Last May, we went to the assisted living facility where my parents live to celebrate my dad’s birthday. I arrived with my husband and daughter. My sister met us there. In the apartment, we noticed that dad seemed confused. He was slow to respond, our words didn’t seem to register. His normal repeated word, “What?” seemed to multiply. We asked if he was okay, and he said that he felt a little run down, but fine. Our hope was that dinner and some nourishment would help.
He became worse at the dinner table. He just looked at his food. We had to keep him focused on the conversation. In the middle of dinner, which he didn’t eat, he had to use the bathroom. I helped him to the men’s room and waited at the door. When he finally came out, he was too weak to walk back to the dining room or to their apartment upstairs. My husband went up to get my mom’s walker that had a built-in seat. We wheeled him down the halls, up the elevator, and to the apartment. We tried transferring him from the walker to his chair. My dad could stand with assistance, but he didn’t know how to move his legs. We helped “walk” his legs. We also knew that it was time to call 911.
In the meantime, my mom fretted over my dad. She didn’t know what was going on, only that her Stan wasn’t himself. She wanted to help. She was always the caregiver in the family; but after her massive stroke, the tables turned and now she depended on him. He was her security. She became scared and wanted to be near him. Unfortunately, she had no choice but to sit on the couch as everyone else hovered over dad. My sister and I answered questions asked by the first responder, while my husband directed the paramedics to the apartment.
We had an apartment full of people, yet my mom was alone. She sat silent and on the verge of tears. And then, my daughter reached out. She found her way across the crowded room to sit next to her grandma. She took mom’s hand and held tight. That one simple gesture helped my mom tremendously. She knew she wasn’t alone.
A touch of another human can be so powerful. In time of need, a simple gesture – holding a hand or giving a hug – can mean the world to someone in need. Just to assure them that they are not alone. I still remember the effect that it had on me, how my daughter saw the need and took action. The two of them probably don’t remember this simple act but I do. It’s one that I won’t forget.
I hope that I can have that type of effect on someone else as well. I know in the future, I will be mindful of how a simple gesture can really go a long way.