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  • Writer's pictureJill Jarrell Newsome

It Is Better To Give Than To Receive

Acts 20: 35, "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” This is how my Monday started!!

About a year ago Mom and I started going to a nursing home to visit a friends mother who was new in town. Because our friend was always in the activity room we started joining her. We have gotten to know most of the ladies who frequent this room. A few months back I got Duke, my 3 pound Yorkie, approved to visit. They love him and love to hold and pet him!

Mom often says you do not have to have a gift to visit the elderly. You just need to listen. I say you don't have to have a gift, you just have to love. I always leave with stories! I have always loved working with the elderly. When my girls were little we would go visit nursing homes. My favorite job in college was a weekend receptionist in a retirement home.

Most Mondays, Duke is totally new to all of them. We introduce him each time. One particular lady asks his name every five minutes. One lady asks me each Monday, "What the #@$% is that?" Then she pets him. Some of them take turns holding him. There is a younger woman who does not speak but she always pets him and smiles. Another lady tells me she loves to laugh. So we giggle at everything Duke does. She kisses him and he kisses her! She lights up when we walk in. She brightens my day! Another lady cannot stay on task for asking if it is time to eat. Never any emotion but so cute!

Today when we arrived a volunteer was leaving after playing swing music on the piano. One of the residents asked me if I wanted her to play. I was amazed! She played, from memory for 45 minutes. We sang It Is Well With My Soul, How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, I Love to Tell The Story, This is My Father's World, Give Me That Ole Time Religion, Up From The Grave He Arose, Christ The Lord Is Risen Today, I'll Fly Away, Jesus Loves Me, Go Tell It On The Mountain, Bringing In The Sheep, The Old Rugged Cross, On Higher Ground, Love Lifted Me, Jesus Paid it All, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus and more. And because Duke was there right in the middle we sang, How Much Is The Doggy in the Window! This really made my friend giggle!

The blessing today was watching those who cannot carry on a conversation and have severe dementia sing every word to all of these songs. It brought tears to my eyes. Even the lady who asks the same question every five minutes just sang. She knew every word. She is never able to stay on task! To see the peace wash over those ladies was overwhelming. There were three who did not know any words and sadly they did not have any emotion towards those songs. But they too, enjoyed the piano. I came home and started researching about dementia and singing hymns. I know it is a God thing!

Tony Reinke wrote, "I said earlier that people have a significant problem with forgetting; that is, forgetting new information. But there are aspects of our memory that are so well worn, so habitual, that they are what we call a procedural memory. So it is not uncommon to see somebody, even in a locked memory care unit of a nursing home, seem as if they are completely unaware of what is going on. But when they hear an old hymn that they know and love, they light up and sing every word of it. It is a beautiful picture of how they have this hymn, this truth, embedded deep within them, and they can access it when they are prompted."

One article said even though the dementia sufferer may not know what they are doing they will find God through music. “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Another article said it all comes back to spiritual disciplines, church attendance, hymns, Scripture memorization. Even with dementia these people can cling to their faith.

Heidi Smith of the Zion Lutheran Home writes, "according to the website, researchers believe this happens because singing is engaging; music evokes emotions that bring memories, can change moods and manage stress and bring emotional and physical closeness. Musical aptitude and appreciation also are two of the last remaining abilities in people living with dementia.

Zion Lutheran Home has a professional music therapist and what she does musically is almost magical at times in enhancing people’s mood and behaviors as they live with dementia. This ‘music magic’ happens even more potently for some of those same people in worship since most in this age group have come from Christian backgrounds, with the remembered experiences of church and Sunday school."

We have had Alzheimers in our family and they all could talk about years before but not moments before. This makes sense that all of their early teachings stays with them. Thanks be to God! Another reason we should be be making our Christian practices a daily habit! We should be teaching Bible stories and scriptures to our little children so scripture will be embedded in their hearts.

If you are in Wilmington and play the piano (I have not seen our pianist in the activity room before) and would like to be blessed some evening let me know. Or if you would just like to go. We will go and sing with these precious children of God. I can furnish a list of songs and words! Matthew 18: 20, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” You can watch as they "seek" the Lord and they find Him. It is a blessing to see the peace that passes all understanding wash over them.

"When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance." Joel Osteen

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Jun 08, 2018

Hi Jill, just finished reading your blog and was so very touched. I have always loved to help seniors. I would love to join you at one of your visits with them. My husband was diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia in 2015. And just found out it is either Lewy Body Dementia or Frontal Temporal Degeneration. We are pretty sure it is Lewy Body. With that being said, I am his caregiver. I was diagnosed in 2012 with Parkinson's Disease, and had the DBS surgery in March - and still in the programming stage which can take up to a year to get everything balanced out. A few other things going on, so my time is limited but …

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