After Vera first entered the nursing home her daughter’s visit revolved around her mother’s physical progress. Vera had a debilitating stroke and was making very slow progress. It became apparent that Vera would always require the care provided by 24 hour caregivers. So now her daughter’s focus shifted to the quality of her weekly visits.

The daughter brought favorite food items, books to read together, and her Mom’s request – her hymn book. The nursing staff got used to hearing the mother and daughter singing together on Sunday afternoons.  As the years went by Vera was declining in so many ways. Those times together changed as Vera could no longer follow social conversations or books read to her.

But those hymns, those words sung so many times over so many years, those words remained and gave comfort. At the end of Vera’s life she was almost blind, hadn’t walked in the 14 years she spent in the nursing community, and she was confused most of the time as to where she was and what was going on around her. Yet, hearing those so familiar words gave comfort and yes gave joy.

For Vera, this Thanksgiving:

Come, ye thankful people, come – raise the song of Harvest home, – All be safely gathered in, –  Ere the winter storms begin, –  God, our maker, doth provide, – For our wants to be supplied, – Come to God’s own temple come, – Raise the song of Harvest home.

If you no longer have your Vera to read comforting words to, you can find a Vera in your neighborhood nursing home. Volunteer to read.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing



The Older Woman Living Alone is she Lonely or Enjoying Solitude?

May just turned 75; she lives alone in a condo close to her only son and grandchildren. May was married to a farmer for over 40 years and has been widowed for the past eight years. Living alone in a one bedroom condo has been a very big change for May. But small as her place is it doesn’t bother May living alone, she is hardly home.

She bought a brand new car last year. It is a small economy car but brand new, which means dependability to May. She carries a cell phone and says she is never afraid although she takes hundred mile trips on a regular basis to visit friends and for her “volunteer” work.

May is the picture of the perfect volunteer. If you are a friend of May’s and you will be having surgery, never fear May is packing a bag. She will be at the bedside from hospital, to rehab center back to your home. Your family will never have to take off from work to be at your bedside to keep you company, call the nurse, get you a snack, you and they have May.

It just is a fact of life, most older women live alone. Being that the word “older,” can indicate a span of 40 some years when society might consider a woman “older.” The typical older woman living alone used to be the widow. Today when so many older women are in better health and more financially secure than previous generations, are they really living lonely lives or enjoying their solitude?

Words that come to mind when you think of anyone lonely are; alone, friendless, abandoned, unwanted, sad and having no friends or company. But someone who is enjoying solitude is experiencing personal privacy and peace. The difference could be a number of things; financial security, support system, safe housing, transportation, good health and most of all religious association.

Some worthwhile fixes for loneliness can be to; volunteer, go back to school, join a club, join a church or get more active in your church. These activities will promote intellectual growth, increase self-esteem, increase social opportunities, decrease isolation, provide enjoyment and decrease stress. All of these activities lead to more fulfilled and happy life, and yes to one’s solitude.

Virginia Garberding R.N.

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing