Always prepare food for the sick in the neatest and most careful manner. It is in sickness that the senses of smell and taste are most susceptible of annoyance; and often, little mistakes or negligences in preparing food will take away all appetite.
Food for the sick should be cooked on coals, that no smoke may have access to it; and great care must be taken to prevent, by stirring, any adherence to the bottom of the cooking vessel, as this always gives a disagreeable taste.
Keeping clean handkerchiefs and towels at hand, cooling the pillows, sponging the hands with water, (with care to dry them thoroughly,) swabbing the mouth with a clean linen rag on the end of a stick, are modes of increasing the comfort of the sick. Always throw a shawl over a sick person when raised up.
Be careful to understand a physician's directions, and to obey them implicitly. If it be supposed that any other person knows better about the case than the physician, dismiss the physician, and employ that person in his stead.
It is always best to consult the physician as to where medicines shall be purchased, and to show the articles to him before using them, as great impositions are practiced in selling old, useless, and adulterated drugs. Always put labels on phials of medicine, and keep them out of the reach of children.
Be careful to label all powders, and particularly all white powders,as many poisonous medicines in this form are easily mistaken for others which are harmless.
In nursing the sick, always speak gently and cheeringly; and, while you express sympathy for their pain and trials, stimulate them to bear all with fortitude, and with resignation to the Heavenly Father, who "doth not willingly afflict," and "who causeth all things to work together for good to them that love him." Offer to read the Bible or other devotional books, whenever it is suitable, and will not be deemed obtrusive.
Every woman should be trained for the office of nurse to the sick, and some who have special traits that lit them for it should make it their daily professional business. The indispensable qualities in a good nurse are common sense, conscientiousness, and sympathetic benevolence.
Persons may be conscientious and benevolent, and possess good judgment in many respects, and yet be miserable nurses of the sick for want of training and right knowledge.
"Knowledge, the assurance that one knows what to do, always gives presence of mind - and presence of mind is important not only in a sick-room but in every home. Who has not known consternation in a family when some one has fainted, or been burned, or cut, while none were present who knew how to stop the flowing blood, or revive the fainting, or apply the saving application to the burn? And yet knowledge and efficiency in such cases would save many a life, and be a most fitting and desirable accomplishment in every woman."
"We are slow to learn the mighty influence of common agencies, and the greatness of little things, in their bearing upon life and health. The woman who believes it takes no strength to bear a little noise or some disagreeable an-nouncements, and loses patience with the weak, nervous invalid who is agonized with creaking doors or shoes, or loud, shrill voices, or rustling papers, or sharp, fidgety motions, or the whispering so common in sick-rooms and often so acutely distressing to the sufferer, will soon correct such misapprehensions by herself experiencing a nervous fever."
Here the writer would put in a plea for the increasing multitudes of nervous sufferers not confined to a sick-room, and yet exposed to all the varied sources of pain incident to an exhausted nervous system, which often cause more intolerable and also more wearing pain than other kinds of suffering.
"An exceeding acuteness of the senses is the result of many forms of nervous disease. A heavy breath, an unwashed hand, a noise that would not have been noticed in health, a crooked table-cover or bed-spread, may disturb or oppress; and more than one invalid has spoken in my hearing of the sickening effect produced by the nurse tasting her food, or blowing in her drinks to make them cool. One woman, and a sensible woman too, told me her nurse had turned a large cushion upon her bureau with the back part in front. She determined not to be disturbed nor to speak of such a trifle, but after struggling three hours in vain to banish the annoyance, she was forced to ask to have the cushion placed right."
In this place should be mentioned the suffering caused to persons of reduced nervous power not only by the smoke of tobacco, but by the fetid effluvium of it from the breath and clothing of persons who smoke. Many such are sickened in society and in car-traveling, and to a degree little imagined by those who gain a dangerous pleasure at the frequent expense of the feeble and suffering.
