.
I left her planning her next trip to Wal-Mart to buy gardening gloves, so that she can plant her prized pole bean seed as soon as the weather permits. 

I did feel badly for those mothers who had no guests to dine with them - and there were more than a few.  It seemed so sad to me that families can't find time to stop for a couple of hours and share an Easter or Mother's Day meal with their loved one.  I realize these special occasions have been held on a weekday, rather than on the actual holiday... perhaps because it's easier to have all staff members available to assist.  But still... could someone not come sit with these dear people on this day?  It astounds me.

The dilemma we faced this Mother's Day was a gift for my grandmother.  What do you get for someone with limited space and needs?  Mam-ma has enough cologne to last her several years. She has plenty of body lotions and toiletries... and she doesn't need clothing!  She doesn't have room for books... and the library has plenty of choices. Our solution was to give Mam-ma "spending money" to buy some things she wants... like gardening gloves... on the weekly trips to Wal-Mart.

But here are some suggestions for items that might be suitable for your mom or grandma:

  • a big shady hat for wearing when he/she goes outside to sit in the sun or get fresh air
  • cosmetics - incidentals add up, so if you know that your grandma needs extra face powder or make-up foundation, this might be a good time to replenish her stock.  Or fix a little basket with shower soap (or regular soap), toothpaste, shampoo, and a long shower brush for scrubbing.  There are some great plastic containers that are perforated - intended to be kept in the shower, yet allow water to drain - and they would be perfect as your "basket".
  • note cards and stamps - if your senior is still able to send an occasional card - a book of postage stamps, and even some return address labels (even a sheet or two printed on your computer) would be helpful
  • a subscription to a pretty magazine... Birds and Blooms, and Country Woman have been favorites of my grandmother.  They have little copy and lots of pretty pictures... and when she is finished with them, she can share with other residents.  Reminisce is another good one.
  • a small photo album filled with family photos.  Make prints of some of your most recent photos of the family and start an album.  As you get more, you can fill in the remaining sleeves on subsequent visits.
  • a decorative chain or lanyard to hold eyeglasses or the resident's "call button".  My grandmother doesn't like to wear her button around her neck, but if she had a pretty chain for it instead of the lanyard with medical advertising, she might be more inclined to do so.  And how many times has your mom or grandmother misplaced her eye glasses?  Perhaps a decorative chain to secure them - or one of the little pins that you can loop them through when not wearing them - would be in order.
  • a large-print calendar, with important family dates (like birthdays and anniversaries) marked on them.  At the Easter luncheon, I was telling my grandmother about a funeral I had just attended for my cousin.  Mam-ma's friend, Ruby, said, "I'm so glad you tell Polly things and keep her informed.  If you don't tell us things, we lose touch."  Sharing important dates and keeping your senior informed can help to keep them aware of what is happening and feeling like they are "in the loop!"
  • sunglasses.  My grandmother recently purchased a pair of sunglasses at Wal-Mart that slide on over her prescription glasses.  They are called "Solar Shields" and come in a couple of different styles and colors - retail cost is around $19.  She can slip these on easily when she steps outdoors... the clip-on style is too difficult for her to manipulate any longer.
  • lipstick.  My grandmother still enjoys wearing a pretty shade of lipstick... and at around $8 or more a tube, this is not something she is inclined to purchase often for herself.  If your loved one is no longer interested in a lip color, consider a nice lip balm.
  • Books on tape.  If your loved one has vision difficulties and can no longer see well enough to read, consider giving her a device that will play books on tape.  There are some fairly simple models available that most seniors can manage.  Check out for options.
  • a bird feeder and bird seed.  We put a small shepherd's hook outside my grandmother's window and hung a simple tube feeder.  My husband sometimes uses this as an excuse to drop by - he carries a container of bird seed and replenishes the feeder.  We also got my grandmother a simple book on songbirds and their care, so that she can identify what birds visit her feeder.  More than once, she has called me to tell me that a "hairy woodpecker" or a "red finch" were feeding there.
You have to think outside the box to come up with a suitable and clever Mother's Day gift for someone who lives in a residential facility... but it can be done.  While they may have plenty of food and the basic necessities, this doesn't mean that a gift and a simple card are not still appreciated - even coveted.  Our loved ones went to a facility to get the care and attention to their personal needs that was required.  The enhancements to their quality of living come in great measure from continued contact with family and friends.  Holidays are an especially important time to be sure to remember these dear seniors... and to give them a gift that says, "Happy Mother's Day - we still love you!"

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