Aging Parents: Connections and a Veterans’ Nursing Home continued… updated 11/27/17

My “off-the-cuff” thought for these veterans who have no doubt given a lot and seem to have so little in life at this point, is to think “double it” when we are doing something nice for our parents.

Can we get together with friends and double or triple or increase our output when we make/take/send cards, decorations, goodies and/or little holiday gifts to our parents?

As mentioned in previous posts our Garden Club takes gifts to a local nursing–though not a VA–home at Christmas each year. The following suggestions are within the guidelines of the nursing home near us.  Guidelines may differ so check them out.

  • chap sticks
  • soaps, lotions or creams– no scent
  • comb and brush
  • small stuffed animals
  • pens, pads, stationery
  • sunglasses
  • neckties
  • slippers, socks
  • mittens, gloves, scarves, shawls
  • decorative boxes or containers
  • scrapbooks, photo albums, picture frames
  • candy canes (no other food but this)
  • decorations
  • games (checkers, playing cards, jig saw puzzles)
  • videos
  • small, light-weight blanket

While our gifts can’t exceed $12, they are practical and/or fun. Just looking at the baskets is uplifting…An idea for Easter?

Peter Cotton Tail Garden Basket

Yesterday I met a disabled Veteran, accompanied by his service dog, in a wonderful Indian pottery shop. I discussed the Veteran’s Administration Nursing Home article with him. It “rang true.” He has been in Veteran’s hospitals, endured surgeries and rehab, and depends on his service dog to help with numerous challenges he faces daily.

He mentioned how simple things like soaps and deodorants are appreciated in the VA hospitals. Also mentioned the fact that people in the VA hosptials’ “guilds” do special things for the veterans. He was unsure as to whether VA nursing homes have guild’s.

What he was certain of was the special treat it was for veterans, who were mentally and physically able, to get out of the nursing home for a bit–to have a change of scenery.

He spoke of the importance of visitors to bring the outside world in–of having people to converse with. But suddenly I realize it works both ways. He reminded me that WWII veterans are dying daily and many of them have amazing stories to tell.  Who else can tell us about WWII first hand? He mentioned one of the Navajo code talkers *who is living out his last days at a VA facility. Will future generations know the importance of the code talkers in WWII? Wouldn’t this fascinate children and grandchildren? And don’t elders love sharing their history with youth? *Note: the link to this 1/5/12 Fox TV news video segment is on an Arizona GOP website, there’s no endorsement intended–it’s simply the best short video of the Navajo code talker’s crucial contribution to the WWII effort I could find     11/27/17 Note: while that link no longer exists, the most recent code talker’s death was in Nov. 2016. Check out THIS ARTICLE featuring the last of the 30 original Navajo code-talkers, Chester Nez, and THE MORE RECENT (Aug. 2017) which features Chester and reviews the history. 

While visiting VA hospitals brings pleasure to an older generation, we can’t forget that visitors reap benefits also. As we try to help aging parents, we realize that some veterans are parents who seldom see–or no longer have– family members. No one outside the facility is there to add a little happiness and stimulation to their lives.

Can those of us who aren’t involved 24/7 with our parents, take an interest–and teach our children to take an interest? In this way we model valuing elders for our children, while helping not only our parents, but possibly someone else’s parent–a veteran– to age better (if not well).

A earlier post this month had additional nursing home gift ideas:

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