Loving The Forgotten Ones

This week, M expressed a very clear desire to commit suicide, including the method of ending life.  Racked with pain, deteriorating health, loneliness and a lack of familial, spiritual and friendly support, M has had enough of life.

Canadian statistics estimate that the number of depressed, suicidal elderly people is 14%.  (Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario)  In the United States, the estimate is 14.3%.  (National Institute of Mental Health) In both countries, men over the age of 80 are more likely to commit suicide.   Depression is the most common risk  factor for suicide and it can be caused by chronic or terminal illness and loneliness. There are struggling senior citizens who live on our street or down the hall or in the nearby nursing home.  The Advent and Christmas season is particularly difficult for those who feel desperate and worthless.

Professionally, I followed the proper procedures and contacted the agencies that can deal with M’s suicidal ideation, but for lay people, there is so much that can be done to prevent more seniors from feeling such despair.   What a gesture of love it would be to visit them and enjoy a cup of tea and a plate of freshly baked Christmas cookies; listen to a beautiful Christmas concert; offer a ride to church; remember the elderly in our prayers; corporal works of mercy done for the love of God and neighbour.  Hopefully, kindness extended during Advent will be continued throughout the coming year.

Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said ” the most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved…..Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.” This Advent and Christmas season, let us welcome the Christ Child as he manifests Himself in our vulnerable senior citizens; let the inn of our hearts be welcoming and ready to serve Him in the elderly who feel unloved, forgotten, invisible.

Deo Gratias

This post is linked to Catholic Blogger Network monthly round-up.

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14 Responses to Loving The Forgotten Ones

  1. Visiting the elderly was one of the ministries we used to do as kids through the church.
    Nothing like seeing someone’s face light up when they see you, & you realize (even at a young age) that they haven’t REALLY spoken with anyone (other than caretakers) in days, weeks, or longer.

    As the government continues to push charities out of such areas, such desperation and depression will become more widespread.
    It almost seems deliberate…?

  2. yourothermotherhere says:

    You are so right. How many people would it take to visit the people in nursing homes, in hospitals, or the ones living alone? How much are we all missing by not making these connections? We view these people as extras, waiting to die instead of as treasure troves of life. What a shame.

  3. The problem is that once people are institutionalized, you can’t just bring them tea and cookies (food regs) or take them to church unless you can convince the people in charge that it was the residents’ idea, or do any obvious kind thing. There’s always some unexpected factor in the way. Lots of people want to visit and help but don’t know where to start because of the obstacles. It’s good when a community group works with the administrators to coordinate visits and activities.

    • That’s a good point. Nursing homes put rules in place to ensure the safety of their residents but all nursing homes welcome volunteers and community groups to provide much needed social support.

  4. SaintlySages says:

    I cannot help but notice that the one commandment to which is attached a temporal blessing is this: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Ex 20:12). This indicates to me how very important it is to care for our earthly parents, to comfort them, to love them. God bless!

  5. Last week when I talked to my mum, she said something I would have never expected to hear from her lips–that it would be easier to just die. She is in assisted care, but the stresses of relationships with others with deteriorating minds, as well as her own, make life very hard. It is hard being so far away. Though I know she is getting good care, it is not like being in a family members’ home. 😦

  6. annedesa says:

    What a wonderful thought Terry. But I wish to add my two cents on this. And I beg forgiveness if my words come across as hurtful and/or harsh. It is not my intention to, i am just being candid.

    This could be cultural difference. But if everyone took care of their own parents, why would there be so many lonely inmates in old age homes? People ignore their own and visit others’ in nursing homes as an altruistic gesture or to calm their conscience.

    Do these old people really need such ‘seasonal’ visits from strangers for a cup of tea and plate of cookies knowing that its a ‘one night stand’ and tomorrow they will be lonely and depressed again? Or do they need to have love everyday of their remaining life to feel and die happy?

    This trend of abandoning your old ones to old age homes once they get inconvenient is fast spreading through Indian cities too. And its not something to be proud about… 😦

    • I think it’s very simplistic to think that all elderly people end up alone because family has abandoned them. In my experience, there are many reasons why being alone happens; too many to articulate in this reply. That issue in itself is an entire series of articles. As I mentioned, kindness shown during Advent ought to be extended throughout the year, but we have to start somewhere. A plate of cookies at this time of the year is a good beginning. I think it’s very short-sighted to think that people who visit the elderly in nursing homes or in their own homes are only doing so to ease their conscience. Again, in my experience, those who remember the elderly and those who volunteer in seniors’ centres and nursing homes are doing so out of love.

      • Elisa says:

        Thank you for this post (visiting from Catholic Bloggers Network). I have to agree that it is important for everyone to visit their own elderly relatives, and to teach them to use technology to stay in touch if they live far away. There is so much older folks can offer to us, so our love to them is returned to us a thousand fold. I also agree that people who live alone as they age often have varied reasons. My mother refuses to live with any of her children, but one day she will have to due to her health and I hope she will come into my home so that my children can benefit from her company and she can spend her time in the company of loved ones. I know that this experience may be a difficult one if her health is poor and her mood affected by loss of independence, but God will show us the way. And if by chance, her health is strong, I still want her to live with us and add to our family dynamic in the way that only she can.

  7. genericmum says:

    It’s very nice to think that you pray for your patients, as well as physically care for them.

  8. A heart-warming post, and so true and so necessary. It’s appalling to think that a generation can be so easily forgotten. I see it all around me here on this island. Many families are single-parent families, and very, very occasionally do you find an extended family, which includes both Gran and Grandad. What I do see much of, is elderly shoppers carrying heavy loads, pulling heavy trolly bags filled with groceries and we are witness here to more and more elderly who are working well into their twilight years.
    I do know that the elderly and the infirm are visited at least weekly by someone from our parish who brings them the Eucharist, and who will actually spend an hour and sometimes two chatting and and keeping them company.
    Sadly, we do have all too many lone parishioners who, if it weren’t for their Christian ties and friendships, would die alone, forgotten.
    The older generation has earned their right to love, respect and consideration. Lovely post.

  9. lilyboat says:

    That picture is very touching. I am saying a prayer for the said lady, M. Thank you for posting this.

  10. Scientists cannot find a reason as to why we age. Why do we get older and our bodies slowly lose their function as we suffer various pains and difficulties before we die? Why not just die when we reach a certain age, rather than grow old?

    Why does God allow aging?

    I believe He allows aging to give us all an opportunity to look after those less fortunate than ourselves.

    God bless you.

    • I agree, Victor. In our humanity, we are hard-wired to care for and protect the weakest among us. The elderly are deserving of the best of our compassion and rely on stronger members of society to uphold their dignity and right to life. I reflected on this on a blog post earlier this year (The Purpose and Dignity of Old Age) after a visit with one of my most vulnerable patients.

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