"It is often exceedingly important to the very weak, who can take but very little nutriment, to have that little whenever they want it. I have known invalids sustain great injury and suffering; when exhausted for want of food, they have had to wait and wait, feeling as if every minute was an hour, while some well-fed nurse delayed its coming. Said a lady, 'It makes me hungry now to think of the meals she brought me upon that little waiter when I was sick - such brown thin toast, such good broiled beef, such fragrant tea, and every thing looking so exquisitely nice! If at any time I did not think of any thing I wanted, nor ask for food, she did not annoy me with questions, but brought some little delicacy at the proper time, and when it came I could take it.'
"If there is one purpose of a personal kind for which it is especially desirable to lay up means, it is for being well nursed in sickness; yet in the present state of society this is absolutely impossible, even to the wealthy, because of the scarcity of competent nurses. Families worn down with the long and extreme illness of a member require relief from one whose feelings will be less taxed, and who can better endure the labor.
"But, alas! how often is it impossible, for love or money, to obtain one capable of taking the burden from the exhausted sister or mother or daughter, and how often in consequence they have died prematurely or struggled through weary years with a broken constitution. Appeal to those who have made the trial, and you will find that very seldom have they been able to have those who by nature or by training were competent for their duties. Ignorant, unscrupulous, inattentive - how often they -disturb and injure the patient! A physician told me that one of his patients had died because the nurse, contrary to orders, had at a critical period washed her with cold water. One is known who, by stealth, quieted a fretful child with laudanum, and of others who exhausted the sick by incessant talking. One lady said that when, to escape this distressing garrulity, she closed her eyes, the nurse exclaimed, aloud, 'Why, she is going to sleep while I am talking to her.'
"A few only of the sensible, quiet, and loving women, whose presence everywhere is a blessing, have qualified themselves and followed nursing as a business. Heaven bless that few! What a sense of relief pervades a family when such an one has been procured; and what a treasure seemed found!
"There is very commonly an extreme susceptibility in the sick to the moral atmosphere about them. They feel the healthful influence of the presence of a true-hearted attendant and repose in it, though they may not be able to define the cause; while dissimulation,falsehood,recklessness,coarseness, jar terribly and injuriously on their heightened sensibilities. 'Are the Sisters of Charity really better nurses than most other women?' asked an intelligent lady who had seen much of our military hospitals. 'Yes, they are,' was the reply. 'Why should it be so?' 'I think it is because with them it is a work of self-abnegation, and of duty to God; and they are so quiet and self-forgetful in its exercise that they do it better, while many other women show such self-consciousness and are so fussy!"
Is there any reason why every Protestant woman should not be trained for this self-denying office as a duty owed to God?
We can not better close this chapter than by one more quotation from an intelligent and attractive writer: "The good nurse is an artist. Oh the pillowy, soothing softness of her touch, the neatness of her simple, unrustling dress, the music of her assured yet gentle voice and tread, the sense of security and rest inspired by her kind and hopeful face, the promptness and attention to every want, the repose that like an atmosphere encircles her, the evidence of heavenly goodness and love that she diffuses!" Is not such an art as this worth much to attain?
In training children to the Christian life, one very important opportunity occurs whenever sickness appears in the family or neighborhood. The repression of disturbing noises, the speaking in tones of gentleness and sympathy, the small offices of service or nursing in which children can aid, should be inculcated as ministering to the Lord and Elder Brother of man, who has said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me."
One of the blessed opportunities for such ministries is . given to children in the cultivation of flowers. The entrance into a sick-room of a smiling, healthful child, bringing an offering of flowers raised by its own labor, is like an angel of comfort and love, "and alike it blesseth him who gives and him who takes."
A time is coming when the visitation of the sick, as a part of the Christian life, will hold a higher consideration than is now generally accorded, especially in the cases of uninteresting sufferers who have nothing to attract kind attentions, except that they are suffering children of our Father in heaven, and "one of the least" of the brethren of Jesus Christ.