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Residents of aged care homes are not alone
By Sami A Cassis

My name is Sami A Cassis and I volunteer for the Community Visitors Scheme managed Central Sydney Area Health Service which has more than 180 volunteers visiting residents in various nursing homes. I would like to tell you about my own personal experiences with two residents whom I visit regularly.

For the sake of confidentiality, let's call them John and Frank. When I started visiting these gentlemen, I realised that they had completely different mentalities and interests.

John enjoyed reading the newspaper and discussing the behaviour of politicians and other public figures, but unfortunately there was nobody in the nursing home with whom he could express his views.

We spent a lot of time together discussing current affairs. During our conversation, I could see a glow of happiness coming from his eyes, and a heartfelt gratefulness that I was there to listen to his views and opinions, and hold discussions and, most importantly, to understand his needs. It's true that my visits to him do not last for hours but during our time together, I feel that I bring happiness and hope to a very sick person.

On the other hand, Frank, was completely demoralised. During my first visit, he was reluctant to talk. At that time, I thought he was completely desperate, simply marking time and awaiting death. However, during my third visit, I discovered that Frank had a certain interest in history and other academic disciplines. It was then that I had an idea that I thought might change his attitude and motivation to life.

During my next visit, I told Frank that I had a problem and that I wanted his assistance. Suddenly, I saw a light coming from his eyes. "What's the problem?" he asked with enthusiasm. I told him that I was in the process of writing a book about the evolution of the world from the beginning of the 20th century till today but I had a lot of blanks in the book which he may be able to assist me with.

Frank seemed very happy that someone needed his help. He asked me to bring some books and writing pads. Since that day, I have never seen a happier man. His desperation has all but disappeared, and his joy for life has replaced the sadness that was so obvious in my earlier visits.

I do not believe that I have the unique ability to bring joy to patients. It is simply that they're longing for company, for human interaction. This, in my opinion, is the best medicine of all …

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