The Expository Files


Will You Love Me In December?

Care giving responsibilities are learning experiences. For several years we've been taking care of my mother-in-law, who suffers with Alzheimer's. First, we cared for her in our home. Two years ago she needed a level of care that required her admission into a nursing home. We are there several times during the week, often daily. I see things that may be unpleasant but I'm learning valuable lessons.

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 difficult 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.

There is a man who comes to the nursing home every day at meal times to feed his wife, who cannot eat without assistance.

He knows his wife through many years of care. He is the most competent one to feed her, knowing exactly what she likes, the pace of her eating and the size of the bites. What's more, he takes great delight in this task. He feeds her with quiet dignity, and perhaps an occasional sadness is felt as he remembers their younger years. He tends the wife of his youth with napkin, as she would do for him. All of this is done with such care and patience, it is 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. 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

By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
From Expository Files 14.8; August 2007