Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Comforting Sick Room

Library of Congress: June 1920 - Homemade Comforts for the sick room, as taught by the Red Cross

One of the most important things to learn in homemaking is how to set up a sick room.  Sometimes a patient is bedridden for a couple of days. This can get dreary and depressing without pleasant care.  The patient may be a young child or an elder.  This family member is receiving special care in their own home.  The housekeeper can do many things to make the sick room a pleasant place for both the patient, and the family.

I was chatting with an elderly relative recently. We were talking about the trials of sickness and also of those in constant pain.  She told me that, years ago, nursing homes were not common. She remembered an Aunt who lived in a "sick room" off the kitchen of the family home.  She said, in those days (before the 1960's), it was common for the sick to be cared for at home. 

I did a brief bit of research on this and found a description of a nursing home (on one of the American government sites) to describe the nursing home as a place for those who need help in daily life but have no one at home to care for them. 

My grandparents lived with us when I was growing up.  Grandmother was in a wheelchair and bedridden.  My mother was in charge of her daily care, as well as the care of our household and family.  When I was very young, my mother would need to go to Grandmother's room, to spend time with her, or to render some service.  Mom would telephone her sister and sit me in a chair. She would hand me the phone.  My Aunt kept me busy talking so Mother could manage the sick room without having me underfoot.  Everyone in the family had a part in helping whenever someone was in need of care. It builds character and gives us all the opportunity to do good deeds.  It helps build strong families when this is done with willing and cheerful hearts.

Perhaps there are many, these days, who did not grow up seeing the labor of tending an old - fashioned sick room. It can be a work of cheerful benevolence. I wanted to share some ideas on providing a pleasant room for those with a brief illness.

  For the comfort of the patient, it is nice to offer such amusements as word search puzzles, books, and even old fashioned television programs to make one laugh. 

My mother was a wonderful nurse, even though she had no formal training.   She would take gentle care of  a sick child, settling him in bed during an illness. She would bring in a tray for meals.  There would be a little table or desk, beside the bed, for the thermometer. There was even a little bell for the patient to ring for help.  Lots of pillows and cozy blankets were brought into the room.

 Mother kept a supply of essentials for sickness in a bedroom closet. This consisted of bottles of ginger ale and boxes of jello-mix, hidden away where the family could not use them as common treats.  She never had to run to the store when an emergency suddenly occurred.  There was always chicken in the freezer. She would start to defrost this and make homemade soup the next day.  The patient would be served delicious, nourishing chicken soup for days.  She would add a little rice, carrots, or delicate pasta to this as the patient began to improve.

Mother also kept anti-nausea medicine and pain relievers in a cabinet, along with bandages, and hydrogen peroxide for first - aid treatments.  She had an ice pack  in the freezer to handle bumps or sprains. There was an ace bandage stored away if it was needed.

For the patient who is contagious - with the flu or a terrible cold - they would not be allowed visitors in the room. They would be given a wet cloth to cool a feverish forehead.   If they are not able to get up each day, Mother would bring in a basin of warm water and soap. She would take a cloth and wash the face and hands.  This would help the patient to feel neat and comfortable. 

 For those suffering for a time of pain, an injury, or from weariness, when a patient must be in bed, it is so nice to have the family stop in for short visits throughout the illness.  The room should be kept as pleasant as possible.  The room could be aired by opening widows for a short time, while the patient is in another room.  The sheets should be freshly washed.  A neat and clean room will help bring happiness.

  When Mother is the sick one, she could do her hair and makeup and put on a clean nightgown.  This boosts her mood and makes it pleasant for those who visit her.  During the times I have been bedridden from an illness, I have often had my children come in to read the Bible, sing hymns, make me laugh, and just tell me about their day.  I enjoy using the telephone for short visits with grown children, especially during a sickness.  Older children will stop in to see me, for a cheerful visit, before they head off to work or to some errand.  I recently suffered from an illness that was exhausting and required a great deal of rest.  It was such a blessing to have a pleasant room to enjoy during recovery.  

The sick room could be one's own room,  a guest room, or whatever bedroom is most convenient to the kitchen.  It should have cheerful curtains, soft lamplight, and peaceful decorations to help one recover from one's suffering.  There ought to be a chair for guests and a handy tray - table for meals and tea.  Fresh sheets ought to be available, both before a patient enters, and after they have recovered.  After the occupant is well, the room needs to be thoroughly cleaned, aired, and disinfected, and put back "to rights."

Sickness and injury comes to all homes, in all generations.  This is a precious time for prayer and ministry.  It can draw our hearts near to God.  Our gentle service in caring for our family during these difficult times can be accomplished with grace, patience, and love.

