Good words without deeds are rushes and reeds.

Ellen is a Grandpal volunteer with Elm Hall Nursing Home in Celbridge, Co.Kildare. All names of residents mentioned in this article have been anonymised. Enjoy!

Well, it’s been several months since I started my visits with Patrick in Elm Hall and our time together has evolved into a comfortable meet up every week.

I don’t need to plan my visits to fill any awkward gaps in the conversation anymore. However, I’m constantly alert to ideas to bring with me that I think he would enjoy.

Part of our visit every week is spent doing the crossword from the Irish Times, I often put some music on my iPad that I know he will enjoy when we are doing that. The iPad also facilitates a bit of ‘cheating’ when I’m doing the crossword as I can access the thesaurus when we get stuck!

We do some word games too. Here are some examples.

One of us suggests a word and we have to come up with sentences or sayings that have some link to that word.

So if we work with the word money for example. You could use sentences like, I took note of the strange man walking down the street or cash is king or ‘to coin a phrase’.

Sometimes when I leave Patrick I give him a word that he has to think up sentences for. He is often eager to start our next get together playing this game as he has thought about it between visits. I get a bit of a kick out his enthusiasm as it means he is engaged in the game even when I’m not there.

Another word game we play is made up but it goes like this. We start with 10 points and say What am I or Who am I?

For every clue, you give a point is deducted. I was much kinder with my clues than Patrick! I started ‘what am I’ with clue 1….. you use me to write,

Patrick said pen. Wrong answer.

Clue 2 I am made of wood,

Patrick got the correct answer of a pencil.

So it came to Patrick’s round. I wasn’t going to have it easy when he started with...what am I?

Clue 1. I am a machine!

To cut a long story short after much laughter and debate about his terrible clues I got the answer….a helicopter!

We always do a catch up on each other’s family news too and he likes to hear about any trips I’ve made.

Sometimes I call unexpectedly and have found Patrick fast asleep. I don’t have the heart to wake him so I have a wander to the day room and chat to some of the other residents. I’ve gotten to know Mark, a man in his fifties with early onset dementia. He looks after the home’s two chickens and likes to chat about them. A lady, Mary, another dementia sufferer is always in form for a chat and brings a smile to my face as she seems to be a bit of a character and has a wicked tongue on her!

I am always glad that I have made my visit.

If you have a friend, neighbour or relative in a nursing home I encourage you to call on them. Your one hour visit will give them so much pleasure and you won’t regret that you invested the time in brightening their week.

Do you have a heart-warming or eye-opening short story around an older loved one or that celebrates ageing? Let us know here and help spread the positivity!

Be there for an older loved one, from anywhere.