Many of us will ask these questions when planning for the first time an Old Folks Home visiting: What can we do there? How to begin my plan?
Frankly, I am an amateur myself in doing this, but I wish to share with you some of my experiences, hoping to help out a little bit here and there. For those veterans out there, it will be most appreciated if you could share with us yours' so that we could learn and improve ourselves along the way.
Well, back to the topic, there are two scenarios when you plan your visit;
1. You are going on your own or with your family
2. You are going on a group basis
Things you can do if you are going on your own:
1. First thing is to check out the total number of inmates.
2. Prepare some cash donations, does not matter if it's big or small amounts. Just give some pocket money to the elderly. (No cash also never mind)
3. Bring some old costume jewellery i.e. bangles, wrist band, watches, necklace, rings etc for the females. You will be surprised that they still like to look pretty at their age.
4. Bring some old belts, sandals, long-sighted glasses to the males.
5. Donate your old clothing or kitchen utensils to the centre.
6. Buy daily essentials e.g.. Adult pampers, Anlene milk powder, disinfectant and more…please refer to the "LIST OF ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR OLD FOLKS HOME" below.
7. Establish communication with them and listen to their "Golden" stories. They can repeat many times the same topic but you just got to be patient. Respond to what they have to say and share your feelings and observation.
8. Encourage the elderly in good and harmonious daily living.
9. When the atmosphere gets lightened, you can suggest helping to trim their finger or toe nails.
10. Help feed those who are bedridden with water or food (do check with the home caretakers first).
11. Prepare some snacks and bring along a birthday cake to celebrate those born in that month.
12. Invite the elderly to perform some dance or singing session, they will love to show their talents (do remember to applaud and sing your praises, regardless)
13. Say goodbye when some of them feel tired.
Apart from the above, there are additional things that you can do if you are going on a group basis:
1. Gather a group of friends, colleagues or relatives who are keen to participate. Bring the kids along.
2. Decide on the area, the home and the date you wish to visit.
3. Check out the total number of inmates for each home.
4. Set a budget and decide on the items and cash donation your group wish to donate. Any amount of donation is on goodwill basis, try not to pre-determine the contribution amount for the participants as they may have different financial capabilities.
5. Distribute the purchasing to all participants. (Trust me that this is half the fun doing purchasing.)
6. Bring along a hair stylist if possible. (I wish I could be one. Will start by cutting my son's hair…)
7. Meet all participants at the first home.
8. Have the Home's caretaker to brief and introduce to your group the daily operation, activities and background of the home.
9. Greet the old folks and establish communication with them.
10. Offer to cut their hair to those in need. They will need this service almost all the time.
11. Birthday or Festive celebration with simple gifts and cards.
11. Bring suitable snacks, fruits and cakes. Remember most of them would have no molar teeth by now…
12. Singing, music e.g. guitar, harmonica, dancing, stories and plays
13. Sharing of experiences and feelings
14. Take photos with them.
12. Give cash donation to the centre or individual.
13. Clean up the mess before you say good-bye.
Leave those rooms cleaning and shower jobs to volunteers or social workers. You may not be able to get intimate with old folks on the first visit.
To many, their first visit is sometimes uncomfortable and you may even feel a bit awkward at times, needing to be caring and comforting to someone whom you've just met. But don't feel shy doing it as the old folks are more than happy to receive your visit, they actually await you. And the butterflies in you stomach will disappear after doing it a couple more times.
In short, do this with love and compassion ... and you won't go wrong.
Look out for things to prepare when visiting Orphanages in my next blog.
LIST OF ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR OLD FOLKS HOME
Health and Hygiene
1. Adult pampers Size S,M,L,XL
2. Antiseptic Cream
3. Dettol Multipurpose Detergent
4. Tooth brush and tooth paste
6. Shower Gel
7. Shaver and blades
2. Anlene Milk Powder
3. Red Dates
6. Cooking Oil
8. Ikan Bilis (Anchovies)
9. Sardine or Tuna
10. Jam and butter
12. Wheat flour
13. Onion / garlic / Potatoes
Household Miscellaneous Items
1. Washing Machine Liquid
2. Soap Powder
3. Mop and brooms
4. Mosquito Spray
5. Floor detergent
6. Rubbish bags
7. Bedsheets / Pillow cases
Note: The above listing is not exhaustive and you are encouraged to request a wish list from the respective Home Administrators for specific items required.