Will You Love Me In December?
Warren E. Berkley
Care giving responsibilities are best learned in the setting of love in relationships.
For several years we took care of my mother-in-law, who suffered with Alzheimer’s. First, we cared for her in our home. After that, she needed a level of care that required her admission into a nursing home. We were there several times during the week, often daily. I saw things that were unpleasant but I learned valuable lessons about care. A few years after that, we went through the same with my mother, first in our home and then a facility.
Most nursing homes (since 2003) have paid “feeding assistants.” They may not be nurses or nurses aids, though they should be under professional supervision. A feeding assistant completes eight hours of state-approved training. The course deals with very basic things like feeding techniques, hydration, hygiene, emergency choking procedures, how to handle patients who have difficulty swallowing, etc. The charge nurse may or may not oversee. The feeding assistants sit at a “feeding station,” surrounded by four to five patients, moving on swivel chair from patient to patient – feeding the residents who need help. It is a rather mechanical procedure; necessary but not best.
When visiting my mother-in-law, there was this one man. He came to the nursing home every day at meal times to feed his wife, who could not eat without assistance.
He knew his wife through many years of care. He was the most competent one to feed her, knowing exactly what she liked, the pace of her eating and the size of the bites. What’s more, he took great delight in this task. He fed her with quiet dignity, and perhaps an occasional sadness is felt as he remembered their younger years. He tended the wife of his youth with napkin, as she would do for him. All of this was done with such care and patience, it was tempting to stare with delight and admiration at this example of a husband’s long lasting love, “through sickness and in health.” His capacity to do this job was not learned in a class. Unconditional love certifies him as best for the job.
It is not my purpose to imply criticism of the feeding assistants, editorialize about institutional care, or impose any rules on family members. I only wanted to say, the best caregivers are not trained in a course, but nurtured in real relationships over time. See more about this in Eph. 5:25-33.
And consider this . . .
Will you love me in December as you do in May,
Will you love me in the good old fashioned way?
When my hair has all turned gray,
Will you kiss me then and say,
That you love me in December as you do in May?
~ James J. Walker