Mrs. White

"We have no right to murmur at sickness, and repine at its presence in the world. We ought rather to thank God for it. It is God's witness. It is the soul's adviser. It is an awakener to the conscience. It is a purifier to the heart. Surely I have a right to tell you that sickness is a blessing and not a curse, a help and not an injury, a gain and not a loss, a friend and not a foe to mankind. So long as we have a world wherein there is sin, it is a mercy that it is a world wherein there is sickness."— J. C. Ryle, 1800's.

From the Archives -

Four Generations Living in One House - Gracious Homemaking.

Homemade Lessons from My Aunt - Manners Learned at the Finishing School.

Every Home Should Have one - Housewife on Duty.

Mrs. White's special book for homemakers:"Introduction to Home Economics:  Gentle Instruction to Find Joy in Christian Homemaking." Paperback, 200 pages. 

- To find out more about this blog, or Mrs. White, please visit our About page. -


happyathome said...

The world has changed so much. I looked after my dear mother at home for 2 years until her strokes saw her in hospital and she passed away. I raised my children to be kind to others but a lot depends on who they choose to marry and in our case my husband and i will not be cared for. . He has Huntingtons but it is all left up to me and i know when his time is up if he goes before me i will not be looked after in old age either. It has been a huge hurt for us. I do not understand it. 99% of the time we are alone but i do craftwork to keep my spirits up and the one thing i know is the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us even though man does.

Mrs. White said...

Dear Happyathome,

I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. You did a wonderful job taking care of her and I am sure it was an incredible blessing to serve your family in that way.
You are right, the world has changed so much. It is sad.
Your faith is inspiring! May the Lord give you great joy and comfort and many blessings!

happyathome said...

Dear Mrs White. My dear mother passed away when i was 23. It has been 36 years and i still miss her. Our son passed away 4-1/2 years ago and it is an ongoing process. With Dan i look at it this way JOB1vs21 and still blessed be the Name of the Lord as one day we will see our beloved again.

Mrs. White said...

Dear Happyathome,

You have been through a great deal of sorrow. The Lord is our greatest comforter! Yes, you are right, we will see our loved ones again. Job 1 verse 21 is an excellent verse. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Regina said...

Thank you Mrs. White. When I'm sick I'm a big baby and I go between wanting to be comforted and wanting to be left alone. My poor husband is so patient about it too.

Mrs. White said...

Dear Regina,

It is so difficult when Mom is the one who is sick. So good that you have a patient husband. God bless you both!

Marilyn @ MountainTopSpice said...

This is a beautiful post and speaks to the character of those raised in years gone by. Now nursing homes are full of folks who have family who just don't want to take care of them. It is so sad! Of course there are situations where the patients need far more care than can be given at home, but still, it was wonderful how in the past families took care of their parents. I enjoyed the story of your aunt talking to you on the phone while your mother cared for her mother. Everyone worked together! My mother always gave us gingerale and chicken noodle soup when we were sick, and I did the same for my children too. Blessings to you sweet friend, always enjoy your posts :)

lynn maust said...

I am glad to have the reminder of ginger ale and chicken soup....just as my mother used to give us when we were ill.

Christine said...

I don't think we think about others been sick or making those who are bed ridden more comfortable
Your mother lived to serve others and it's beautiful!
She also was very wise, by giving you the phone to talk with your Aunt, haha.

My grand daughter will be in bed, recovering from surgery for several weeks. You have given me encouragement.

Mrs. White said...

Thank you so much, Marilyn! Nursing homes are important places for those who need to be there. When I was a teenager, our church had a group who visited a nursing home regularly with a service and hymn singing. It was wonderful to minister to them in that way. But whenever possible, it is so good to have that patient at home being cared for by their own family!

Ginger-ale and chicken noodle soup are so comforting and provide good memories. I love that you remember your mother giving this to you. And also that you did this with your own children.

God bless you!

Mrs. White said...

Lynn, it is good to remember the chicken soup and ginger-ale from mother!

Mrs. White said...

Thank you Christine!

Your grand-daughter is in my thoughts and prayers!

Sandra said...

Thank you so much for visiting Thistle Cove Farm; the gifts of your time and comment are appreciated.
When my MIL was 86 she moved in with us and having a place prepared was such a blessing for her and us. Fortunately, she was healthy so a sick room was never needed; if one of my parents need to move in with me, I'll move to the second floor and give up the first floor bedroom and bath.
I'm a huge believer in the 5th Commandment, the first one with promise and it's a privilege, at times a terribly hard privilege, to tend to someone.
Society has lost so much compassion, kindness and caring when we began putting loved ones in "nursing homes". We've exchanged our humanity for convenience; speaking here not of those who do so because someone requires specialized care.
We cast our bread upon waters, God will return it.

Jean | said...

Mrs White, this is a beautiful post with such practical ideas for a well-appointed sick room. This is one I will definitely return to if and when needed.