Holding Hands Because It Matters

“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” ~ Tia Walker

We have an elderly family member in hospital right now. It’s a place she has visited frequently these past few months after her the first major fall. She is old and frail and her health is failing. Things keep going wrong. And so she finds herself alone – a tiny body in a big bed in a big empty room, far from the friendships and care of her usual environment.

She has dementia. Everything is more confusing, more confronting in this space. Each time we visit she is surly to start with. Emotional. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes there are sharp words. We don’t take it personally. It’s just the time of day. Her mood is always worse at nightfall and in the evenings, but that’s just part of this awful disease.

We’ve learned to ignore those displays of hostility and to keep being loving and kind. We reassure her, and sit close by her, and we hold her hand. We repeat the same stories over and over, and answer the same questions over and over, and somewhere in that space she moves from distress or anger to laughter and a warm, open discussion of life and happy memories from the past.

I have learned that there is nothing like human touch to calm someone who seems otherwise unsoothable. I have learned to take lotion to rub into her hands and face, her arms and legs. To brush her hair. And always, always to hold her hand.

I have learned that she may not eat because the food is too hard to see, or she doesn’t know what it is or how to open it, or it’s too hard to cut up, or she can’t get the drinking straw or juice cup to her mouth. So an uneaten meal may not mean she’s not hungry but that she simply needs help to eat. I have learned to feed her like you’d feed a child. She opens her mouth like a little bird and I pop morsels of food in, and she smiles at me and makes me promise not to tell people I am feeding her when she could really do it herself. We pretend that is true and I keep feeding her until the food is gone or she is satisfied.

Every visit becomes a blessing. Something that soothes and restores something in me as much as it calms and reassures something in her. Once upon a time she was a woman who held herself apart. I am grateful that this illness has allowed me the chance to become close to her, and for us to find a way to say things that might not have ever otherwise been said.

Sending much love to you, especially all of the carers and those who are looking after elders, Nicole ❤ xx

Hi! I'm Nicole Cody. I am a writer, psychic, metaphysical teacher and organic farmer. I love to read, cook, walk on the beach, dance in the rain and grow things. Sometimes, to entertain my cows, I dance in my gumboots. Gumboot dancing is very under-rated.
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11 thoughts on “Holding Hands Because It Matters

  1. Taking care of mum for the two plus years was both rewarding an insanely difficult. I’m glad I did it, but the holding I remember most wasn’t mum. I did much of that caregiving completely alone. After she died in the hospital, I left. Stunned because is I wasn’t needed again. A friend followed me and when I stopped to cry at my favorite rest stop, I was held. I’ll never forget that…
    Keep these moments close, remember, and don’t go it alone. 💕💕

  2. Thinking of you. Just being with someone is so important. My dad died 13 years ago and I’m so happy I got to spend 8 weeks with him just going to appointments, sitting for hours in waiting rooms, being with him as he got bad news repeatedly and yet was brave and told me he’d lived a wonderful life. Then I had to fly back to Australia. I treasure the time we shared and the ordinary spaces that opened into quiet depths. Xxx

  3. The healing touch of Love, Kindness, Compassion and more LOVE. It is a hard road travelling this with our loved ones, but I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am to have this time to say goodbye…and especially while they remember us. I’m off to see my Mumma who has dememtia this coming saturday and I am SO looking forward to holding her & kissing her & telling her how much I LOVE her. Blessings upon Blessings to you ALL

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